When Milton Friedman visited Australia in 1975 the Institute of Public Affairs declared it "a breath of fresh air." But their enthusiasm had limits.
"Friedman is a proponent of the free market doctrine in its purest form" said the IPA Review (vol 29 No 2). And for an organisation that still treated Menzies as a champion of liberalism, this was a problem. Friedman argued that government "should be kept to a minimum" and act primarily "as a referee to ensure fair play and to maintain competition." The IPA found this alarming.
In the severely theoretical sense, Friedman is no doubt correct. But one must have some doubts about the realism of views held and expressed in such an uncompromising form. The days have long gone — if they ever existed — when pure free trade was a tenable doctrine, or when Government could restrict its activities to "keeping the ring."
No wonder free market enthusiasts embraced Greg Lindsay’s Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). After attending a 1978 conference on the role of government, Paddy McGuinness declared that, at the CIS, Friedman was a pinko.