I like this video clip (HT: Carpe Diem) of a discussion between economist Milton Friedman and talk show host Phil Donahue from Donahue’s old TV show for several reasons.
First, it reminds me of conversations between my brother (Donahue) and I (Milton Friedman). I’m not claiming to be close to Milton Friedman in his ability to articulate his positions, but I fall on the same side of the argument as he does. While Donahue sounds a lot like my brother.
I could think my brother and I have had this very conversation. It seems I’ve said to my brother exactly what Friedman says at 1:16. “Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed?”
Humans will be humans, after all. Pick an organization of humans. No matter how they are organized, they are still run by humans. Businesses, churches, charities, neighborhood associations, trade associations, libraries, schools, police departments, the Department of Education — they are all run by humans that, as we find out over and over, are no more or less virtuous, infallible, self-interested and corruptible than the rest of us.
Second, I like that Donahue would have Milton Friedman on his show. This is a conversation that doesn’t often happen often in our society. When it is attempted, it goes down hill faster than a game of tag with 1st graders. Emotions take over and the discussion becomes wrought with straw men, ad hominem and other types of fallacies until one side gets frustrated and quits.
That’s one reason I started this blog, to try to carry out discussions without the fallacy and emotion.
Third, I can vaguely remember seeing the Friedman segments as a kid and not having a clue what he was saying (I was very young then), but I’m glad I understand it now.
Fourth, the video also demonstrates how difficult it is for people to change their minds. Milton Friedman was the best of the best at articulating the rationale for liberty in an understandable and non-threatening voice.
Yet, I don’t believe even this master changed Donahue’s mind about anything. Friedman seemed to sway a few people in the audience, but I’m guessing that Donahue held steadfast to his belief that there is just something inherently wrong about capitalism and freedom, even though the standard of living is best for everyone where there is some measure of capitalism and worst for everyone where there is not.
I could be wrong. If Donahue reads this, I’d love for him to answer these questions. If anyone out there knows Donahue, please forward him this link. Phil: Did Milton Friedman ever change your mind about anything? If so, what and why?
How about you? Have you changed your mind about anything? I have. But, I’m not sure if I’m just abnormal. I use to be on Donahue’s side of this conversation and transitioned to Friedman’s as I come to realize many of the exact things that Friedman says here.
How about you, after watching this video? If you already agree with Friedman, never mind. Send the video to someone you know who will disagree with him. Have them watch the video. Have them pause the video and write down every time they disagree with Friedman or when Friedman says something that makes them reconsider their position. I would love to see the comebacks.