FRIEDMAN FRIDAY “How to Stay Free” in Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE Part 2 of 7 “We have assigned increasing tasks of great importance to government. We have turned over to government a larger and larger fraction of our income to be spent on our behalf and the results are plain for all the same they are disappointing”

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 “The Anatomy of a Crisis” and “What is wrong with our schools?”  and “Created Equal”  and  From Cradle to Grave, and – Power of the Market.

In this episode “How to Stay Free” Friedman makes the statement “What we need is widespread public recognition that the central government should be limited to its basic functions: defending the nation against foreign enemies, preserving order at home, and mediating our disputes. We must come to recognize that voluntary cooperation through the market and in other ways is a far better way to solve our problems than turning them over to the government.”

In this episode Milton Friedman makes the point, “From regarding government as a threat to our freedom, we have come more and more to regard government as a benefactor from which all good things flow. We have assigned increasing tasks of great importance to government. We have turned over to government a larger and larger fraction of our income to be spent on our behalf and the results are plain for all the same they are disappointing.”
Pt 2
Almost 200 years ago a remarkable group of men gathered in this room to write a Constitution for the new nation that they had helped to create a few years earlier. They were a wise and learned group of people. They had learned the lesson of history. The great danger to freedom is the concentration of power, especially in the hands of a government. They were determined to protect the citizens of the new United States of America from that danger. And they crafted their Constitution with that in mind. That Constitution has served us well. It has enabled us to preserve our freedom for close on to 200 years. But in the past 50 years, we have been forgetting the lesson that these wise men knew so well. From regarding government as a threat to our freedom, we have come more and more to regard government as a benefactor from which all good things flow. We have assigned increasing tasks of great importance to government. We have turned over to government a larger and larger fraction of our income to be spent on our behalf and the results are plain for all the same they are disappointing. The great expectations have not been achieved and our freedoms have suffered in the process.
Where did it all go wrong? Government began to take an increasing part in our personal affairs nearly 50 years ago. It was 1933, at the lowest point of the worst depression in history. The idea took root that capitalism had failed and that failure was responsible for the human and economic tragedy. In the early 30’s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his advisors met here to devise programs to meet the problems of the depression. Their answer was to give central government more power. Out of that beginning came today’s welfare state.
This Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY is a fine example of the difference between public political power and private economic power. It was constructed while Nelson Rockefeller was Governor of the state of New York. The Rockefeller family has spent millions of its private money on good causes. It has endowed universities like my own, at the University of Chicago, financed medical research, reconstructed Williamsburg, yet not all the private money of the Rockefeller family gave them anything like the amount of power that Nelson Rockefeller was able to have as Governor of the State of New York. He constructed monuments like this all over the state, using every expedient he could think of to finance them. When he left office, taxes per persons in New York State were higher than in any other state in the country excepting only Alaska. And there was a monumental debt besides. So much so, that his successor, who had the reputation as a Democratic congressman of being a big spender, had to use his inaugural speech to preach the virtues of austerity and to say the time of wine and roses is over.
Look at this skyline. It’s Chicago and I think it’s very beautiful. Much of it is less than 20 years old. Those tall buildings were built by private enterprise for use by private enterprise. Not by government for use by government bureaucrats. These are productive monuments, not a burden on the taxpayer, a burden that has almost bankrupted New York City. The irony is that for the most part it was good intentions that led us to where we are today, a nation governed by bureaucratic empires. I wonder whether when they built this building, they realized that it was going to come out looking like a fortress. From modest beginnings in 1953, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare has grown into a veritable empire. Only a small part of its total staff is housed in this headquarters building, a mere 2,000 bureaucrats. Its budget is the third largest budget in the whole world exceeded only by the entire budget of the United States and of the Soviet Union. It employs directly 150,000 full time people and the empire it rules employs another million. More than one out of every 100 people in the U.S. works in the HEW empire.
As we have seen in this series, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare is spending increasing amounts of our money each year on health. One effect is simply to raise the fees and prices for medical and hospital services without a corresponding improvement in the quality of medical care that we receive. It is controlling more and more of the food and drugs we buy. In the process, discouraging the development and preventing the marketing of new drugs that could be saving tens of thousands of lives a year. In the field of education the sums being spent are skyrocketing. Yet by common consent, the quality of education is declining. More and more money is being spent and increasingly rigid controls imposed to promote racial integration. Yet our society is becoming more fragmented. In the field of welfare, billions of dollars are being spent each year, yet at a time when the standard of life of the average American is higher than it has ever been in history, the number of people on welfare roles is growing. Social Security, the budget is colossal, yet it is in deep financial trouble. The young complain and with considerable justice about the high taxes they must pay and those taxes are needed to finance the benefits that are going to the old, yet the old complain and also with justice that it is difficult for them to maintain the standard of life that they were led to expect. A system that was enacted to make sure that the old never became objects of charity sees an increasing number of our older folk on the welfare roles. By its own accounting, HEW in one year lost through fraud, abuse and waste and amount of money that would have built well over 100,000 houses costing $50,000 a piece. Little wondered that those initials are increasing coming to stand for “How to encourage waste.”
Martin Anderson: We found in some cities that upwards of 20_25% of all the people currently receiving welfare are either totally ineligible for welfare or are receiving more than they should be receiving. And it appears in looking into this that the main reason for this is not the welfare laws themselves, but the way they are administered. They are administered in a very lax and loose manner. One of the most famous cases, in fact it just happened last week, they arrested a woman in southern California, they referred to her as the Welfare Queen. And over the past six or seven years she has received $300,000 in welfare payments. Which of course is on an after tax basis, so if you put her on a before tax basis, it might be equivalent to over a million dollars in before tax income. And, she and her husband were living in a nice $170,000 home, nice cars, and she used a very simple technique. She just used alias, used false names, and signed up to get countless different welfare agencies and departments and drove around and collected her checks.
Friedman: Something had to be done about this scandalous state of affairs. What better bureaucratic decision than to set up a special department crammed with computers and civil servants all dedicated to tracking down waste using taxpayers money, of course, in the process. $27.5 million in the first year.

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