Tag Archives: Columbia

Jew of the Week: Milton Friedman

The Great Liberator

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was born in Brooklyn to poor Jewish immigrants from what is today Ukraine (then part of Hungary). He graduated high school at just 15 and earned a big scholarship to Rutgers University. Initially wishing to be a mathematician, the Great Depression inspired Friedman to become an economist instead. After post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago, and a fellowship at Columbia University, Friedman headed to Washington to work as an economist for the government. To help pay for World War II, it was Friedman who introduced the payroll withholding tax system (“pay-as-you-earn”), where income taxes are deducted automatically from an employee’s paycheck. (Friedman later regretted it very much and said he wished it hadn’t been necessary.) He also spent much of the war working on weapons design and military statistics. He finally earned his Ph.D from Columbia after the war, following which he took a professorship at the University of Chicago, where he taught for the next 30 years. He wrote a popular weekly column for Newsweek, for which he won a prestigious award. His 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom was an international bestseller and made Friedman world-famous, while his A Monetary History of the United States became the standard textbook for understanding the Great Depression and the effects of monetary policy. Friedman argued passionately for a free-market economy and for the government to stay out of business. He proposed such important concepts as the permanent income hypothesis, the quantity theory of money, floating exchange rates, sequential sampling, and the natural rate of unemployment. He also argued for abolishing the Federal Reserve, whom he blamed for many economic ills. He was opposed to minimum wages and foresaw that they would actually lead to increases in unemployment. He is also credited with bringing an end to America’s military draft, transitioning the US military into an all-volunteer paid army. He believed conscription was unethical and prevented young men from choosing their own life path. Friedman later said abolishing the draft was his greatest and proudest accomplishment. Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976. After retiring from the University of Chicago the following year, he continued to do research in San Francisco, and also worked on a popular ten-part TV show called Free to Choose (the companion text of which was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1980). Friedman was an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, and was called the “guru” of the Reagan administration. In 1988, he won a National Medal of Science and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Friedman stayed busy until his final days, and his last article for The Wall Street Journal was published a day after his death! He has been called “the Great Liberator” and has been compared to Adam Smith. The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is named after him. He is widely considered one of history’s most significant economists. Today was his yahrzeit.

The End of World War I and the Beginning of the Jewish State

Words of the Week

A society that aims for equality before liberty will end up with neither equality nor liberty.
Milton Friedman

Jew of the Week: Dennis Prager

The World’s Most Popular “University”

Dennis Mark Prager (b. 1948) was born in New York City to an Orthodox Jewish family. He attended religious schools, and during his time at the Yeshiva of Flatbush met the future renowned rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Prager majored in history and Middle Eastern studies at Brooklyn College before spending several years at Columbia University studying both the Middle East and Russia, followed by a stint at the University of Leeds learning Arabic and comparative religions. In the mid-70s, Prager teamed up with Rabbi Telushkin to co-author The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. The bestselling book was a huge success and shot Prager into the spotlight. Shortly after, he was hired to be the director of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute of the American Jewish University. (He would later teach Hebrew Bible at the University between 1992 and 2006.) In 1982, he met an executive of Los Angeles’ KABC Radio who was struck by Prager’s impressive knowledge, and instantly hired him to host a Sunday radio show called Religion on the Line. It was so popular that Prager was soon doing radio shows every day except Friday and Saturday (because of Shabbat). Meanwhile, he co-authored another bestseller with Rabbi Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. By 1999, Prager’s radio show was nationally syndicated, as was his newspaper column. He was called “One of America’s five best speakers”, as well as “one of the three most interesting minds in American Jewish Life”, and was described by the LA Times as “An amazingly gifted man and moralist”. All in all, Prager has published seven books (including The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code) and produced five films (including Israel in a Time of Terror, and the forthcoming No Safe Spaces about the extremes of political correctness). He continues to host one of America’s most popular radio shows, and is among the most sought-after political commentators in the world. Today, Prager is perhaps most famous for his Prager University, which he co-founded in 2009 in response to the growing trend of squashing conservative voices in the media and on campus. PragerU’s concise and informative five-minute videos have become hugely popular. To date, they have garnered over 1 billion views, with hundreds of millions of followers across social media sites. The videos have been so successful that PragerU has been called “the right-wing YouTube empire that’s quietly turning millenials into conservatives.” Perhaps because of this, Google recently started blocking some of PragerU’s videos, perplexingly citing them as “inappropriate”. Regardless of whether one agrees with Prager’s views or not, the blatant suppression of free speech sets a dangerous precedent. For this reason, Prager has launched a lawsuit against Google and YouTube, together with a campaign to draw support for the preservation of free speech (see their video, Who Will Google Silence Next?) Although Jew of the Week also disagrees with some of PragerU’s content, we nonetheless stand in solidarity with them (having had one of our own YouTube videos inexplicably flagged for “inappropriateness”). Below we present some of PragerU’s most popular videos:

Does Science Argue For or Against God?

Why I Left the Left

Why Isn’t There a Palestinian State?

Are the Police Racist?

There is No Gender Wage Gap

An Arab Muslim in the Israeli Army

Why I Left Greenpeace

Words of the Week

My politics are exactly what they were when I was a liberal and a Democrat, but that’s now considered conservative.
– Dennis Prager

Jew of the Week: Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Wolf Sacks (1933-2015) was born in London to Jewish parents who were both doctors. His mother came from an Orthodox family and was among the first female surgeons in the UK. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Sacks became a doctor in 1960. He completed his residencies in neurology in San Francisco and at UCLA, then worked as a neurologist in New York. Based on his work at the Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, Sacks wrote the autobiographical book Awakenings, which became a bestseller and was adapted to the Oscar-nominated film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. In addition to his neurology practice, for nearly fifty years Sacks was a neurology and psychiatry professor at a number of schools, including Columbia and NYU. He has written over a dozen books and countless articles and publications – all by hand or on a typewriter. His writings, translated into over 25 languages, have won numerous awards. The New York Times described him as a “poet laureate of contemporary medicine”. He contributed immensely to the field of neurology, and is credited with inspiring many of the today’s top neuroscientists. Interestingly, Sacks himself suffered from a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia, an inability to recognize faces. Despite being well-known for his great love and compassion for others, Sacks never married, and was celibate for 35 years. He spent time as a bodybuilder (at one point setting a state weightlifting record by squatting 600 pounds), nearly died while mountain climbing solo, held 12 honorary doctorates, and had a planet named after him. Sadly, Sacks passed away last week after a battle with cancer.

Words of the Week

I love to discover potential in people who aren’t thought to have any.
– Oliver Sacks