The Day Milton Friedman Called Me Back. Collect.

Bill Fulton
Curious
Published in
6 min readAug 13, 2022

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Milton Friedman receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan, in 1988.

Our recent bout with inflation brings to my mind the struggle everybody had understanding inflation the last time it afflicted our country — back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Inflation was much worse for much longer back then — mortgage rates briefly hit 20% in the early ’80s — and it was a major issue in Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign against Ronald Reagan. It was also a time when economics journalism was first on the rise, as newspapers and magazines tried to understand and convey to their readers what was going on.

At the time of the 1980 campaign, I was a 24-year-old graduate student in journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., trying to learn the inside-the-beltway ropes. The AU faculty included a number of former business and economics journalists, most notably Lou Kohlmeier, who had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965 for uncovering LBJ’s shady financial dealings. In the winter and spring of 1980, Kohlmeier and others persuaded the Columbia Journalism Review to fund and then publish an effort by several of us graduate students to examine the role of the press in understanding economic issues in the 1980 presidential primaries.

So, under the tutelage of the legendary investigative reporter Nick Kotz, a group of us undertook to understand how reporting on economics was affecting the presidential campaign — in…

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Bill Fulton
Curious

Author, urban planner & former politician. Hometown: Auburn, NY. Current town: Houston. Latest book: Place And Prosperity.