Milton Friedman – Open Mind

Here’s an excellent, and topical, interview with Milton Friedman.

Around the 7 minute mark, Friedman says:

I have often in talking to audiences, especially liberal audiences, offered them a challenge.  I challenge you to name me a single social measure which has accomplished its intended objectives rather than opposite, which has not done more harm than good.

Around the 22 minute mark, the host Richard Heffner says,  “…you just said that mankind is selfish and greedy and that has always been the battle cry of those who said, ‘therefore, we must impose controls upon them.'”

Friedman: Therefore, we have to put power in the hands of other greedy and selfish men.

Heffner: That’s the philosophic basis of the argument that the government must step in.

Freidman: It’s a false argument.  It assumes somehow that government is a way in which you put unselfish and ungreedy men in charge of selfish and greedy men.  Government is an institution whereby the people who have the greatest drive to get power over the fellow man get in a position of controlling them.  Look at the record of government.

That’s what government supporters never seem to recognize.  That was one of the points of this post, Anyone Mad At The Government? People in government are no different than the CEOs of the corporations that everybody gets so mad at (while voluntarily buying and benefiting from the products their companies produce).

We demonize CEOs and want to fire them when they screw up – which I have no problem with – but we also want to give government more power when it screws up.  That make no sense to me.  Some might say, “but you can always elect a different person in government.”  Which takes me back to Friedman’s last comment, “Look at the record of government.

3 thoughts on “Milton Friedman – Open Mind

  1. i found this vid so interesting that i had to look up more about dr. friedman.

    from a playboy interview:
    PLAYBOY: In every public debate on an issue involving economics, there seem to be nearly as many conflicting opinions as there are economists. Why can’t you people get together?
    FRIEDMAN: We do. But that seldom makes news. It’s our disagreements that receive attention. For example, how much attention is paid to agreement between Galbraith and myself in opposing a draft and favoring an all-volunteer armed force, or in opposing tariffs and favoring free trade, or on a host of other issues? What is newsworthy is that Galbraith endorses wage and price controls, while I oppose them.

    i wonder about his position on conscription. im a vet. in my experience (usn 88-94) the all volunteer service was almost exclusively comprised of folks on the lower end of the economic status curve.
    even during the vietnam era draft, folks that were in college (i read this as folks with money) were exempted. back in the civil war days, one could buy their draft card for 200 bucks. if you didnt have the money, you put on a uniform.

    nobody likes war. why does wealth tend to preclude service when it is that very wealth that national defense is meant to protect? i personally advocate a mandatory conscription period for every able-bodied citizen (i believe israel does this)

    perhaps a bit off-topic – except that national defense is one of the reasons that folks want a government.

    from wikipedia article on conscription:

    On December 21, 2006, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, when asked by a reporter whether the draft should be reinstated to make the military more equal, said, “I think that our society would benefit from that, yes sir.” Nicholson proceeded to relate his experience as a company commander in an infantry unit which brought together soldiers of different socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, noting that the draft “does bring people from all quarters of our society together in the common purpose of serving.” Nicholson later issued a statement saying he does not support reinstating the draft.[71]

  2. Dave – Great comment. Thanks for Playboy interview excerpt. More good points. It would be nice if we heard more about what economists agree on.

    Thank you for your service!

    I think your first comment on conscription is a good example of Friedman’s challenge – “name a single social measure that accomplished its intended objectives…”. Conscription sounds good, but as you point out during Vietnam, there were still ways to get out of it. In reality, it created a new layer of exemptions and political favors.

    Whether to have compulsory service is one of the rubs in a free society.

  3. Excellent post.

    ‘We demonize CEOs and want to fire them when they screw up – which I have no problem with – but we also want to give government more power when it screws up. That make no sense to me. Some might say, “but you can always elect a different person in government.” Which takes me back to Friedman’s last comment, “Look at the record of government.“ ‘

    An economic axiom: if markets fail, governments fail too.


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