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Free To Choose
Bob Chitester and Milton Friedman

Bob Chitester (left) and Milton Friedman (Right) during the first week of filming in 1978 for the 1980 series Free To Choose.

I have been asked what induced Rose and me to undertake the project that turned into the Free To Choose television program and book. It is now more than a quarter of a century since Bob Chitester persuaded us to undertake that project, so a detailed answer is not possible. But a few things are clear:

(1) Bob hit me at a particularly good time. I had just retired from active teaching at the University of Chicago and was in the process of moving from Chicago to San Francisco to join the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. If I had been committed to my usual teaching schedule, it would have been impossible for me to also meet the shooting schedule for the documentary. But as it was, I had no specific commitments.

(2) The basic idea was enormously appealing to us. As Rose wrote in our memoirs (Two Lucky People, U. of Chicago Press, 1998), "Milton and I have spent much of our life trying to persuade our fellow men and women of the dangers of an intrusive government and the key role that a free competitive economy plays in making a free society possible. Bringing these ideas to the large audience that a TV documentary could attract excited us."

(3) As it happens, I had appeared on a considerable number of major television programs—such as Meet the Press—so I had no concerns about the medium and had had direct contact with its effectiveness. As the project proceeded, I found I had much more to learn.

(4) One condition I made in advance was that I was not going to read from a script, that I would speak extempore or from notes, in words that were my own, not words written for me. As a result, while there was a shooting script which indicated when and where we were going to film and what point the filming was intended to make, there was no textual script giving the words to be spoken. The book was based on the transcript of the television programs and came after the television program, not, as is usual, the other way around.

In the end, the project turned into the most exciting experience of our lives, so it is hard to reconstruct the doubts we had in advance about undertaking it.

~ Milton Friedman