American Elephants

From Milton and Rose Friedman: by The Elephant's Child


“If an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it.  Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is  a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.”

“Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers. The narrowly limited government of the nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man, The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils. Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.”

“…the depression was produced by a failure of government in one area–money– where it had exercised authority ever since the beginning of the Republic. However, governments’ responsibility for the depression was not recognized — either then or now. Instead, the depression was widely interpreted as a failure of free market capitalism. That myth led the public to join the intellectuals in a changed view of the relative responsibilities of individuals and government. Emphasis on the responsibility of the individual for his own fate was replaced by emphasis on the individual as a pawn buffeted by forces beyond his control. The view that government’s role is to serve as an umpire to prevent individuals from coercing one another was replaced by the view that government’s role is to serve as a parent charged with the duty of coercing some to aid others.”

Milton Friedman Remembered. by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, July 31, would have been Milton Friedman’s 98th birthday.  Here is a bit from Free to Choose:

A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.  The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.

On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a  happy by-product , end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.  Through a by–product of freedom, greater equality is not an accident.  A free society releases the energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives.  It prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others.  It does not prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other able, ambitious people.  Freedom  means diversity but also mobility.  It preserves the opportunity for today’s disadvantaged to become tomorrow’s privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.

%d bloggers like this: