FRIEDMAN FRIDAY About every important quote you could ever find from the mouth of the economic genius Milton Friedman!!

Milton Friedman

American economist, statistician, and writer

The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

Milton Friedman (31 July 1912 – 16 November 2006) was an American economist noted for his support for free markets and a reduction in the size of government. In 1976 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics.

Contents

QuotesEdit

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

Unanimity is not always feasible. There are some respects in which conformityappears unavoidable, so I do not see how one can avoid the use of the politicalmechanism altogether.

The maintenance of a free society is a very difficult and complicated thing and it requires a self-denying ordinance of the most extreme kind.

In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved valueof land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago.

A society which is socialist cannot also be democratic.

  • If we are to use effectively these abstract models and this descriptive material, we must have a comparable exploration of the criteria for determining what abstract model it is best to use for particular kinds of problems, what entities in the abstract model are to be identified with what observable entities, and what features of the problem or of the circumstances have the greatest effect on the accuracy of the predictions yielded by a particular model or theory.
    • “The Methodology of Positive Economics” (1953)
  • The construction of hypotheses is a creative act of inspiration, intuition, invention; its essence is the vision of something new in familiar material. The process must be discussed in psychological, not logical, categories; studied in autobiographies and biographies, not treatises on scientific method; and promoted by maxim and example, not syllogism or theorem.
    • “The Methodology of Positive Economics” (1953)
  • Over the period covered by these data, a drastic change has occurred in the responsibilities undertaken by the state to provide assistance to the aged, unemployed and otherwise dependent. This change has had divergent results on the particular data under discussion. The availability of assistance from the state would clearly tend to reduce the need for private reserves and so to reduce private saving—it is equivalent, in terms of our hypothesis, to a reduction in the variance of transitory components.
    • A Theory of the Consumption Function (1957)
  • I have no right to coerce someone else, because I cannot be sure that I’m right and he is wrong.
    • “Say ‘No’ to Intolerance”, Liberty magazine, vol. 4, no. 6, (July 1991) pp. 17-20.
  • I am convinced that the minimum-wage law is the most anti-Negro law on our statute books—in its effect, not its intent.
    • An Economist’s Protest: Columns in Political Economy (1966), p. 163
  • 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)
  • There was nothing in these views to repel a student; or to make Keynes attractive. Keynes had nothing to offer those of us who had sat at the feet of SimonsMintsKnight, and Viner.
    • Milton Friedman, “Comments on the Critics”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 80, No. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 1972)
  • How much attention is paid to agreement between Galbraith and myself in opposing a draft and favoring an all-volunteer armed force, or in opposing tariffs and favoring free trade, or on a host of other issues? What is newsworthy is that Galbraith endorses wage and price controls, while I oppose them.
    • A 1973 Interview with Milton Friedman – Playboy Magazine
  • Although I wish the anarchists luck, since that’s the way we ought to be moving now. But I believe we need government to enforce the rules of the game. By prosecuting anti-trust violations, for instance. We need a government to maintain a system of courts that will uphold contracts and rule on compensation for damages. We need a government to ensure the safety of its citizens–to provide police protection. But government is failing at a lot of these things that it ought to be doing because it’s involved in so many things it shouldn’t be doing.
    • A 1973 Interview with Milton Friedman – Playboy Magazine
  • 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.
  • The problem in this world is to avoid concentration of power – we must have a dispersion of power.
  • I think the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse.
    • An Economist’s Protest (1975), p. 6; often quoted as “The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”
  • I want people to take thought about their condition and to recognize that the maintenance of a free society is a very difficult and complicated thing and it requires a self-denying ordinance of the most extreme kind. It requires a willingness to put up with temporary evils on the basis of the subtle and sophisticated understanding that if you step in to do something about them you not only may make them worse, you will spread your tentacles and get bad results elsewhere.
  • I say thank God for government waste. If government is doing bad things, it’s only the waste that prevents the harm from being greater.
  • If we have system in which government is in a position to give large favor – it’s human nature to try to get this favor – whether those people are large enterprises, or whether they’re small businesses like farmers, or whether they’re representatives of any other special group. The only way to prevent that is to force them to engage in competition one with the other.
  • One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
    • Interview with Richard Heffner on The Open Mind (7 December 1975)
  • In this day and age, we need to revise the old saying to read, “Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
    • “Bureaucracy Scorned” in Newsweek (29 December 1975), later published in Bright Promises, Dismal Performance : An Economist’s Protest (1983)
  • It’s nice to elect the right people, but that isn’t the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.
  • Make politics an avocation, not a vocation.
    • As quoted in “Milton Friedman: A Tribute” by David R. Hendersonantiwar.com, (Nov. 20, 2006)
  • [A] society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.
