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Milton Friedman (1912–2006)

Author of Capitalism and Freedom

84+ Works 6,194 Members 68 Reviews 13 Favorited

About the Author

Milton Friedman (1912-2006), Nobel Prize winner for excellence in economics, was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Paul Snowden Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago. His many published books include Essays show more in Positive Economics, Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom, and Milton Friedman on Economics, all published by the University of Chicago Press. show less
Image credit: Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize in economics and libertarian activist by http://www.freetochoosemedia.org/

Works by Milton Friedman

Capitalism and Freedom (1962) 2,438 copies
Price Theory (1962) 99 copies
Two Lucky People: Memoirs (1998) 90 copies
New Individualist Review (1981) 23 copies
Monetarist Economics (1991) 9 copies
The Corporation (2003) 4 copies
Friedman in China (1990) 4 copies

Associated Works

The Road to Serfdom (1944) — Introduction, some editions — 2,809 copies
A Time for Truth (1978) — Preface, some editions — 161 copies
Keeping the Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought (1988) — Contributor — 59 copies
Essays on Hayek (1976) — Foreword — 49 copies
The Conservative Papers (1964) — Contributor — 11 copies
Theories of the Labor Movement (1987) — Contributor — 7 copies
BYU Studies - Vol. 16, No. 4 (Summer 1976) (1976) — Contributor — 5 copies
Playboy Magazine ~ February 1973 (Jeanette Larson) (1973) — Interview — 3 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Friedman, Milton
Date of death
Burial location
Cremated and ashes scattered over San Francisco Bay.
New York, New York, USA
Place of death
San Francisco, California, USA
Cause of death
heart failure
Places of residence
Rahway, New Jersey, USA
Chicago, Illinois, USA
New York, New York, USA
San Francisco, California, USA
Rahway High School, Rahway, New Jersey, USA (1928)
Rutgers University (B.A.|1932)
University of Chicago (M.A.|Economics|1933)
Columbia University (Ph.D.|Economics|1946)
Friedman, Rose (wife)
University of Chicago
Hoover Institution
Awards and honors
Nobel Prize (Economic Sciences|1976)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1988)
National Medal of Science (1988)
John Bates Clark Medal (1951)
Short biography
American economist and Nobel Prize Recipient. Born in New York City to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Hungary, he began developing his economic theories during the Great Depression. He received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1946, was Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1976, became a senior research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution in 1977, and influenced the economic policies of three presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan). Recognized for his work on macroeconomics, microeconomics, economic history, and statistics, he believed strongly in laissez-faire capitalism for a free market economy and in the principles of 18th century economist Adam Smith, consistently asserting that individual freedom should rule economic policy. His book, "Capitalism and Freedom" (1962) sought to minimize the role of government in a free market, thereby promoting political and social freedom. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy. He hosted a television series "Free to Choose" on PBS in early 1980 which became a widely-read book, co-authored with his wife, Rose Friedman. His more well known books were: "Price Theory" (1962 with Rose Friedman), "Capitalism and Freedom" (1962 with Anna J. Schwartz), "An Economist's Protest" (1972), and "There Is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch" (1975). In addition to authoring 32 books on economics, he also wrote a column for Newsweek magazine from 1966 to 1983 and was one of the few economists able to bridge the gap between academia and the public. He put his economic policies to the test by working with his former students and Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet. He died of heart failure in San Francisco, California.



Now, first I’m going to talk about what Miltie doesn’t talk about, both ‘good’ (least ‘e didn’t say dat, did ‘e?), and ‘bad’ (didn’t think of that, now did ya, Govenah?). (And no, I don’t know why the Dickens accent lol.)

So, first I have to say that this is certainly an instructive historical picture of the Republican Party back when it believed in capitalism, a time I think I can safely say is over, at least for now. Who says that Disney isn’t an evil anti-white force in society that needs to be punished by the government? Not the GOP, that’s for sure! I mean, think about it! If you support choice and private schools, there might be a girls’ school in a Black neighborhood, and—and—and! Aaah! 🫠🙀 (Better fall back on “faith family freedom”, ie rules and customs, rules and customs—and white men!) So I mean, at least with Miltie you’re dealing with someone who’s intelligent and polite, and will try to answer objections about poverty and such without sounding like Bull Connor or Senator McCarthy, right.

But, second, I think that the book shows its age (Silent Spring was published the same year, so it wasn’t available during the actual writing process, and I guess obviously wasn’t mentioned in the victory lap 2002 preface) in that it doesn’t mention the environment—the thought does not occur. Miltie has this sorta humanism, you know—if people ask for something, then that’s how you know that that’s the right thing, because money and the public become like the god, and the god has to be worshipped; there’s no like, need to compromise, you know. That’s what I think, about him. I mean, to be honest, I have this pet peeve about conservative atheists (and their fat boy “religious” allies—just trying to feed face, feed my face, God—right now! I’m in a bad mood, dammit!), where it’s like, who needs faith hope love, if you have greed uncompromising privilege and normality, and you offer people this false choice of like, either the Lenin the Thug—and he is a thug; I’m not being sarcastic—or we just feed face until the earth explodes because money and the public—comfort, basically; comfort’s tyranny—is the god. And I mean, Miltie could be worse. He smiles, I guess, right. Like a really really intellectual, understated smile, and emotionally, I like that. But I’m not sure that he understands the problem with his ideology, you know. I’m not sure that some of the worst problems have even occurred to him. And I guess, in a way, that makes sense. Capitalism and socialism, the humanist ideologies, at least in their unmixed secular forms, are very new things; they’re the new ideologies. And I don’t want to bash humanism just because I can—human people like God and the natural environment, has its place. But we’ve only emerged into the power we have now recently, basically, and I don’t think we yet understand what the problems are, or how we could misuse it….

…. It seems like, for all the They Didn’t Notice Me in 1963; They Didn’t Know What To Do in 1962, that it is a kinda dry technical little midcentury chess book for a similar sort of era, but I will say a few things, I guess.

I guess the first is, at midlife, he said confidently that economic freedom led to and was almost inseparable from political freedom—not quite, perhaps, as simple as buy one get one free, but close. But at the end of his life, apparently he saw political freedom as being good civic freedom (I like chess too; let’s play), and troublesome, potentially, political freedom, (let’s have a debate about taxes and college tuition)—again to simplify, you know, but economic freedom had to be prioritized. But even aside from that, there’s the problem that companies aren’t in business to promote “economic freedom”; they’re in it for money, and if a company or class can monopolize power, they will—so it’s not simple: and I think on some level Miltie wanted this doctrinaire simplicity, this too-complicated too-unambiguous, thing—it’s not simple whether concentration of power in few hands in government is better or worse than concentration of power in corporations, you know. “Let’s just make sure there’s no concentration of power!” Concentration of which kind of power? There’s the dramatic power, the high power, of the government to compel, and the everyday power of money over bread, a sort of low power. Both compel people. Maybe if you’re born high enough in class to have a chance of becoming rich, (some rich people aren’t born rich, but they’re also not born in refugee camps or in the ghetto), or you’re an economist, then you experience one sort of power, one sort of freedom, and see the problem as just the other side of the coin, but I think for the proverbial “most people” kinda person, either difficulty is valid. Every day concentrations of economic power limit you, and occasionally in dramatic ways concentrations of political power can attack you…. Although “concentration of power” isn’t always as simple as buying local or whatever—maybe your local police department is a concentration of power that threatens you if you’re a young Black man too poor to afford a good college….

I mean, I would never say that Miltie’s always wrong as such; rules and customs whether they’re unofficial (family faith freedom!) or official and village-y (the bureaucrat wants you to learn Latin; play it safe!), can be bad, can hold you back at times. It can be tough to say what’s stopping lying in the marketplace (which is a sort of compulsion) and what’s preventing people from taking a risk on something not normal, say in health or doctoring (which would obviously be compulsion). But Miltie’s just going to say—at least, it’s not going in this book if it’s not, basically, Hey, want capitalism’s freedom? Sign this petition and you’ll be free from your paternal uncle forever…. You know, it’s like, simple, for all the intellectual grind of it. I don’t think he really gets that to have a good system of economics/politics you have to know what it’s for, philosophy/religion, and not just winning this chess club strategy debate. “Miltie proved that if C=Abstraction A is putting against S=Abstraction B, where E=Earth Place, then…. Then square your shoulders and charge! I mean, I don’t want to exaggerate; he’s not mean; he’s not like Barry Goldwater saying that 38% of the reason why you should vote for him is because the USSR is the evil empire of un-people, and 14% is because civil rights by 1964 is outta control, brotha!, you know. Miltie’s not a bad person; I want to be clear on that. (Maybe Barry’s not clinically bad, you know; I just bring him up as someone a little closer to that—that call for military freedom, you know. We gotta be free, or else we have to send in the combat trucks! Consent to be free! This is your final warning!) But sometimes Miltie’s not a good writer or thinker. I think sometimes economists in their icy palaces can be so specialized they don’t know what their theories are for, although that certainly goes for socialist ones too. (Freedom from want for everybody in the chess club; community decision making for the entire Shakespeare club.)

…. It is true, though, that he does have a “role of government” chapter, even if he ends with a deregulation wish list, lol, (a lot of which is like—king’s bishop takes Queen’s rook seven, check!), and tries to talk about “neighborhood effects”, as they call it, albeit without understanding that he’s trying to talk about morality, “what is hard to compensate people for materially”…. And you know, “pollution is bad, but not interesting”; “I can’t think of a reason why an alcoholic Native American who can’t get a job shouldn’t be excluded (economically, of course!) from a National Park”—whoops, did I say that! So much easier when it’s abstract 🫥🤪

And you know, Native Americans and the environment are the collective end, (whitey says the individual is the best; don’t change it, now!); on the other side, the “family” and not the individual person is the “individual”, which in effect has always meant that it’s the “head of household” and not the wife who counts. Though not only among the capitalist elites. (People are funny, though. Biden’s a sexist; vote for Trump! And don’t change it now! I’m on the side of negativity; if something’s wrong in the world—I win! 🥇…. Poor Miltie. With such friends, who needs enemies anymore? 🤔).

But anyway, for all his good will, I don’t think that he really understands the potential effects of his theories and equations on the public. His wife may have typed up his notes for him, (much like, say, Tolstoy’s wife, and Militie’s got, say, 12% more credit, arguably, worth about the cost of an extra free soda and chips, I think), but it’s not like a social worker wrote every other chapter. Lol.

King’s knight takes bishop’s square seven!

…. And now, instead of talking about race relations and money—a very cryptic and obscure topic in 1962, I assure you! (MidCentury+12!)—👨🏻‍🏫—we will discuss, class…. The gold standard! ~*groans*~ In three periods, from 1867-1882, 1894-1896, and finally from 1902-1913 ~Can I go to the bathroom?

OMG, this should be a cartoon! So much potential…. So much.

…. I know that my humor might seem facetious, but I really think that the theory can be on some level intentionally a distancing technique, a painkiller and a way of getting your ‘proper place’. The truth is that the market is a means and the government is a means. They are simply different means for different ends. “In this neighborhood, the restaurant is the solution and the car repair place is the problem.” No, you’re the problem. The truth is that when capitalists and communists fight, the people lose—think of the arms race, or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, Miltie is of course more a dreamer and an idealist than a militarist, but still certainly for me he uses theory as an anodyne, a way to distance from reality, and arguably to provide a special place in relationship to reality. I guess it’s easier to see with Robert Owen and Happy Go Lucky Farm, than with oneself, if one isn’t Robert Owen. But it remains that theory has to submit to something that isn’t theory, or else it becomes useless, or even a burden…. And “my tool is better than your tool” is not reality, that’s your tool for avoiding reality. Something happens in life, so instead of life happening, “my tool versus your tool” happens. And yet people imagine themselves very clever when they cannot be understood, although they simultaneously desire to be very popular.

