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Reaffirming the Influence of Milton Friedman on U.K. Economic Policy

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  • Nelson, Edward

Abstract

This paper finds a significant influence of Milton Friedman on U.K. economic policy from the 1970s onward, and especially during the period of the Thatcher Government. The finding is based on a consideration of statements by policymakers and key economic advisers, as well as an analysis of Friedman’s commentary in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s on U.K. economic developments. It is shown that explicit acknowledgments of Friedman’s influence were given on the record over the years by Margaret Thatcher, Chancellor of the Exchequer Geoffrey Howe, Bank of England officials, and others in policy circles. Examples of Friedman’s influence include the absorption into U.K. policy doctrine of the permanent income hypothesis and the natural rate hypothesis, the rejection from 1979 onward of incomes policy as a weapon against inflation, and U.K. officials’ repeated appeals to monetary sovereignty when arguing against monetary union or a sterling peg. Evidence of influence by Friedman on privatization policy and on the official perspective on the current account deficit can also be discerned. Friedman had only limited personal interaction with U.K. policymakers, but his influence was felt in the adoption into actual U.K. policymaking of recommendations made in his writings and in the fact that those writings—which were studied closely by a number of senior U.K. economic advisers—helped alter economists’ conceptual framework in the United Kingdom and thereby fostered doctrinal changes in U.K. economic policy. The analysis in this paper also shows that two key critics of the Conservative party’s economic policy under Margaret Thatcher—Labour’s Harold Wilson and the Conservatives’ Edward Heath—had good reason to ascribe this policy partly to the influence of Friedman, whom each of them had met before the Thatcher era.

Suggested Citation

  • Nelson, Edward, 2017. "Reaffirming the Influence of Milton Friedman on U.K. Economic Policy," Working Papers 2017-01, University of Sydney, School of Economics, revised Feb 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2017-01
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dellas, Harris & Tavlas, George S., 2009. "An optimum-currency-area odyssey," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(7), pages 1117-1137, November.
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    4. Batini, Nicoletta & Nelson, Edward, 2001. "The Lag from Monetary Policy Actions to Inflation: Friedman Revisited," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 381-400, Winter.
    5. Charles Bean & James Symons, 1989. "Ten Years of Mrs. T," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 13-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Nelson, Edward & Schwartz, Anna J., 2008. "The impact of Milton Friedman on modern monetary economics: Setting the record straight on Paul Krugman's "Who was Milton Friedman?"," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 835-856, May.
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    8. Nelson, Edward & Nikolov, Kalin, 2004. "Monetary Policy and Stagflation in the UK," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(3), pages 293-318, June.
    9. King, Mervyn, 1997. "Changes in UK monetary policy: Rules and discretion in practice," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 81-97, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Milton Friedman; U.K. economic policy; incomes policy; monetarism; Thatcher Government; doctrine of economic policy.;

    JEL classification:

    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies

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