|Jeffrey Mark Friedman
|March 25, 1959
|December 2, 2022
|Brown University (BA), University of California, Berkeley (MA), Yale University (PhD)
|Political Theorist, Political Scientist, Editor
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Jeffrey Mark Friedman (March 25, 1959 – December 2, 2022) was a notable and underrated political theorist known for his profound contributions to the fields of democracy, political knowledge, and libertarianism. His sudden passing at the age of 63 was a great loss to the academic community and beyond. Throughout his illustrious career, Friedman demonstrated exceptional intellect, interdisciplinary expertise, and an unwavering commitment to advancing political thought.
Early Life and Academic Journey
Friedman embarked on a remarkable academic journey that took him to various prestigious institutions across the United States. He served as a faculty member at Barnard College, Boston University, Dartmouth, the University of Texas, and Harvard University, where he held the position of a visiting scholar at the Committee on Social Studies until his untimely death.
Contributions to Political Thought
Jeffrey Friedman's work on democracy, political knowledge, and libertarianism left a lasting impact on the fields he explored. As the founder and longtime editor of Critical Review, an interdisciplinary academic journal established in 1987, he provided a platform for scholars to engage in rigorous debates on critical issues.
One of Friedman's notable works is his 2019 book titled "Power Without Knowledge: A Critique of Technocracy," published by Oxford University Press. This work serves as an excellent introduction to the depth and complexity of his ideas. Additionally, he authored and edited significant books on topics such as the 2008 financial crisis and rational choice theory, a subject he critically examined despite being associated with libertarianism.
Nuances in Libertarian Thought
While Friedman was often associated with libertarian thought, he did not wholly subscribe to conventional libertarian political ideologies. Throughout his career, he challenged and questioned standard approaches to democratic theory, highlighting the peril of widespread voter ignorance. In contrast to some libertarian and non-libertarian critics of modern democratic governance, Friedman posited that most voter ignorance was inadvertent "radical" ignorance, rather than rational behavior as posited by many economists and social scientists.
Friedman further extended his critique to expert decision-making on public policy and conventional social scientific analysis. His belief that markets and other forms of exit rights often yielded better outcomes than government stemmed from his conviction that they offered superior opportunities for trial-and-error learning, rather than being driven solely by incentives.
- The Rational-Choice Controversy: Economic Models of Politics Reconsidered (ed.) Yale University Press (1996).
- What Caused the Financial Crisis. (ed.) University of Pennsylvania Press (2010).
- Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation w/ Wladimir Kraus – University of Pennsylvania Press (2011).
- Power Without Knowledge: A Critique of Technocracy. Oxford University Press (2019).