I hope I won’t have too much more to say—it’s a very strange book.

…. Hopefully not many more, but I will say it is odd that he ALWAYS says something is or is not for ‘a free society’ and never ‘a prosperous society’ or ‘a free and prosperous society’. He may toot his own horn, but he is still an economist, after all—not that it’s not important, but people can be very arrogant about their money. “I’ve gotta be…. Free!” Yes, how…. Rich! I mean, to be free it’s actually not necessary to be prosperous, at least not really, either individually or collectively, but presumably that’s not the only or even the main concern of an economist, you know. But not for Miltie. He wants us to be free. Ernest Capitalist, Head of Discount Department, a World Femme and Family Holidays Corporation company, also wants me to be free, you know. I don’t know where prosperity comes in at all. So I’ve been told, and I don’t doubt it for a second! 👽

…. It’s just amazing to me that he can drone on about this esoteric bullshit, and then dismiss ordinary people’s concerns in half a sentence, you know. Do people really need affordable housing? People need gold! Gold! What is gold? Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and the atomic number 79. It is a tiny, tiny, atom that can make you rich…. I just can’t think of anyone else right now who wants so much to be popular, who cares what people think of him—‘You didn’t care about me, in 1963’—with such a disregard for what people need, or can understand.

…. —Say the government wants to get money into the economy. It can either spend money, and maybe give part of it to you poor people, or cut people’s taxes—rich people, for example. Of course, you don’t have money for taxes to begin with. But it’s the same, either way. Maybe it’s better this other way.
—I don’t understand how that can be.
—I’m right. I learned Latin at school, you know. Just trust me.
—I don’t trust you.

…. There are sometimes advantages to private schools, but I have to admit I’m a little pissed at Mr Friedman at this point. Oh, I want to help out with education! Of course, I want to burrow into academia and I don’t want the “commoners” to understand, although I’m happy to use the Anabaptists/Amish, the anti-intellectuals who want 1500s-style government and society back, as useful patsies, you know—you know, one time I saw a picture of a man wearing a hat, and I think he was Amish, and also the government has paid back the “common man” for his World War Two fighting long enough, so, yeah, the Amish…. Back to work, peasants! Sheesh! And I don’t want the commoners to be able to pay their bills, because it’s demeaning to think of economic problems less lofty than those of the president or the richest bankers…. And I think that public schools should raise their rates! So yeah, I don’t want people to be able to afford going to school; it kinda ruins the whole point of being the elite—but here are my thoughts about education….

…. And you know, the ironic thing is, this guy is Exactly what, the exact manner and way, of what the Trump militiamen mean by the ‘liberal elite/intellectual’. And, you know, as much as I support everyone’s rights and safety, I’m just not sure I can support someone, really, just because they get pot shots fired at them by the Trump militiamen, you know….

…. But I will say this about education: thinking certainly causes pain, but I think it’s worth it to understand.

…. I mean, I don’t think he’s an accessory to torture really, but it is turning into a “torture” to read his book…. There is also the pain of Not understanding, and that is Not worth it, ha. I don’t know. I didn’t understand how a lot of people felt about him and what he represents before, and now I think I do, despite the need to hit just the right note, you know, not—just screaming, right. 🙀

…. “So the government should subsidize my son who wants to study Shakespeare, but not some schmuck who wants to be a car mechanic.”

I had a feeling it would end up in some ass-y rut like that. At least I was ready! 😸

…. “Structures and grounds”, ie athletics, and the barely-veiled language for ‘feminine’ subjects= 🤖 the robot is not happy, we must placate the robot. (Do the robot dance.)