  • There’s a sense in which all taxes are antagonistic to free enterprise … and yet we need taxes. We have to recognize that we must not hope for a Utopia that is unattainable. I would like to see a great deal less government activity than we have now, but I do not believe that we can have a situation in which we don’t need government at all. We do need to provide for certain essential government functions — the national defense function, the police function, preserving law and order, maintaining a judiciary. So the question is, which are the least bad taxes? In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago.
    • As quoted in The Times Herald, Norristown, Pennsylvania (1 December 1978)
  • They think that the cure to big government is to have bigger government… the only effective cure is to reduce the scope of government – get government out of the business.
  • Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.
    • from an interview with Phil Donahue (1979): partial transcript from SiP TV ; or find link to full interview in the External links Section
  • Industrial progress, mechanical improvement, all of the great wonders of the modern era have meant little to the wealthy. The rich in ancient Greece would have benefited hardly at all from modern plumbing — running servants replaced running water. Television and radio — the patricians of Rome could enjoy the leading musicians and actors in their home, could have the leading artists as domestic retainers. Ready-to-wear clothing, supermarkets — all these and many other modern developments would have added little to their life. They would have welcomed the improvements in transportation and in medicine, but for the rest, the great achievements of western capitalism have rebounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person. These achievements have made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.
    • Free to Choose (1980) p. 148
  • There is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products the effect of which will be to harm themselves.
  • “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.”
  • 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
  • Every friend of freedom… must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence.
    • “An Open Letter to Bill Bennett” in The Wall Street Journal (7 September 1989)
  • Spending by government currently amounts to about 45 percent of national income. By that test, government owns 45 percent of the means of production that produce the national income. The U.S. is now 45 percent socialist.
  • Society doesn’t have values. People have values.
  • The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.
  • So far, twenty-two people have received the Nobel award in economics. Not one of them has been female—so, to judge only from the past, the most important thing to do if you want to be a Nobel laureate is to be male. I hasten to add that the absence of females is not, I believe, attributable to male chauvinist bias on the part of the Swedish Nobel Committee. I believe that the economics profession as a whole would have been nearly unanimous that, during the period in question, only one female candidate met the relevant standards—the English economist Joan Robinson, who has since died. The failure of the Nobel Committee to award her a prize may well have reflected bias but not sex bias. The economists here will understand what I am talking about. … A second requirement is to be a U.S. citizen. Twelve of the twenty-two recipients of the Nobel Prize were from the United States, four from the United Kingdom, two from Sweden, and one each from four other countries. … Of the twelve Americans who have won the Nobel Prize in economics, nine either studied or taught at the University of Chicago. So the next lesson is to go to the University of Chicago.
    • “Milton Friedman” in William Breit and Roger W. Spencer (ed.) Lives of the laureates
  • The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.
    • “Why Government Is the Problem” (February 1, 1993), p. 19
  • The stock of money, prices and output was decidedly more unstable after the establishment of the Reserve System than before. The most dramatic period of instability in output was, of course, the period between the two wars, which includes the severe (monetary) contractions of 1920-1, 1929-33, and 1937-8. No other 20 year period in American history contains as many as three such severe contractions.
    This evidence persuades me that at least a third of the price rise during and just after World War I is attributable to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System… and that the severity of each of the major contractions — 1920-1, 1929-33 and 1937-8 is directly attributable to acts of commission and omission by the Reserve authorities…
    Any system which gives so much power and so much discretion to a few men, [so] that mistakes — excusable or not — can have such far reaching effects, is a bad system. It is a bad system to believers in freedom just because it gives a few men such power without any effective check by the body politic — this is the key political argument against an independent central bank…
    To paraphrase Clemenceau, money is much too serious a matter to be left to the central bankers.
  • I know of no severe depression, in any country or any time, that was not accompanied by a sharp decline in the stock of money and equally of no sharp decline in the stock of money that was not accompanied by a severe depression.
  • Joan Robinson, a leading Keynesian and radical, produced a specimen for me to analyze. I said something like, “This is obviously the writing of a foreigner, so it’s difficult for me to analyze. But I would say it is written by someone who had considerable artistic but not much intellectual talent.” It turned out to be the handwriting of Lydia Lopokova, the world-famous Russian ballerina whom Keynes had married. That was surely my greatest triumph of the year at Cambridge!
    • Two Lucky People
  • In the course of General Westmoreland‘s testimony, he made the statement that he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. I stopped him and said, ‘General, would you rather command an army of slaves?’ He drew himself up and said, ‘I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.’ I replied, ‘I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries.’ But I went on to say, ‘If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.’ That was the last that we heard from the general about mercenaries.
    • Two Lucky People: Memoirs, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1998) p. 380.
  • There’s a smokestack on the back of every government program.

