Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 3-5
President Obama c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here.
How can we have personal freedom without economic freedom? That is why I don’t understand why socialists who value individual freedoms want to take away our economic freedoms. I know that you have expressed how much you desire as President to protect our freedoms. I wanted to share this info below with you from Milton Friedman who has influenced me greatly over the last 30 plus years.
Here is part three.
Ask yourself what it is that assures these garment workers in Hong Kong a good wage; not high by Western standards; but high enough to enable them to live far better than most people in the world. It is not government or trade union, these workers do well because there is competition for their labor and skills.
When a businessman faces trouble, a market threatens to disappear, or a new competitor arises, there are two things he can do. He can turn to the government for a tariff or quota or some other restriction on competition, or he can adjust and adapt. In Hong Kong the first option is closed. Hong Kong is too dependent on foreign trade so that the government has simply had to adopt a policy of complete noninterference. That’s tough on some individuals, but it is extremely healthy for the society as a whole. Only the businessmen who can adapt, who are flexible and adjustable survive and they create good employment opportunities for the rest.
The complete absence of tariffs or any other restrictions on trade is one of the main reasons why Hong Kong has been able to provide such rapidly rising standard of life for its people. Even Communist China recognizes Hong Kong’s success, it set up shop here and now excepts the universal symbol of capitalism. The Bank of China, the official bank of Communist China is the largest bank in Hong Kong. There’s no doubt that Communist China recognizes the power of the market.
In all this, the government of Hong Kong has played an important part, not only by what it has done, but as much by what it has refrained from doing. It has made sure that laws are enforced and contracts honored. It has provided the conditions in which a free market can work. Most importantly, it has not tried to direct the economic activities of the colony.
No government official is telling these people what to do. They are free to buy from whom they want, to sell to whom they want, to work for whom they want. Sometimes it looks like chaos and so it is, but underneath it’s highly organized by the impersonal forces of a free marketplace. The impersonal forces of a free marketplace at work back here in the United States, prices are the key. The prices that people are willing to pay for products determines what’s produced. The prices that have to be paid for raw materials, for the wages of labor, and so on, determine the cheapest way to produce these things.
In addition, these self same prices, the wages of labor, the interest on capital, and so on, determine how much each person has to spend on the market. It’s tempting to try to separate this final function of prices from the other two. To think that some how or other you can use prices to transmit the information about what should be produced and how it should be produced, without using those prices to determine how much each person gets. Indeed, government activity over the past few decades has been devoted to little else. But that’s a very serious mistake. If what people get is not going to be determined on what they produce, how they produce it, on how successfully they work, what incentive is there for them to act in accordance with the information that is transmitted. There is only one alternative: force __ some people telling other people what to do.
The fundamental principal of the free society is voluntary cooperation. The economic market, buying and selling, is one example. But it’s only one example. Voluntary cooperation is far broader than that.
Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your committment as a father and a husband.
Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733, email@example.com