(Break-dance) But baby I’m here for everybody! (Grabs mic) I’m here for you! 🤡

…. —I’m always mystified that “intelligent” intellectuals think that if you wall out the masses and tell them that education is not for them, you’ll get a more functional, intellectual society.
—Don’t think about it. Do the robot. 🤖

…. “Hitler would be wildly in favor of these civil rights laws.”

Wow, that was bad; worse than I expected—and I wasn’t expecting much. I knew he didn’t think civil rights was important—the chemical composition of gold is surely more interesting—but he actually devoted his little civil rights chapter to saying, not just that it’s not needed, not important, go back to sleep, but actually *bad*.

I mean, for one thing, it’s odd how he says the buyer of bread doesn’t know if the farmer is black or white or whatever, since you do know—they’re white. The KKK drove the Blacks into the cities; the rural farming districts are white. He’s blissfully unaware that sometimes, despite his “prejudice doesn’t pay” line, which has some truth to it—although that’s what DeSantis is for, to make damn sure it pays— but often violence lays the foundation, sets the stage, determines the cast, the players, and then the market just takes the golf ball where it lays, you know; “well if that’s the way the world is…. I’ll just make money off it.” I mean, there IS a racial wealth gap, and it’s not like it was more or less in 1962, you know. Systematic change involves the government; pie in the sky tokenism is just, move on, nothing to see here, go back to sleep…. I guess, although I haven’t seen his work yet, it’s kinda that Frank Capra layer, which apparently here would be that kinda, you just believe in your goodness so much, and in the goodness of the whole system and in Santa Claus, and everything, that you just deny that there can be a problem, basically. Oh! The places you’ll go; the Old Man will give you his dough.

And then, you know, the stupid crap. Should there be a federal civil rights law? No, the state level laws are bad—they’re Hitler! I guess maybe in 1962 you’ll deluded, but it must be a real perverse stubbornness that makes no mention of this in 2002. Impoverishing Black people for being (censored)s is not like having a taste in music, you know. Yeah? You think? I mean, shouldn’t it ring an alarm bell that we don’t have to ask what the classical artist we’re imagining looks like? Although the blues artist could be white, and he’d make more money—it doesn’t go both ways. The master can dance with the slaves whenever he chooses, you know. And it’s like…. Did he really compare Martin Luther King Jr. To Hitler¿? (And didn’t breath a word about it Forty Years Later!). Impoverishing everyone with black skin and creating whites-only wealth environments is not like liking French food or reading better than the radio. It’s like having some sort of contracts-fluid zone, where some people get their contract with the store fulfilled, and other people…. Well, let’s just say they’re not from around here, you know. Out-of-staters. Other side of the tracks. Nasty business. Nasty business, what our boys did. But. It had to be done! It’s like…. (a) enforce contracts, rationality, civil rights laws; (b) toleration has progressed a long way since the peasant food riots of the 1400s, but now, it’s finally come far enough. This Adolf King Jr. business has Got To Stop! I’ll summon up the demons of Sparta to help me! 👹👺

…. Actually explaining why the rich man Ought Not to have a conscience (freedom!) was almost an afterthought compared to the bean-counting drivel. But it’s just as well—it really is. If the wealth-areas are white-only-zones, then the ‘mad men’ really Ought, indeed, they should!, lack “social responsibility”. After all, what good is a fraud? Is it not better this way?

…. I kinda lost interest after the Rev.Dr. Adolf King Jr. thing, you know.

—So, the professions want to be licensed, and the public wants to allow it—but EYE will not allow it! I’m the economist! I’m the decider!
—Bro, you’re good. Adolf King Jr. is behind you, 100%.

Although he doesn’t even pretend to find something wrong with colonialism, you know—and there were still literal British colonies in 1962, you know. He’s not even clear that there ever was such a thing, although he mentions “the intrinsic heterogeneity of populations”—which for his sake I WISH were Greek to me, although actually I suppose it’s not, you know.