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programmes by their intentions rather than their results.

  • The unions might be good for the people who are in the unions but it doesn’t do a thing for the people who are unemployed. Because the union keeps down the number of jobs, it doesn’t do a thing for them.
    • Interview with Brian LambIn Depth Book TV (2000)
  • I think it is only because capitalism has proved so enormously more efficient than alternative methods that it has survived at all. (…) I’m not sure capitalism is the right word. There is a sense in which every society is capitalist. The Soviet Union was capitalist, but it was state capitalism. Latin American societies in the past have been capitalist, but it has been oligarchic capitalism. So what we really need to talk about is not capitalism but free market or competitive capitalism which is the system that we would like to have adopted, not just capitalism.
    • Interview with Parker in Randall E. Parker(ed.), Reflection on the Great Depression (2002)
  • The use of quantity of money as a target has not been a success. I’m not sure that I would as of today push it as hard as I once did.
    • Financial Times [UK] (7 June 2003)
  • There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.
    • Fox News interview (May 2004)
  • I am a libertarian with a small “l” and a Republican with a capital “R”. And I am a Republican with a capital “R” on grounds of expediency, not on principle.
  • You must distinguish sharply between being pro free enterprise and being pro business.
  • I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible. … because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. I believe our government is too large and intrusive, that we do not get our money’s worth for the roughly 40 percent of our income that is spent by government … How can we ever cut government down to size? I believe there is one and only one way: the way parents control spendthrift children, cutting their allowance. For government, that means cutting taxes.
    • As quoted in Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and other big government Republicans hijacked the conservative cause(2006) by Richard A Viguerie, p. 46
  • Keynes was a great economist. In every discipline, progress comes from people who make hypotheses, most of which turn out to be wrong, but all of which ultimately point to the right answer. Now Keynes, in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, set forth a hypothesis which was a beautiful one, and it really altered the shape of economics. But it turned out that it was a wrong hypothesis. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a great man!
  • Thanks to economists, all of us, from the days of Adam Smith and before right down to the present, tariffs are perhaps one tenth of one percent lower than they otherwise would have been. … And because of our efforts, we have earned our salaries ten-thousand fold.
  • If a tax cut increases government revenues, you haven’t cut taxes enough.
    • As quoted in “Milton Friedman’s Last Lunch” at Forbes.com (11 December 2006)
  • The true test of any scholar’s work is not what his contemporaries say, but what happens to his work in the next 25 or 50 years.And the thing that I will really be proud of is if some of the work I have done is still cited in the text books long after I am gone.
    • As quoted in The Power of Choice (January 2007)
  • I’m in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.
    • As quoted in ‪If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People? (2009) ‬by John Mitchinson, p. 87

