Jennifer Burns on Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand
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Jennifer Burns is a professor of history at Stanford who works at the intersection of intellectual, political, and cultural history. She’s written two biographies Tyler highly recommends: her 2009 book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right and her latest, Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative, provides a nuanced look into the influential economist and public intellectual.

Tyler and Jennifer start by discussing how her new portrait of Friedman caused her to reassess him, his lasting impact in statistics, whether he was too dogmatic, his shift from academic to public intellectual, the problem with Two Lucky People, what Friedman’s courtship of Rose Friedman was like, how Milton’s family influenced him, why Friedman opposed Hayek’s courtesy appointment at the University of Chicago, Friedman’s attitudes toward friendship, his relationship to fiction and the arts, and the prospects for his intellectual legacy. Next, they discuss Jennifer’s previous work on Ayn Rand, including whether Rand was a good screenwriter, which is the best of her novels, what to make of the sex scenes in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, how Rand and Mises got along, and why there’s so few successful businesswomen depicted in American fiction. They also delve into why fiction seems so much more important for the American left than it is for the right, what’s driving the decline of the American conservative intellectual condition, what she will do next, and more.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video

Recorded August 30th, 2023.

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