Really we should speak of 10% of the world’s population “voting” itself the other 90% of the world’s possessions, in what I suppose you could call a contested election, lol. Either that or a Robinson Crusoe on a fortunate island—“being in a white country is just like found money; I’m sure of it”—who excludes shipwrecked mariners who are starving or dying of curable diseases, you know. I mean, it is a bit like found money, in that it’s, money, although it wasn’t found under a rock, you know—unless it was the Rock of Gibraltar or the rock of some other colony, you know, in Asia or Africa.

I mean, people aren’t always required to be generous, but there Are limits. And living in a white country is not Actually like found money, much as it might seem like that.

…. Capitalism, not alone but in complicity with other forces—and I think it can be a little macho to think that greed is sin number 1—made the world worse, in some ways, and capitalism, not alone with with honest allies—and not patsies—can make a better world.

…. But it remains that Miltie both seeks for and is a patsy, you know.

“The cost-cutting programs to help the poor, designed to minimize the “pain” for the rich, have created much pain for the poor. My solution: destroy the program, and let the fuckers shift for themselves. Friedman! Edit my language! Use your incredible chemistry language skills! Bighouse Park! McDago! Let’s go for drinks!”

…. And again, social security doesn’t always help the poor, but the aged are more likely to be poor than the working-age person, and they are probably past their peak earning years; it is also one of the few benefits people are said to “deserve”, precisely because it’s Not just for “them”, you know. But, my tool is better than your tool, so out it goes. He’s not living in the real world—he’s living in the world of the patsy.

…. I mean, he is a patsy. Government aid to the poor is “wasteful”—it goes to the rich, much of the time—so! Let the fuckers shift for themselves, and give ALL the money to the rich. “But that’s not what I said.” Ah, but the gub’ment a’ways wrong, and this right here book of yers be a might nice club to go and club the gub’ment of Adolf King Jr.!

“But that’s not what I said!” 🙀


Special note: And isn’t advertising paternalism? Can’t I figure out how to spend my own damn money? Isn’t the fact that basically all CEOs are somebody’s father, paternalism?

…. And is it not paternalism to say, The blacks may think they don’t need the unrestricted free market, but I know what those sports-crazy minorities need because I read books—and they just don’t know what they need! Not like I do!

(end piece)


—(little boy, looking into the stars at night) To take over the world, first we’ve got to take over America.


Midway through my life’s journey, I found myself lost in a dark forest.


Special note/afterword: Although I wouldn’t say that economics can’t be its own thing or that business is the only thing, I think Milton was this very (Enneagram) Five person, lost in his own head, and had very little to do with the sort of Three energy you would need to actually make money. Before Reagan, Milton wasn’t popular, it’s true, but it’s at least possible to carve out a niche for yourself in the academy with ideology and cant and rhetoric, you know, but if you actually wanted to really go out there and, make money!, rhetoric about The Government Is Always Bad!—I won’t take their money!—The Minorities Have Nothing To Complain About—I won’t take their money!—and also his kinda ignoring /personal economics/, won’t give it even One Chapter, won’t cash a check worth less than a billion dollars—I won’t take your money! You know. You could never make it in business with that attitude, only as an academic, despite the fact that in the mid century times, Milton wasn’t considered part of the academic in-group, you know.

And then, maybe if he knew something about business, he could have done Something, at least, about personal economics, and not complained that he was ignored by people….. that he ignored? Even his own latter piece, which apparently was less ivory tower-y, (which I doubt I’ll make time for, because once with Miltie is enough, really), instead of promoting it, he himself! dismisses it, like, That’s not theory, you know. =doesn’t matter (just the proles).

But that’s not to be confused with paternalism! 🤪

Even though it certainly wasn’t about this 💰
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goosecap | 30 other reviews | Jan 11, 2023 |
This is a very well written, carefully considered and concise defense of competitive free market capitalism, and a well-supported argument for minimizing government involvement in the economy and the size and scope of government in the absence of a very compelling argument in support of that government activity. The first chapter is essentially a synopsis of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, arguing that economic liberty is inseparable from individual liberty; that allowing free individuals to pursue self-interest in a free market leads to more productivity, prosperity and creativity than is possible otherwise; and that central control stifles that fecundity along with individual freedoms. The next couple chapters deal with what I found to be Hayek's most significant omissions: delineation of the legitimate roles of the state and discussion of appropriate (and inappropriate) monetary policy and fiscal policy.

