“Friedman Friday” FREE TO CHOOSE “Who protects the worker?” Video and Transcript Part 7 of 7 The sweeping statement I make is that the prosperity of this country derives primarily from freedom of enterprise and freedom to hire, to employ, to work, and not from restrictive measures imposed by trade unions.”

FREE TO CHOOSE “Who protects the worker?” Video and Transcript Part 7 of 7

In 1980 I read the book FREE TO CHOOSE by Milton Friedman and it really enlightened me a tremendous amount.  I suggest checking out these episodes and transcripts of Milton Friedman’s film series FREE TO CHOOSE: “The Failure of Socialism” and “What is wrong with our schools?”  and “Created Equal”  and  From Cradle to Grave, and – Power of the Market. Milton Friedman shows in this episode how the worker is best protected and it is not by the government!!!!!!!

Milton Friedman’s  best point made in the following debate is this statement:

“The crucial issue is whether governmental measures which have the effect of favoring union organization of giving them privileges and immunities that are not accorded to other organizations in the society, benefit the society as a whole, or harm the society as a whole. The proposition I tried to make in this film was that the source of the prosperity of this country was freedom of enterprise, freedom of employers to hire, of workers to work for whom they wanted to; and insofar as unions have played a role, they have protected some workers at the expense of others, and have retarded the prosperity of this country. I think that Lynn Williams’ statements to the contrary cannot be supported by any empirical or other evidence that he has, understandably, I’m not blaming him for this, he would be faithless to his job if he did not believe sincerely in what he’s saying. I’m not questioning his sincerity, but sincerity is a much overrated virtue in our society. The plain fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever that either unions or minimum wages have made positive contributions to the prosperity of this country. Some unions have, of course, some unions have done great harm. It’s not an open and shut picture in which you can make a sweeping statement. But on the whole, the growth of this country… The sweeping statement I make is that the prosperity of this country derives primarily from freedom of enterprise and freedom to hire, to employ, to work, and not from restrictive measures imposed by trade unions.”

Pt 7

FRIEDMAN: Sure.

L. WILLIAMS: This is only to say, surely __

FRIEDMAN: Everybody can benefit.

L. WILLIAMS: This is only to say that a busy economy, one in which there’s investment and development and so on is an economy that’s a good economy for working people and for everyone else. I think we say that in the AFL-CIO. at least once a month, all the time. There’s nothing in which __ there’s nothing in which we’re more interested than having a busy, functioning economy. The question is how to bring that about. I do suggest and I think __ I think can be defended as long as we want to discuss it, that the prosperity we have in America today that the labor movements have made an enormous __ the labor movement has made an enormous contribution to that and in the absence of the labor movement and in the absence of minimum wage this would not be as prosperous a country as it is.

MCKENZIE: Now hold it there __ hold it there, Lynn. I want to get a reaction to that. He stated the case for what unions have achieved. Could we go around, first of all, do you accept any part of that?

W. WILLIAMS: No, it’s preposterous, you know, as I suggested before. I mean, if we, you know, if minimum wages could make people richer __

MCKENZIE: Unions we’re talking about now.

W. WILLIAMS: Well, if unions could make people richer __

MCKENZIE: Yeah.

W. WILLIAMS: __ all you have to do is tell people in Bangladesh why don’t you unionize and demand a higher wage. You could be rich like the United States.

L. WILLIAMS: We’re telling everyone in the world.

W. WILLIAMS: It’s productivity.

L. WILLIAMS: We told them in Japan it works.

MCKENZIE: Lynn __

W. WILLIAMS: The workers have higher wages in our country because they’re more productive. That’s how you get higher wages. And this just plain __ I mean, it’s nonsense.

BRADY: And why are they more productive?

W. WILLIAMS: Because they have capital __

BRADY: Enormous capital investment.

(Several people talking at once.)

BRADY: And the higher wages are paid and the higher the capital intents of industry.

L. WILLIAMS: And because there are consumers to buy the stuff who have wages which enable them to go into the marketplace and buy something.

BRADY: Without the capital investment they wouldn’t have the wage and it would be no way of paying them without the capital investment.

L. WILLIAMS: If all those workers weren’t making any money there wouldn’t be much prosperity__

BRADY: There would be no way of paying it without the capital investment.

MCKENZIE: Ernest Green, what’s the reply, your reply?

GREEN: I stand by my initial statement, that it is a prerequisite of the democratic society to have trade unions, organizations aligned, workers to band together in their mutual interests, and __

VOICE OFF SCREEN: Are you saying voluntary associations?

GREEN: And if that, if that group __ I’m saying that trade unions like A. Philip Randolph’s sleeping car porters, the Pullman car company would have never, on its own, given those workers who worked very hard and were very productive people, well educated, any increase in their wages had it not been for the intervention of Randolph.

FRIEDMAN: The crucial issue is whether governmental measures which have the effect of favoring union organization of giving them privileges and immunities that are not accorded to other organizations in the society, benefit the society as a whole, or harm the society as a whole. The proposition I tried to make in this film was that the source of the prosperity of this country was freedom of enterprise, freedom of employers to hire, of workers to work for whom they wanted to; and insofar as unions have played a role, they have protected some workers at the expense of others, and have retarded the prosperity of this country. I think that Lynn Williams’ statements to the contrary cannot be supported by any empirical or other evidence that he has, understandably, I’m not blaming him for this, he would be faithless to his job if he did not believe sincerely in what he’s saying. I’m not questioning his sincerity, but sincerity is a much overrated virtue in our society. The plain fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever that either unions or minimum wages have made positive contributions to the prosperity of this country. Some unions have, of course, some unions have done great harm. It’s not an open and shut picture in which you can make a sweeping statement. But on the whole, the growth of this country __

VOICE OFF SCREEN: I’d like for you to make a sweeping statement.

FRIEDMAN: I do. The sweeping statement I make is that the prosperity of this country derives primarily from freedom of enterprise and freedom to hire, to employ, to work, and not from restrictive measures imposed by trade unions.

MCKENZIE: Everybody briefly now. Ernest __

GREEN: And I would say that the intervention of the strong Federal Government, who those employers hire, the kinds of protection, the wage standards, health conditions, are the requirement of this government to protect these people. Because the history of it has shown that hasn’t occurred; and in your case in Spartanburg, South Carolina, again, I argue that the only reason that they can come back now and attract firms from Switzerland and Germany is because, one that we had a strong government that provided protection for all of its citizens which didn’t occur fifteen years ago.

MCKENZIE: Bill Brady.

BRADY: Economic freedom, in my opinion, should not be abridged. I think that these two gentlemen are advocating that it be abridged. They’re advocating a retention of the minimum wage; they’re advocating, I think, Lynn Williams is advocating the retention of the Davis Bacon Act. They do not, it seems to me, believe that freedoms are interdependent and indivisible. There are freedoms __ there is economic freedom; there is press freedom; there is freedom of assembly; there’s religious freedom; and you are advocating to me a great abridgement of economic freedom and when you do that you injure the other freedoms that we have. And if you do it enough, as we are doing in this country today, if you do it enough we are in danger of losing all of our other freedoms.

MCKENZIE: Now we leave this very spirited discussion, and I hope you’ll join us again for the next episode of Free to Choose.

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