“Friedman Friday” Quotes from Milton Friedman (part 3)

Milton Friedman discusses J.D. Rockefeller

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Government officials always think they know better how to spend money than the private individual. We have a huge government deficit today that demonstrates that the government does not know best. Below are some wise words from Milton Friedman:

  • “The strongest argument for free enterprise is that it prevents anybody from having too much power. Whether that person is a government official, a trade union official, or a business executive. If forces them to put up or shut up. They either have to deliver the goods, produce something that people are willing to pay for, are willing to buy, or else they have to go into a different business.”
    • “Free to Choose” (1980), segment 2 of 10, “The Tyranny of Control”

Here are some quotes from Milton Friedman that I thought you would enjoy:

  • Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.… A steady rate of monetary growth at a moderate level can provide a framework under which a country can have little inflation and much growth. It will not produce perfect stability; it will not produce heaven on earth; but it can make an important contribution to a stable economic society.
    • The Counter-Revolution in Monetary Theory (1970)
  • On the level of political principle, the imposition of taxes and the expenditure of tax proceeds are governmental functions. We have established elaborate constitutional, parliamentary and judicial provisions to control these functions, to assure that taxes are imposed so far as possible in accordance with the preferences and desires of the public — after all, “taxation without representation” was one of the battle cries of the American Revolution. We have a system of checks and balances to separate the legislative function of imposing taxes and enacting expenditures from the executive function of collecting taxes and administering expenditure programs and from the judicial function of mediating disputes and interpreting the law.
    Here the businessman — self-selected or appointed directly or indirectly by stockholders — is to be simultaneously legislator, executive and, jurist. He is to decide whom to tax by how much and for what purpose, and he is to spend the proceeds — all this guided only by general exhortations from on high to restrain inflation, improve the environment, fight poverty and so on and on.

  • The political principle that underlies the market mechanism is unanimity. In an ideal free market resting on private property, no individual can coerce any other, all cooperation is voluntary, all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate. There are no values, no “social” responsibilities in any sense other than the shared values and responsibilities of individuals. Society is a collection of individuals and of the various groups they voluntarily form.
    The political principle that underlies the political mechanism is conformity. The individual must serve a more general social interest — whether that be determined by a church or a dictator or a majority. The individual may have a vote and say in what is to be done, but if he is overruled, he must conform. It is appropriate for some to require others to contribute to a general social purpose whether they wish to or not.
    Unfortunately, unanimity is not always feasible.There are some respects in which conformity appears unavoidable, so I do not see how one can avoid the use of the political mechanism altogether.

    • “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in The New York Times Magazine (13 September 1970)
  • So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not.
    • Interview “Milton Friedman Responds” in Chemtech (February 1974) p. 72.
  • There is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products the effect of which will be to harm themselves.
    • Free to Choose (1980), segment Who protects the consumer?
  • “The strongest argument for free enterprise is that it prevents anybody from having too much power. Whether that person is a government official, a trade union official, or a business executive. If forces them to put up or shut up. They either have to deliver the goods, produce something that people are willing to pay for, are willing to buy, or else they have to go into a different business.”
    • “Free to Choose” (1980), segment 2 of 10, “The Tyranny of Control”
  • Governments never learn. Only people learn.
    • Statement made in 1980, as quoted in The Cynic’s Lexicon : A Dictionary Of Amoral Advice‎ (1984), by Jonathon Green, p. 77
  • With some notable exceptions, businessmen favor free enterprise in general but are opposed to it when it comes to themselves.
  • The broader and more influential organisations of businessmen have acted to undermine the basic foundation of the free market system they purport to represent and defend.
    • Lecture “The Suicidal Impulse of the Business Community” (1983); cited in Filters Against Folly (1985) by Garrett Hardin
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