Free or equal? 30 years after Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (Part 1)

Free or Equal?: Johan Norberg Updates Milton & Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose

I got this below from Reason Magazine:

Swedish economist Johan Norberg is the host of the new documentary Free or Equal, which retraces and updates the 1980 classic Free to Choose, featuring Milton and Rose Friedman. Like the Friedmans, Norberg travels the globe to look at the conditions under which prosperity and freedom flourish – and under what conditions they wither and die. Made by the same producer who created Free to Choose, Free or Equal will be appearing on PBS in 2011. For more information, a clip of the new documentary and the entire Free to Choose series, go here.

Norberg is the author of numerous books, including In Defense of Global Capitalism (2002) and Fiscal Fiasco (2009), a look at how the U.S. government’s policies contributed to and have exacerbated the length and intensity of the Great Recession.

Reason’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Norberg to discuss how the changes in the world since the Friedmans’ earlier documentary effect their basic argument that individual economic freedom is a building block for a prosperous and open society. Overall, says Norberg, the Friedmans’ basic insights hold true and some of the places they celebrated – such as Hong Kong, then under British protection and now part of the People’s Republic of China – are still flourishing. But in countries and regions that continue to constrain economic and political liberties, reports Norberg, fear and privation still dominate.

About 6 minutes. Shot by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.

Go to for downloadable versions, and subscribe to’s YouTube Channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.

For an earlier interview with Norberg (about his book Fiscal Fiasco), go here.

Johan Norberg – Free or Equal – Free to Choose 30 years later 1/5

Published on Jun 10, 2012 by

In 1980 economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman inspired market reform in the West and revolutions in the East with his celebrated television series “Free To Choose.”
Thirty years later, in this one-hour documentary, the young Swedish writer, analyst and Cato Institute Fellow Johan Norberg travels in Friedman’s footsteps to see what has actually happened in the places Friedman’s ideas helped transform. In location after location Norberg examines the contemporary relevance of Friedman’s ideas in the 2011 world of globalization and financial crisis. Central to his examination are the perennial questions concerning power and prosperity, and the trade-offs between individual liberty and income equality.


I have enjoyed reading this series of reviews by T. Kurt Jaros on Milton and Rose Friedman’s book “Free to Choose.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I have posted several transcripts and videos of the FREE TO CHOOSE film series on my blog. My favorite episodes are the “Failure of Socialism” and  “Power of the Market.” (This is the 1990 version but the 1980 version is good too.) Today with the increase of the welfare state maybe people should take a long look again at the episode “From Cradle to Grave.” 

Milton Friedman’s  view on vouchers for the schools needs to be heeded now more than ever too. “Created Equal” is probably the episode that I wanted President Obama to see the most and I wrote several letters to him suggesting that.

T. Kurt Jaros is currently a Master’s student studying Systematic Theology at King’s College in London.  He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science cum laude and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics high honors from Biola University, an evangelical Christian university outside of Los Angeles.

He enjoys learning and thinking about theology, specifically historical theology, philosophical theology and philosophy of religion, and issues pertaining to monergism and synergism.  Additionally, he enjoys learning and thinking about political philosophy, economics, American political history, and campaigns.

Free to Choose

T. Kurt Jaros on Economics

This is part of a series on Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.”

This Christmas I asked for and received Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman. I’ve been a big fan of Milton for a while now, be it reading some articles online or watching YouTube videos of him. My goal over the next several weeks is to write a post for each of the chapters to summarize his points and present something I’ve learned. There are ten in all, but this one will include the introduction.

Milton Friedman Free to Choose

Friedman begins the book by writing that there have been two miracles in the United States: one political and one economic. Coincidently, both miracles were the consequences of two written documents form 1776. The first, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, explained how it could be that two parties could both achieve their objectives through cooperation in the marketplace. However, the only way for that to be done is if the cooperation is voluntary. This cooperation is also done out of the individuals self-interest (not necessarily greed). We all work so that we can pay our bills and make a good life for our children and ourselves. This is the building block of an economy. The second document was Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence from British rule. Jefferson’s words marked the first time in history that a nation was formed based upon the belief that men have inalienable, God-given rights. Among those rights are the rights to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness.

Friedman notes that there is a strong correlation between economic and political freedom. This is one-two punch of freedom allowed for a huge growth in wealth during the 19th century.  In the late 18th century, “it took nineteen out of twenty workers to feed” the 3 million inhabitants of the country and yet today “it takes fewer than one out of twenty” to feed 330 million. What is the cause of this miracle? It’s obvious that there was no central government planning in agriculture (that first happened in the 1930s under the progressive Franklin Delano Roosevelt). The true cause of this change was “private initiative operating in a free market open to all” in the form of the industrial revolution.

Smith and Jefferson both believed that the role of government was to be a referee in the marketplace and not a player. Yet that view began to change over the course of time and people thought that perhaps government could help those that are less fortunate, if only government organization were in the right hands. This explains why the federal government has grown massively over the past 80 years. How much longer are we willing to let the government grow to create a massive entitlement state? “Adam Smith’s invisible hand has been powerful enough to overcome the deadening effects of the invisible hand that operates in the political sphere,” but for how much longer?

As each day goes on, we move closer and closer to the point of no return. Politicians keep spending other people’s money on themselves, their buddies in the special interests, and perpetual “temporary” programs. Our debt keeps increasing, states are going bankrupt, and soon enough the entitlement game will be over. We should stop it before it’s too late.

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