Capitalism and Freedom (1962)Edit

  • To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served.
    • Introduction
  • The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
    • Introduction
  • There is enormous inertia—a tyranny of the status quo—in private and especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
    • Preface (1982 edition), p. ix
  • Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era. 
    History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom, 2002 edition, page 10
  • Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • As liberals, we take freedom of the individual, or perhaps the family, as our ultimate goal in judging social arrangements. Freedom as a value in this sense has to do with the interrelations among people
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • The liberal conceives of men as imperfect beings. He regards the problem of social organization to be as much a negative problem of preventing “bad” people from doing harm as of enabling “good” people to do good; and, of course, “bad” and “good”people may be the same people, depending on who is judging them.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • The basic problem of social organization is how to co-ordinate the economic activities of large numbers of people.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • Fundamentally, there are only two ways of coordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion—the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary co-operation of individuals—the technique of the market place.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the “rule of the game” and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom, 2002 edition, page 15
  • A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it … gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
    • Ch. 1 The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom, 2002 edition, page 15
  • The widespread use of the market reduces the strain on the social fabric by rendering conformity unnecessary with respect to any activities it encompasses. The wider the range of activities covered by the market, the fewer are the issues on which explicitly political decisions are required and hence on which it is necessary to achieve agreement. In turn, the fewer the issues on which agreement is necessary, the greater is the likelihood of getting agreement while maintaining a free society.
    • Ch. 2 The Role of Government in a Free Society
  • The need for government in these respects arises because absolute freedom is impossible. However attractive anarchy may be as a philosophy, it is not feasible in a world of imperfect men.
    • Ch. 2 The Role of Government in a Free Society
  • The organization of economic activity through voluntary exchange presumes that we have provided, through government, for the maintenance of law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another, the enforcement of contracts voluntarily entered into, the definition of the meaning of property rights, the interpretation and enforcement of such rights, and the provision of a monetary framework.
    • Ch. 2 The Role of Government in a Free Society
  • Freedom is a tenable objective only for responsible individuals. We do not believe in freedom for madmen or children. The necessity of drawing a line between responsible individuals and others is inescapable, yet it means that there is an essential ambiguity in our ultimate objective of freedom. Paternalism is inescapable for those whom we designate as not responsible.
    • Ch. 2 The Role of Government in a Free Society
  • government which maintained law and order, defined property rights, served as a means whereby we could modify property rights and other rules of the economic game, adjudicated disputes about the interpretation of the rules, enforced contracts, promoted competition, provided a monetary framework, engaged in activities to counter technical monopolies and to overcome neighborhood effects widely regarded as sufficiently important to justify government intervention, and which supplemented private charity and the private family in protecting the irresponsible, whether madman or child—such a government would clearly have important functions to perform. The consistent liberal is not an anarchist.
    • Ch. 2 The Role of Government in a Free Society
  • liberal is fundamentally fearful of concentrated power. His objective is to preserve the maximum degree of freedom for each individual separately that is compatible with one man’s freedom not interfering with other men’s freedom. He believes that this objective requires that power be dispersed. He is suspicious of assigning to government any functions that can be performed through the market, both because this substitutes coercion for voluntary co-operation in the area in question and because, by giving government an increased role, it threatens freedom in other areas.
    • Ch. 3 The Control of Money
  • The Great Depression in the United States, far from being a sign of the inherent instability of the private enterprise system, is a testament to how much harm can be done by mistakes on the part of a few men when they wield vast power over the monetary system of a country.
    • Ch. 3 The Control of Money
  • To paraphrase Clemenceau, money is much too serious a matter to be left to the Central Bankers.
    • Ch. 3 The Control of Money
  • With respect to teachers’ salaries …. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority.
    • Ch. 6 The Role of Government in Education
  • Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders, how are they to know what it is? Can self-selected private individuals decide what the social interest is? Can they decide how great a burden they are justified in placing on themselves or their stockholders to serve that social interest?
    • Ch. 8 Monopoly and the Social Responsibility of Business and Labor
  • The major disadvantage of the proposed negative income tax is its political implications. It establishes a system under which taxes are imposed on some to pay subsidies to others. And presumably, these others have a vote.
    • Ch. 12 The Alleviation of Poverty
  • The heart of the liberal philosophy is a belief in the dignity of the individual, in his freedom to make the most of his capacities and opportunities according to his own lights, subject only to the proviso that he not interfere with the freedom of other individuals to do the same.
    • Ch. 12 The Alleviation of Poverty
  • An income tax intended to reduce inequality and promote the diffusion of wealth has in practice fostered reinvestment of corporate earnings, thereby favoring the growth of large corporations, inhibiting the operation of the capital market, and discouraging the establishment of new enterprises.
    • Ch. 13 Conclusion
  • As Adam Smith once said, “There is much ruin in a nation”. Our basic structure of values and the interwoven network of free institutions will withstand much. I believe that we shall be able to preserve and extend freedom despite the size of the military programs and despite the economic powers already concentrated in Washington. But we shall be able to do so only if we awake to the threat that we face, only if we persuade our fellowmen that free institutions offer a surer, if perhaps at times a slower, route to the ends they seek than the coercive power of the state. The glimmerings of change that are already apparent in the intellectual climate are a hopeful augury.
    • Ch. 13 Conclusion

