Milton Friedman – The Proper Role of Government

Milton Friedman – The Proper Role of Government

Milton Friedman did a great job of explaining things in a simple way.

Capitalism and Freedom(1962)

  • To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them.He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served.
    • Introduction
  • The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
    • Introduction
  • There is enormous inertia—a tyranny of the status quo—in private and especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
    • Preface (1982 edition), p. ix
  • Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.
    History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.

    • Ch. 1 “The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom”, 2002 edition, page 10
  • 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.
    • Ch. 1 “The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom”
  • The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the “rule of the game” and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.
    • Ch. 1 “The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom”, 2002 edition, page 15
  • A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it … gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
    • Ch. 1 “The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom”, 2002 edition, page 15
  • With respect to teachers’ salaries …. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority.
    • Ch. 6 “The Role of Government in Education”
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