About William Breit, Milton Friedman and poking skunks

The current Southern Economic Journal includes a tribute to my former History of Economic Thought professor, William Breit. In one of the articles Breit himself talks about the time he heard Milton Friedman speak on economic freedom.

Friedman’s formidable intellect left him the clear winner of a Q-and-A session, despite many hostile questions from the audience. But one of the potential questioners who remained silent was named Don Market. The day after the speech, someone asked him (now quoting from the article): ‘‘Mr. Market, you told us there were no intelligent conservatives. We waited for you to ask Professor Friedman a question that would prove your point. But you sat perfectly still. Why did you not challenge any of his arguments?’’ I listened intently for Market’s reply and have never forgotten it:

‘‘Listen, I’m a country boy raised on a farm. Long ago I learned that you don’t poke a skunk.”