Friedman, Benjamin M. 1944–

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Friedman, Benjamin M. 1944–


Born August 5, 1944, in Louisville, KY; son of Norbert and Eva Friedman; married Barbara Cook; children: John, Jeffrey. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1966, A.M., 1969, Ph.D., 1971; King's College, Cambridge, M.Sc., 1970.


Home—Cambridge, MA. Office—Harvard University, Department of Economics, Littauer Center 127, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, editor, educator, and economist. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York, NY, research assistant, 1968; Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA, staff consultant, 1968-69, consultant to the president, 1969-71; Federal Reserve, assistant to the director of the division of research and statistics, 1969, staff member of the federal open market committee subcommittee on the directive, 1969-70; Morgan Stanley and Co., economist, 1971-72; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor, 1972-76, associate professor, 1976-80, professor of economics, 1980-89, William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, 1989—, economics department chair, 1991—,director of undergraduate studies.


Phi Beta Kappa.


John Henry Williams Prize, Harvard University, 1966; Marshall Scholar, 1966-68; junior fellow, Harvard University Society of Fellows, 1968-71; David Horowitz Prize, Bank of Israel, 1982; George S. Eccles Prize, Columbia University Graduate School of Business, 1989, for Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy under Reagan and After; John R. Commons Award, 2005, for achievements in economics and service to the economics profession.


Economic Stabilization Policy: Methods in Optimization, American Elsevier (New York, NY), 1975.

Monetary Policy in the United States: Design and Implementation, Association of Reserve City Bankers (Chicago, IL), 1981.

Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy under Reagan and After, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.

Implications of Increasing Corporate Indebtedness for Monetary Policy, Group of Thirty (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Jonas Agell and Mats Persson) Does Debt Management Matter?, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Risks and Impediments to U.S. Economic Expansion, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Deficits and Debt in the Short and Long Run, National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

What Remains from the Volcker Experiment?, National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA), 2005.


New Challenges to the Role of Profit, Lexington Books (Lexington, MA), 1978.

The Changing Roles of Debt and Equity in Financing U.S. Capital Formation, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1982.

Corporate Capital Structures in the United States, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

Financing Corporate Capital Formation, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

(With Frank H. Hahn) Handbook of Monetary Economics, American Elsevier (New York, NY), 1990.

Should the United States Privatize Social Security?, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

(And author of introduction) James J. Heckman and Alan B. Krueger, Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies?, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Harvard Magazine, director, 1984-90, incorporator, beginning 1991.

Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, New England Economic Review, Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking, Journal of Finance, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Review of Books, and Challenge.


Contributor to The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, volume 1, edited by Eatwell, Milgate, and Newman, Macmillan, 1987.


Benjamin M. Friedman, an investment banking expert and Harvard University professor, is the author of Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy under Reagan and After, in which he explores the fiscal strategy known as "Reaganomics" and its potential negative effects on the nation's finances. Supply-side economics, which was instituted in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan, involves reducing taxes in order to stimulate economic activity. However, Friedman writes, this was intended to be accompanied by a decrease in government spending. When this failed to occur, the government budget deficit began increasing, approaching 2.8 trillion dollars in 1988. This debt, combined with the expectation of future deficit, resulted in higher interest rates, which discouraged investment in domestic exports, while encouraging the government to borrow abroad. In this manner, the U.S. was rapidly becoming a nation of "tenants," rather than "owners," which, according to the author, would ultimately conflict with the nation's collective self-image. Because the U.S. could no longer compete in the world market, the author predicted in Day of Reckoning an end to "the material basis for the progress that has marked Americans' perceptions of themselves and their society since its very beginnings." He expected not only a decrease in the standard of living in the U.S., but also a loss of American sovereignty on the international front. Friedman urged the government to begin paying its debt, even though the task would not be easily accomplished without causing a recession or a depression. He recommended new taxes—either a consumption tax or a three percent income tax increase—and cuts in social security and defense spending in order to help reduce the deficit. The author concluded the work with a warning: "If we do not correct America's fiscal course, our children and our children's children will have the right to hold us responsible." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor James Flanigan called Day of Reckoning "a work of scholarship that offers an economic education in itself." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, writing in the New York Times, praised the book as "a lucid discussion of vital issues…. Every citizen ought to read it."

In The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Friedman offers a "compelling argument that rising incomes make us not just richer people, but better ones," commented Megan McArdle in Reason. When times are good and economic growth is stable, society is more able to attend to social programs, tends to give more to charitable causes, and is less concerned with competition and "catching up" with others who may have more. "The real benefit of growth, Friedman argues, is that it encourages a wide range of social virtues, including dedication to democracy, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, and commitment to fairness," noted Michael Mandel in Business Week. Conversely, in times of economic downturns, when money is tight and jobs are scarce, society tends to move inward, and individuals are more apt to protect their assets at the expense of others. Nativist and racist movements flourish in such times, when distrust of outsiders is high and individuals can easily come to believe that their resources are being exploited or appropriated by others. Friedman sees the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis as extreme examples of groups that rise during economic stagnation and down times. To prevent such from occurring, and to ensure a consistent level of economic growth and application of coincident moral behavior, "Friedman argues that governments everywhere should focus policy on creating the broad prosperity that will allow their societies to become more open, tolerant, and generous," remarked McArdle. Cato Journal contributor Will Wilkinson assessed Friedman's work as demonstrating strong positive and negative characteristics, stating that the book "is magnificent and flawed. It is a work of astounding scholarship and exhilarating intellectual imagination as well as disappointing partisanship and theoretical fragility." However, other reviewers, such as Kenneth G. Elzinga in Books & Culture, called it an "important book on an important subject." The author "has, without question, an impressive command of worldwide economic/technological history, and this book is a treasure trove of arresting details," remarked Dan Seligman in Commentary. Booklist contributor Mary Whaley commended Friedman's "scholarly and valuable approach to sophisticated economic and moral challenges," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that Friedman's work is a "lucid, judiciously reasoned call for renewed attention to broad-based economic advancement."



Friedman, Benjamin M., Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy under Reagan and After, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.


Booklist, October 15, 2005, Mary Whaley, review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 24.

Books & Culture, January-February, 2006, Kenneth G. Elzinga, "Why Growth is Good," review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 34.

Business Week, November 7, 2005, Michael Mandel, "What's So Good about Growth," review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 144.

Cato Journal, winter, 2006, Will Wilkinson, review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 201.

Commentary, December, 2005, Dan Seligman, "Good and Plenty," review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 78.

Economist, November 12, 2005, "Why the Rich Must Get Richer; Economic Growth," review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 87.

Europe Intelligence Wire, October 11, 2006, "Harvard Economist to Speak at Rotman School on Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.

Library Journal, September 15, 2005, Lawrence R. Maxted, review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 74.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 16, 1988, James Flanigan, review of Day of Reckoning, p. 1.

New Yorker, October 31, 2005, review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 87.

New York Times, October 24, 1988, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Day of Reckoning, p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, October 23, 1988, Adam Smith, review of Day of Reckoning, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, September 5, 2005, review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 53.

Reason, July, 2006, Megan McArdle, "The Virtue of Riches: How Wealth Makes Us More Moral," review of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, p. 53.


Harvard University Department of Economics Web site, (January 2, 2007), biography of Benjamin M. Friedman.

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Friedman, Benjamin M. 1944–

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