Free to Choose by Milton Friedman: Episode “Created Equal” (Part 1 of transcript and video)

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 Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan

Liberals like President Obama (and John Brummett) want to shoot for an equality of outcome. That system does not work. In fact, our free society allows for the closest gap between the wealthy and the poor. Unlike other countries where free enterprise and other freedoms are not present.  This is a seven part series.

Created Equal [1/7]. Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980)

Uploaded by on May 30, 2010

In this program, Milton Friedman visits India, the U.S., and Britain, examining the question of equality. He points out that our society traditionally has embraced two kinds of equality: equality before God and equality of opportunity. The first of these implies that human beings enjoy a certain dignity simply because they are members of the human community. The second suggests societies should allow the talents and inclinations of individuals to unfold, free from arbitrary barriers. Both of these concepts of equality are consistent with the goal of personal freedom.

In recent years, there has been growing support for a third type of equality, which Dr. Friedman calls “equality of outcome.” This concept of equality assumes that justice demands a more equal distribution of the economic fruits of society. While admitting the good intentions of those supporting the idea of equality of outcome, Dr. Friedman points out that government policies undertaken in support of this objective are inconsistent with the ideal of personal freedom. Advocates of equality of outcome typically argue that consumers must be protected by government from the insensitivities of the free market place.

Dr. Friedman demonstrates that in countries where governments have pursued the goal of equality of outcome, the differences in wealth and well being between the top and the bottom are actually much greater than in countries that have relied on free markets to coordinate economic activity. Indeed, says Dr. Friedman, it is the ordinary citizen who benefits most from the free market system. Dr. Friedman concludes that any society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither. But the society that puts freedom before equality will end up with both greater freedom and great equality.


FREE TO CHOOSE 5: “Created Equal” (Milton Friedman)
Free to Choose ^ | 1980 | Milton Friedman

Posted on Friday, July 21, 2006 3:58:44 PM by Choose Ye This Day

FREE TO CHOOSE: Created Equal

Friedman: From the Victorian novelists to modern reformers, a favorite device to stir our emotions is to contrast extremes of wealth and of poverty. We are expected to conclude that the rich are responsible for the deprivations of the poor __ that they are rich at the expense of the poor.

Whether it is in the slums of New Delhi or in the affluence of Las Vegas, it simply isn’t fair that there should be any losers. Life is unfair __ there is nothing fair about one man being born blind and another man being born with sight. There is nothing fair about one man being born of a wealthy parent and one of an indigenous parent. There is nothing fair about Mohammed Ali having been born with a skill that enables him to make millions of dollars one night. There is nothing fair about Marleena Detrich having great legs that we all want to watch. There is nothing fair about any of that. But on the other hand, don’t you think a lot of people who like to look at Marleena Detrich’s legs benefited from nature’s unfairness in producing a Marleena Detrich. What kind of a world would it be if everybody was an absolute identical duplicate of anybody else. You might as well destroy the whole world and just keep one specimen left for a museum. In the same way, it’s unfair that Muhammed Ali should be a great fighter and should be able to earn millions. But would it not be even more unfair to the people who like to watch him if you said that in the pursuit of some abstract idea of equality we’re not going to let Muhammed Ali get more for one nights fight than the lowest man on the totem pole can get for a days unskilled work on the docks. You can do that but the result of that would be to deny people the opportunity to watch Mohammad Ali. I doubt very much he would be willing to subject himself to the kind of fights he’s gone through if he were to get the pay of an unskilled docker.

This beautiful estate, its manicured lawns, its trees, its shrubs, was built by men and women who were taken by force in Africa and sold as slaves in America. These kitchen gardens were planted and tended by them to furnish food for themselves and their master, Thomas Jefferson, the Squire of Monticello. It was Jefferson who wrote these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These words penned by Thomas Jefferson at the age of 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, have served to define a basic ideal of the United States throughout its history.

Much of our history has revolved about the definition and redefinition of the concept of equality, about the intent to translate it into practice. What did Thomas Jefferson mean by the words all men are created equal? He surely did not mean that they were equal and/or identical in what they could do and what they believed. After all, he was himself a most remarkable person. At the age of 26, he designed this beautiful house of Monticello, supervised its construction and indeed is said to have worked on it with his own hands. He was an inventor, a scholar, an author, a statesman, governor of Virginia, President of the United States, minister to France, he helped shape and create the United States. What he meant by the word “equal” can be seen in the phrase “endowed by their creator”. To Thomas Jefferson, all men are equal in the eyes of God. They all must be treated as individuals who have each separately a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, practice did not conform to the ideals. In Jefferson’s life or in ours as a nation, he agonized repeatedly during his lifetime about the conflict between the institution of slavery and the fine words of the declaration. Yet, during his whole life, he was a slave owner.

This is the City Palace in Jaipur, the capitol of the Indian state of Rajasthan, is just one of the elegant houses that were built here 150 years ago by the prince who ruled this land. There are no more princes, no more Maharajas in India today. All titles were swept away by the government of India in its quest for equality. But as you can see, there are still some people here who live a very privileged life. The descendants of the Maharajas financed this kind of life partly by using other palaces as hotels for tourists __ tourists who come to India to see how the other half lives. This side of India, the exotic glamorous side, is still very real. Everywhere in the world there are gross inequalities of income and wealth. They offend most of us.

A myth has grown up that free market capitalism increases such inequalities, that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wherever the free market has been permitted to operate, the ordinary man has been able to attain levels of living never dreamed of before. Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor. Nowhere are the rich richer and the poor poorer than in those societies that do not permit the free market to operate, whether they be feudal societies where status determines position, or modern, centrally-planned economies where access to government determines position.

Central planning was introduced in India in considerable part in the name of equality. The tragedy is that after 30 years, it is hard to see any significant improvement in the lot of the ordinary person.


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