Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was a Nobel Prize winning libertarian economist who emphasized freedom. He was a leader of the Chicago School of Economics and made the University of Chicago the leading center for conservative economics. He was the favorite economist of many conservatives (including Ronald Reagan), in part because nearly all other economists have been liberal. Friedman was an early advocate of free choice in education, such that parents could spend their school tax dollars on the school of their choice. Friedman received the 1976 Nobel Prize for economics.
Comments on the Great Depression
Milton Friedman said, "Roosevelt's policies were very destructive. Roosevelt's policies made the depression longer and worse than it otherwise would have been. What pulled us out of the depression was the natural resilience of the economy plus WW2."
In one celebrated case, Milton Friedman called a special meeting at the University of Chicago, where he taught, to prove that the Coase theorem was false. But within two hours of discussion, Friedman had the intellectual courage and objectivity to reverse himself and admit that he was wrong and Ronald Coase was right. Many lesser intellectuals can spend their entire lives refusing to admit that they were wrong about something. Although the terms did not exist at the time, this meeting, and its results, demonstrate Milton Friedman's challenge of the hearsay society. Further still, Friedman's willingness to admit his error casts him as less of an expert and more as a member of the best of the public.
Milton Friedman in his own words:
- I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.
- Maybe I did well and maybe I led the battle but nobody ever said we were going to win this thing at any point in time. Eternal vigilance is required and there have to be people who step up to the plate, who believe in liberty, and who are willing to fight for it.
- Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.
- The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.
- The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.
- Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.
- The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.
- If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.
- The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm, capitalism is that kind of a system.
- Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself ... Economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.
- The heart of the [classic] liberal philosophy is a belief in the dignity of the individual, in his freedom to make the most of his capacities and opportunities according to his own lights…This implies a belief in the equality of man in one sense; in their inequality in another.
- The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that's why it's so essential to preserving individual freedom.
- The most unresolved problem of the day is precisely the problem that concerned the founders of this nation: how to limit the scope and power of government. Tyranny, restrictions on human freedom, come primarily from governmental restrictions that we ourselves have set up.
- Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.
- Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.
- Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else's resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.
- The black market was a way of getting around government controls. It was a way of enabling the free market to work. It was a way of opening up, enabling people.
- Governments never learn. Only people learn.
- Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
- History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.
- Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless.
- The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.
- The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.
- The most important ways in which I think the Internet will affect the big issue is that it will make it more difficult for government to collect taxes.
- The power to do good is also the power to do harm.
- There's no such thing as a free lunch.
- If, for example, existing government intervention is minor, we shall attach a smaller weight to the negative effect of additional government intervention. This is an important reason why many earlier liberals, like Henry Simons, writing at a time when government was small by today’s standards, were willing to have government undertake activities that today’s liberals would not accept now that government has become so overgrown.
- We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.
- Most economic fallacies derive - from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.