FRIEDMAN FRIDAY “How to Stay Free” in Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE Part 3 of 7 “When there is a high rate of taxation then you have people cheating on their taxes and you can see that in England today

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.”

When there is a high rate of taxation then you have people cheating on their taxes and you can see that in England today.
Pt 3
As Adam Smith wrote over 200 years ago, in the economic market people who intend to serve only their own private interests are led by an invisible hand to serve public interests where there was no part of their intention to promote. In the political market, there is an invisible hand operating as well. But unfortunately it operates in the opposite direction. People who intend only to serve the public interest are led by an invisible hand to serve private interests that was not part of their intention to promote. The reason is simple, as we have seen in case after case, the general interest is diffused among millions and millions of people with special interest its concentrated. When reformers get a measure through they go on to their next crusade leaving no one behind to protect the public interest. But they do leave behind some money and some power and the special interests that can benefit from that money and from that power are quick to gain it at the expense of most of the rest of us. By now, after 50 years of experience, it is clear that it doesn’t really matter who lives in that house. Government will continue to grow so long as the rest of us believe that the way to solve our problems is to turn them over to government.
Yet there are many people who want to solve their own problems, who want to use their own skills and energy and resources. We found such a person here in southern California.
John McCalm, a fireman, was planning his retirement. He decided to fulfill his life’s ambition, he built his own house with his own hands. He bought a site with a magnificent view, cleared the ground and realized that he was the first man who ever cultivated this land. It made him feel good. He pulled a trailer on to the edge of his plot and moved in with his wife to live there while they worked on the house. He made his own adobe bricks, he planted avocado trees, learned about carpentry and plumbing. It was going well when one day a local official arrived with a warning. It was alright to build a house he said, but it was against regulations to live in the trailer any longer. The McCalms thought that the rules were bureaucratic and foolish and they resented them. They decided to leave the trailer exactly where it was and defy the authorities.
Pat Brennan became something of a celebrity in 1978 because she was delivering mail in competition with the United States Post Office. With her husband she set up business in a basement in Rochester, NY. Soon it was thriving. They charged less than the post office and they guaranteed delivery the same day of parcels and letters in downtown Rochester. There is no doubt now that they were breaking the law as it stood. The post office took them to court. The case against them was simply that they should not be handling letters. The Brennan’s decided to fight and local businessmen provided the financial backing.
Pat Brennan: I think there’s going to be a quiet revolt and perhaps we’re the beginning of it. That you see people bucking the bureaucrats where years ago you wouldn’t dream of doing that because you’d be squelched. Now, with tax revolts and with what we’re doing, people are deciding that their fates are their own and not up to somebody in Washington who has no interest in them whatsoever. So, it’s not a question of anarchy, but it’s a questions of people rethinking the power of the bureaucrats and rejecting it.
Friedman: The Brennan customers were clear about one thing. After all, the Brennan’s service was cheaper than the regular mail.
Thomas O’Donaghue (storekeeper): We’re not sure that they have done anything illegal and I’d like to know more about this and I hope that this gets further into the courts than it has already. And someone will listen to their appeal because when we use the Brennan’s we know for a fact that same day delivery is going to be happening day after day after day, whereas with the other guy, you’re not sure and you’re sure what kind of shape it’s going to get there in. So I am behind the Brennan’s 100% and anything I can do to help them, I will.
Pat Brennan: Well, the questions of freedom comes up in any kind of a business. Whether you have the right to pursue it and the right to decide what you are going to do. There is also the question of the freedom of the consumers to utilize the service that they find is inexpensive and far superior. And according to the federal government and the body of laws called the Private Express Statutes, I don’t have a freedom to start a business and the consumer does not have the freedom to use it. Which seems very strange in a country like this that the entire context of the country is based on freedom and free enterprise.
Friedman: The post office won the case. It went all the way to the State Supreme Court and the Brennan’s were closed down. Put out of the business of delivering mail.
What we’ve been looking at is a natural human reaction to the attempt by other people to control your life when you think it’s none of their business. The first reaction is resentment. The second is to attempt to get around it. And finally there comes a decline in respect for law in general. There’s nothing especially American about this. It happens all over the world whenever some people try to control other people. For example, take a look at what’s happening to the British.
For most of the past century Britain was known throughout the world for the respect which its citizens gave to the law, but no longer. Graham Turner (Author “Business in Britain) Nothing is perfect that we have become in the course of the last ten or fifteen years, a nation of fiddlers. How do they do it? They do it in a colossal variety of ways. Lets take it right at the lowest level. Take a small grocer in a country area, say Devon. Very small turnover. How does he make money? He finds out that by buying through regular wholesalers he’s always got to use invoices. But if he goes to the cash and carry and buys his goods from there, and the profit margin on those goods can be untaxed because the tax inspector simply don’t know he’s had those goods. That’s the way he does it. Then if you take it to the top end, if you take a company director, well there’s all kinds of ways they can do it. They buy their food through the company, they have their holidays on the company, the put their wives as company directors even though they never visit the factory. They build their houses on the company by a very simple device of building a factory at the same time as a house, it goes absolutely right through the range from the ordinary person, the ordinary working class person, doing quite menial jobs right to the top end, businessmen, senior politicians, members of the Cabinet, members of the Shadow Cabinet, they all do it. I think almost everybody now feels the tax system is basically unfair. And, everybody who can tries to find a way around that tax system. Now, once that happens, once there is a consensus that the tax system is unfair, the country in effect becomes a kind of conspiracy. And everybody helps each other to fiddle. You’ve no difficulty fiddling in this country because other people actually want to help you. Now 15 years ago that would have been quite different. People would have said, hey, you know, this is not quite as it should be. So that’s the first reason. A very high level of taxation. But I think personally there’s another fact that comes into it. And that is that over the years we’ve had a huge growth in bureaucracy, government expenditure, cotton wool, if you like, to protect people from the slings and arrow of ordinary life, you know, health service, all kinds of benefits of one sort or another. And I think this comes into the consciousness of people almost a sort of new factor feeling that things don’t quite have the value that they did that money is not a thing of value, if your short you get it from some government body or other.

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