Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Share Share    Print Print    Email Email

Milton Friedman Would Have Been 100 Today

There have already been a lot of great paeans. I’d recommend this article by Thomas Sowell or this blog post by Bryan Caplan or this collection of remembrances by David Henderson. Friedman is justifiably remembered as an excellent economist whose timely and careful research on consumer behavior, money, and economic history literally upended conventional economic wisdom. But he is also remembered as an eloquent and impassioned public voice on behalf of individual freedom.

In that spirit, I think the best tribute is to let him speak for himself. Courtesy of Don Boudreaux, here is Friedman on freedom, government and conformity:

What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be decided through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color-the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit.

It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated – a system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.

And courtesy of Professor Miles Kimball, here is a collection of Friedman videos. In the spirit of Mercatus’s latest initiative on cronyism, here is Friedman on the government and the power of the industrialists:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5dNdBt4204

(HT, Steven Mitchell)