A Monetary History of the United States (1963)Edit

Main article: A Monetary History of the United States

  • The contraction from 1929 to 1933 was by far the most severe business-cycle contraction during the near-century of U.S. history we cover and it may well have been the most severe in the whole of U.S. history.

Free to Choose (1980)Edit

  • The key insight of Adam Smith‘s Wealth of Nations is misleadingly simple: if an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.
    • Ch. 1 “The Power of the Market”, page 13
  • The price system works so well, so efficiently, that we are not aware of it most of the time. We never realize how well it functions until it is prevented from functioning, and even then we seldom recognize the source of the trouble.
    • Ch. 1 “The Power of the Market”
  • Prices perform three functions in organizing economic activity: first, they transmit information; second, they provide an incentive to adopt those methods of production that are least costly and thereby use available resources for the most highly valued pur poses; third, they determine who gets how much of the product—the distribution of income. These three functions are closely in terrelated.
    • Ch. 1 “The Power of the Market”
  • The price system transmits only the important information and only to the people who need to know.
    • Ch. 1 “The Power of the Market”
  • Whether it is in the slums of New Delhi or in the affluence of Las Vegas, it simply isn’t fair that there should be any losers. Life is unfair — there is nothing fair about one man being born blind and another man being born with sight. There is nothing fair about one man being born of a wealthy parent and one of an impecunious parent. There is nothing fair about Muhammad Ali having been born with a skill that enables him to make millions of dollars one night. There is nothing fair about Marlene Dietrich having great legs that we all want to watch. There is nothing fair about any of that. But on the other hand, don’t you think a lot of people who like to look at Marlene Dietrich’s legs benefited from nature’s unfairness in producing a Marlene Dietrich. What kind of a world would it be if everybody was an absolute identical duplicate of anybody else. You might as well destroy the whole world and just keep one specimen left for a museum. In the same way, it’s unfair that Muhammad Ali should be a great fighter and should be able to earn millions. But would it not be even more unfair to the people who like to watch him if you said that in the pursuit of some abstract idea of equality we’re not going to let Muhammad Ali get more for one nights fight than the lowest man on the totem pole can get for a days unskilled work on the docks. You can do that but the result of that would be to deny people the opportunity to watch Muhammad Ali. I doubt very much he would be willing to subject himself to the kind of fights he’s gone through if he were to get the pay of an unskilled docker.