Friedman then discusses several important areas in which government involvement in the market has been both harmful in terms of misallocation of resources, creating disincentives and the like; and by having consequences that are the opposite of those purportedly intended. He's convinced, and convincing, that monetary policy since creation of the Federal Reserve, and the Fed itself, are net negatives. Various government sanctioned monopolies and similar arrangements are condemned, including professional licensure; minimum wage laws; labor unions; and not having stock dividends taxed as income of the stockholders, thereby encouraging reinvestment in the corporation, making it larger than otherwise while that capital is unavailable for and even diverted from new enterprises/competitors (sounds a bit like too big to fail; combined with his monetary arguments, the result is there. No doubt Friedman would say Dodd-Frank compounds the problem while expanding government bureaucracy, when changes in tax and monetary policy would help or solve the problem; if not adequately, it's probably a monopolistic problem that needs to be addressed as such. Several other topics and arguments in the book are highly relevant today). Other items pretty convincingly critiqued are government-run education, social security, the graduated tax with high nominal rates but riddled with loopholes, farm support, and public housing.

Simply listing these hardly makes Friedman's cases against them, which he does well. He notes a particular problem which may be more true today than when the book was published in 1962: the "tyranny of the status quo" - e.g. we tend to accept social security and the education system as they are since we're accustomed to them and haven't experienced alternatives. But there's no reason, for example, that a government requirement that we save for retirement involve a government run insurance program (which is really just a transfer program rather than a trust, and one that depends on demographics for its solvency). As with auto insurance, we can simply be required by government to have something provided by the market that meets minimum requirements (if the program is even legitimate, which Friedman doesn't believe).

The one serious flaw I find with Friedman's overall argument is that, like other strong defenders of laissez faire, he seems to treat the idea of free individuals making free exchanges in a competitive marketplace as a first principle. But he, like Hayek, notes that it's critical that the state establish the rule of law, and in particular ensure that contracts are enforced, for the market to work. That's necessary because people can't be trusted to honor their commitments. The point is that there's a broader and more fundamental ethical system prior to the free market principle. And besides our moral flaws, our knowledge is limited. And there are limits to the good that can be done through everyone pursuing self-interest. The market knows how to value the lumber in tropical rain forests, but it doesn't seem capable of adequately valuing unknown benefits that might come from new medicinal discoveries, much less does it seem able to even address the inherent value in biological diversity. The market can value cod, crabs and oysters as food commodities, but due to a lack of knowledge, or to concern only for present income regardless of whether productive fisheries will continue to exist in the future, capitalism clearly hasn't prevented us from decimating some "commercial fisheries" (otherwise known as components of ecosystems).

This critique could be taken into other areas, but that should suffice. I do generally agree with Friedman, and in fact I think we're getting into dangerous territory by moving in a direction opposite the one he would have us take. But I do think he has a blind spot (while admitting that, in the absence of widespread consensus regarding traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, that's a contentious area without a very clear foundation or way to establish widespread consensus).
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garbagedump | 30 other reviews | Dec 9, 2022 |
When Milton Friedman’s "Capitalism and Freedom" came out in 1962, his was a rare voice defending classical liberal values and the free enterprise system. For years his ideas were unloved in ruling circles, as the leviathan unleashed by F.D.R.’s New Deal pressed its tentacles even further into the flesh of American society through Johnson’s Great Society and beyond.

But after nearly a generation wandering in the wilderness, Friedman lived to see the vindication of his ideas, as big government solutions repeatedly failed, and free market approaches out-performed.

My review continues: https://www.whynotlibertarianism.com/capitalism-and-freedom.html
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Cicero | 30 other reviews | Jun 22, 2022 |



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