In 1977 John Kenneth Galbraith hosted the documentary series The Age of Uncertainty on public television; three years later Milton Friedman hosted a competing series, Free to Choose. This essay examines the development of these two projects, examining both the institutions that supported them and the ways in which Galbraith and Friedman approached the visual representation of economic ideas. Friedman’s series drew on support from advocacy organizations and corporate interests, relayed accessible expositions via an empirical documentary style, and framed its episodes around Friedman’s proposed solutions to contemporary economic problems. Galbraith’s series, by contrast, relied on public financing, adopted an ironic and self-reflective stance toward its medium, and maintained a posture of uncertainty in regard to contemporary economic debates. Free to Choose proved the more enduring popular and critical success. These differences between these two series, the essay argues, help explain the divergent trajectories of right-wing and left-wing economic rhetoric in the late twentieth-century public sphere.

You do not currently have access to this content.