America’s Drug Forum interview (1991)Edit

If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.“America’s Drug Forum” interview (1991)

  • The proper role of government is exactly what John Stuart Mill said in the middle of the 19th century in On Liberty. The proper role of government is to prevent other people from harming an individual. Government, he said, never has any right to interfere with an individual for that individual’s own good. 
    The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating. We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do. If it’s in principle OK for the government to say you must not consume drugs because they’ll do you harm, why isn’t it all right to say you must not eat too much because you’ll do harm? Why isn’t it all right to say you must not try to go in for skydiving because you’re likely to die? Why isn’t it all right to say, “Oh, skiing, that’s no good, that’s a very dangerous sport, you’ll hurt yourself”? Where do you draw the line?
  • It does harm a great many other people, but primarily because it’s prohibited. There are an enormous number of innocent victims now. You’ve got the people whose purses are stolen, who are bashed over the head by people trying to get enough money for their next fix. You’ve got the people killed in the random drug war. You’ve got the corruption of the legal establishment. You’ve got the innocent victims who are taxpayers who have to pay for more and more prisons, and more and more prisoners, and more and more police. You’ve got the rest of us who don’t get decent law enforcement because all the law enforcement officials are busy trying to do the impossible. 
    And, last, but not least, you’ve got the people of Colombia and Peru and so on. What business do we have destroying and leading to the killing of thousands of people in Colombia because we cannot enforce our own laws? If we could enforce our laws against drugs, there would be no market for these drugs.
  • It’s a moral problem that the government is making into criminals people, who may be doing something you and I don’t approve of, but who are doing something that hurts nobody else. Most of the arrests for drugs are for possession by casual users. 
    Now here’s somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he’s caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That’s the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons.
  • If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.

Money Mischief (1992)Edit

  • The term money has two very different meanings in popular discourse. We often speak of someone “making money,” when we really mean that he or she is receiving an income. We do not mean that he or she has a printing press in the basement churning out greenbacked pieces of paper. In this use, money is a synonym for income or receipts; it refers to a flow, to income or receipts per week or per year. We also speak of someone’s having money in his or her pocket or in a safe-deposit box or on deposit at a bank. In that use, money refers to an asset, a component of one’s total wealth. Put differently, the first use refers to an item on a profit-and-loss statement, the second to an item on a balance sheet
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money
  • One reason why money is a mystery to so many is the role of myth or fiction or convention.
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money
  • Why should they also be accepted by private persons in private transactions in exchange for goods and services?
    The short answer—and the right answer—is that private persons accept these pieces of paper because they are confident that others will. The pieces of green paper have value because everybody thinks they have value. Everybody thinks they have value because in everybody’s experience they have had value…
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money
  • Analysis of the supply of money, and in particular of changes in the supply of money, is simple in principle but extremely complex in practice, both in our hypothetical world and in the current real world. Simple in principle, because the supply of money is whatever the monetary authorities make if, complex in practice, because the decisions of the monetary authorities depend on numerous factors.
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money
  • For both long and short periods there is a consistent though not precise relation between the rate of growth of the quantity of money and the rate of growth of nominal income. If the quantity of money grows rapidly, so will nominal income, and conversely. The relation is much closer for long than for short periods
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money
  • Over short periods, the relation between growth in money and growth in nominal income is often hard to see, partly because the relation is less close for short than for long periods, but mostly because it takes time for changes in monetary growth to affect income. And how long a time is itself variable. Today’s income growth is not closely related to today’s monetary growth; it depends on what has been happening to money in the past. What happens to money today affects what is going to happen to income in the future
    • Ch. 2 The Mystery of Money

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