Monday, May 11, 2020

Economist Milton Friedman: More Relevant Than Ever?


Milton Friedman, 1976 Nobel Prize Economist
John Kenneth Galbraith, whom I wrote a little about Friday, spent much of his career inside the Beltway as a believer that Big Government could fix all our problems. Like the war in Vietnam, LBJ's Great Society war on poverty felt good to those who dreamed it up. Unfortunately, it could not deliver on its promises. In their aftermath, the two wars left the 70's economy in shambles.

Milton Friedman was out of step with the ambitious, and dubious, dreams of the social planners. Here are a handful of Friedman's insights in this domain.

"I think the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse."  -- An Economist's Protest

"The problem in this world is to avoid concentration of power -- we must have a dispersion of power." 
- -Big Business, Big Government

"I say thank God for government waste. If government is doing bad things, it's only the waste that prevents the harm from being greater."
--Interview with Richard Heffner 

"The great enemy of human freedom is the Government. By taking money out of our pockets and spending it, it destroys our freedom." 
--The National Times 

"They think that the cure to big government is to have bigger government… the only effective cure is to reduce the scope of government - get government out of the business."  -
--Big Business, Big Government

"It is very hard to achieve good objectives through bad means. Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own."  
-- "Free to Choose: From Cradle to Grave,"

[EdNote: My dentist shared an example of this principle with me. He said the State of Minnesota, out of "compassion" for people who can't afford dental work, added a 2% tax on dental services. Had the money been used to help the needy, it might have done good. The dental tax generated over $600 million a year.  As it accumulated, it became fair pickings for other programs, my now-retired dentist explained. Most people are completely unaware of the tax, how it was sold or how it is used.]

"Society doesn't have values. People have values."  -- "Created Equal" 

"The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both." 
--"Created Equal"

"Every friend of freedom… must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence."  
--Open Letter to Bill Bennett, WSJ

"The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another."  
-- "Why Government is the Problem"

"You must distinguish sharply between being pro free enterprise and being pro business." -
--Big Business, Big Government

"The power to do good is also the power to do harm; those who control the power today may not tomorrow; and, more important, what one man regards as good, another may regard as harm."   -
--Intro to Capitalism and Freedom

"To paraphrase Clemenceau, money is much too serious a matter to be left to the Central Bankers." 
-- Capitalism and Freedom

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Related Links
10 Thomas Sowell Quotes on Economics and Contemporary Culture
Incentives Matter

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