“Friedman Friday” EPISODE “The Failure of Socialism” of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 4)

Milton Friedman: Free To Choose – The Failure Of Socialism With Ronald Reagan (Full)

Published on Mar 19, 2012 by

Milton Friedman’s writings affected me greatly when I first discovered them and I wanted to share with you.

Ronald Reagan introduces this program, and traces a line from Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” to Milton Friedman’s work, describing Free to Choose as “a survival kit for you, for our nation and for freedom.” Dr. Friedman travels to Hungary and Czechoslovakia to learn how Eastern Europeans are rebuilding their collapsed economies. His conclusion: they must accept the verdict of history that governments create no wealth. Economic freedom is the only source of prosperity. That means free, private markets. Attempts to find a “third way” between socialism and free markets are doomed from the start. If the people of Eastern Europe are given the chance to make their own choices they will achieve a high level of prosperity. Friedman tells us individual stories about how small businesses struggle to survive against the remains of extensive government control. Friedman says, “Everybody knows what needs to be done. The property that is now in the hands of the state, needs to be gotten into the hands of private people who can use it in accordance with their own interests and values.” Eastern Europe has observed the history of free markets in the United States and wants to copy our success. After the documentary, Dr. Friedman talks further about government and the economy with Gary Becker of the University of Chicago and Samuel Bowles of the University of Massachusetts. In a wide-ranging discussion, they disagree about the results of economic controls in countries around the world, with Friedman defending his thesis that the best government role is the smallest one.
Below is a portion of the transcript of the program and above you will find the complete video of the program:


Hello, I am Linda Chavez and welcome to Free to Choose. Joining Dr. Friedman for a discussion of the failure of socialism are Gary Becker from the University of Chicago and Samuel Bowles of the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Bowles, I think we can all agree that socialism has failed Eastern Europe. Dr. Friedman believes that the path out of that is the free market and I think he thinks there are lessons for the United States.

Chavez: I would like to bring this discussion back to the United States for a moment. What about socialism in the United States. There has been one area where we have tried to redistribute wealth. We have done that through our welfare policies and social security. Has that worked?

Friedman: For some people, it benefited, but taken as a whole, I think it has been a failure.

Becker: I agree with that. I think the big problem in the United States has been, of course, some of the welfare programs have been successful. But by trying to do too many things, the government is no longer doing the things that it should be doing. We all agree there are many things government should be doing. I agree with Milton __ he is a strong man to be say this is an issue between no government and 100% government. The question is what are the tasks that government should be doing. I believe the tasks are, of course, defense against outside aggression, internal protection, some infrastructure, protection of the people can’t make it. In every one of these areas, we are not doing very well. I think we are not doing well mainly because we are trying to do a lot of things we shouldn’t be doing. They can’t do all of them.

Chavez: I couldn’t help but think, Dr. Bowles, as I watched that film that the public housing area that we saw in Eastern Europe and the problems that we have here in the United States. Aren’t there some lessons to be learned?

Bowles: There is absolutely no reason why housing shouldn’t be privately owned. That does not mean that the government has no role in housing. It seems to me that housing is precisely something that ought to be a matter of private property. But we also know, from the experience of this country, that the market itself doesn’t provide housing that the rest of the public thinks is adequate for the vast majority of poor people in this country. Now that doesn’t mean it has to be done by government building the houses, but it certainly does mean that something has to be done or we are going to have the kind of homeless crisis that we have in this country and they are getting one in Eastern Europe too.

Becker: The homeless crisis is a tiny fraction of the population of the United States. Let’s not make that a major part of the housing problem in the United States. I am not at all convinced that there is any evidence suggesting that the private system cannot provide adequate housing. I think there is a good case to be made that there are poor people in this country and the government obviously has to help them out. We all agree on that. But should they be doing it by building housing or by giving them income and permitting them to spend as they see fit. I see no evidence from the U.S. or any other country who were better off when then government takes a major role in housing or any of these other particular activities that allocate resources.

Friedman: What role has been played in the difficulty of getting housing by government interventions? By rent control? By excessive building code regulations, many of which are designed to protect the interests of special groups. Government played a very large role.

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