Friday, September 2, 2011

Friedman on Freedom

Milton Friedman was born in New York City in 1912. His parents were immigrants from Austria. He received a B.A. from Rutgers University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

He lived through the turmoil of World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression and the rise of fascism.

During World War II, he worked for the U.S. Treasury Department where he became disillusioned with the excesses of government and began to reject conventional economic theory in lieu of his own concepts.

"Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless... Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government... If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there would be a shortage of sand." Milton Friedman

For the remainder of his life, he was one of the world's most prominent champions of individual freedom. He advocated a free market economy in which both parties would benefit in any exchange of goods and services.

"Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself." Milton Friedman

In his book, MONETARY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, he argued that the Great Depression was caused by government mismanagement of the money supply rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.

"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government... The power to do good is also the power to do harm... Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned." Milton Friedman

Friedman saw the problem as having unused machinery and unemployed people being keep apart by an attempt to keep prices and wages up, rather than allowing the marketplace to adjust to the prevailing conditions. The government added scores of new projects and agencies, thereby actually prolonging the depression.

"It's a mystery as to why people think Roosevelt's policies pulled us out of the depression." Milton Friedman.

In his 1962 book CAPTALISM AND FREEDOM, Friedman advocated free markets and minimizing the role of government as a means of creating social freedom. In his 1980 PBS TV Series, viewed by millions, he explained how free markets worked. His related book, FREE TO CHOOSE, demonstrated how a free market economy helps to resolve political and social problems. His writings were circulated behind the Iron Curtain before it fell in 1989.

In the 1970s, Friedman advised the communist government of China and the military government of Chile about free market strategy. He was highly criticized for his efforts, yet both countries have become economic miracles. Chile now has the most robust economy in Latin America and China has blossomed into an economic giant.

Friedman never shied away from controversy. He believed in a voucher system that would be used to pay tuition in both public and private schools, and he argued against the U.S. Post Office's legal monopoly on mail. He opposed the minimum wage laws and proposed a negative income tax to replace the existing welfare system.

"The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem... We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work... A society that puts equality of outcome ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom." Milton Friedman

In 2005, Friedman and more than 500 other economists called for discussions regarding the benefits of the legalization of marijuana.

"Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal... 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 visions of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence." Milton Friedman

Although philosophically a Libertarian, he was a member of the Republican Party "on the grounds of expediency, not on principle" and considered himself to be a classic liberal, much like Thomas Jefferson.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground... I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them... Most bad government results from too much government." Thomas Jefferson

Milton Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. Considered the most important economist of the 20th century, he died in November of 2006.

Quote for the Day -- "It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it." Thomas Sowell

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

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