Category Archives: Milton Friedman

Dan Mitchell article Free-Market Health Care

Free-Market Health Care

Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, along with the tax code’s healthcare exclusion, have created a system where consumers directly pay for only about 10 percent of the care they receive.

We think it’s normal and appropriate for either the government or an insurance company to foot the bill.

Yet this system of “third-party payer” explains why the health care system in the United States is inefficient and expensive.

Is it possible, though, to put the toothpaste back in the tube? Can we unwind the bad government policies that have undermined market forces?

There are certainly big-picture reforms that would be helpful. Genuine entitlement reform could address the problems with Medicare and Medicaid, and fundamental tax reform could get rid of the healthcare exclusion.

But progress is possible even without major policy change.

Reason interviewed a doctor, Lee Gross, who decided to set up a practice based on “direct primary care,” which means no involvement from government or insurance companies. Just health consumers and health providers directly buying and selling.

Here’s some of what he said about this market-based approach.

When I was in the fee-for-service system, I felt like I was playing a game of Whac-A-Mole with Medicare. …Eventually we just said, “No more.” …the epiphany was “Why are we inserting so many people at the primary care level between the doctor and the patient? Why are we insuring primary care?” The more people that you insert between the doctor and patient, the more expensive it gets, the more cumbersome it gets…we created one of the first direct primary care practices in the country. …essentially it’s a membership-based primary care program. …Once a patient is a member of our practice, anything that we can do within the four walls of our office is included at no additional charge. …Insurance is good for the big stuff. It’s not good for the little stuff. It’s too complicated. What we do in direct primary care is we make the predictable things affordable for everybody. We take the stuff that you’re going to need on an everyday basis and we put affordable price tags on it, and we say you don’t need your insurance for this. In fact, the insurance makes it more expensive. …You need your homeowners insurance if your house burns down. You don’t need it to mow the lawn.

The good news is that Dr. Gross’ practice is part of a growing movement.

Direct primary care is absolutely a growing movement. …There’s well over 1,500 practices around the country… There are some regulatory barriers that get in the way of expanding this model. …if we’re looking for the ideal health care system, we want to see three pillars. We want to see lower cost, better quality, and more choices. You cannot have all three of those in a government-run system. You can only have those in a free market capitalist system.

Indeed, I’ve shared previous examples of this phenomenon from Maine and North Carolina.

And it even works for surgery, as you can see from this must-watch video from Reason.

Let’s now circle back to some analysis of what’s wrong with the current system.

John Stossel explained a few years ago how government-encouraged over-insurance causes problems.

Someone else paying changes our behavior. We don’t shop around. We don’t ask, “Do I really need that test?” “Is there a place where it’s cheaper?” Hospitals and doctors don’t try very hard to do things cheaply. Imagine if you had “grocery insurance.” You’d buy expensive foods; supermarkets would never have sales.Everyone would spend more. Insurance coverage—third-party payment—is revered by the media and socialists (redundant?) but is a terrible way to pay for things. Today, 7 in 8 health care dollars are paid by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance companies. Because there’s no real health care market, costs rose 467 percent over the last three decades. By contrast, prices fell in the few medical areas not covered by insurance, like plastic surgery and LASIK eye care. Patients shop around, forcing health providers to compete.

The final couple of sentences are extremely important.

As illustrated by this data from Mark Perry, there are a few parts of the health care system where there’s little or no third-party payer.

And what do we find? Prices go down rather than up.

For all intents and purposes, the goal should be to make health insurance more like homeowners insurance or auto insurance.

Speaking of the latter, David Graham compared market-driven auto insurance and government-subsidized health insurance.

There are…similarities between health care and car ownership… We can go for many years with predictable spending on both cars and medical care until — out of the blue — something terrible happens. For that reason, we value insurance for both. But there’s a key difference… Car insurance, while not a trivial expense, is a relatively small share of the total cost of owning a car. According to the AAA, the average premium was $1,023, just under 12 percent of the total cost of ownership. Even excluding depreciation, insurance is just one-fifth of the total cost. In other words, we do not expect auto insurers to pay claims for most of the cost of operating and maintaining a car. Health care is completely the opposite. …Insurance adds administrative costs and bureaucratic interference. …Left to our own devices, we would never buy coverage for every single medical expense.

The moral of the story is that government intervention has made America’s health system a mess.

Unsurprisingly, many politicians say the answer it to have even more government (which is how we got Obamacare).

P.S. In less than eight minutes, I explain the economics of third-party payer in this speech.

P.P.S. Government-created third-party payer also has led to higher costs and widespread inefficiency in higher education.


Milton Friedman on Medical Care (Full Lecture)

Published on Feb 2, 2014

Taxmageddon and Obamacare: What Would Milton Friedman Say?

“I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible,” economist Milton Friedman once said. So the Nobel Prize winner would undoubtedly be concerned this year asTaxmageddon, the one-year $494 billion tax increase that is poised to strike the economy in January approaches.

Friedman’s opposition to taxes was based on the idea that governments were inefficient in everything they did. “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand,” he quipped. By limiting government resources, he hoped to limit the size and scope of government.

Instead, the coming of Taxmageddon would make the federal government even more intrusive and influential. As such, it’s already slowing job creation, generating economic uncertainty, and reducing productive investment.

Friedman would also warn us about the dangers of Obamacare.

“The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus,” he explained. “There is no alternative way so far discovered at improving the lot of ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”

Yet Obamacare takes our health care system in exactly the wrong direction. Instead of putting people in charge of their own health care decisions, “it imposes several costly new mandates and restrictions on health insurers and providers that will raise health care costs and therefore premiums.” Further,“Obamacare raises taxes and adds 17 new taxes or penalties that will affect all Americans.”

Friedman warned that government involvement would lead to socialized medicine and that it would be “very much against the interests of patients, of physicians, and of other health care personnel.” Why? Because “you invariably get lower quality and a lower quantity of medical care.”

In one of his most famous quotes, Friedman pointed out that “there’s no free lunch.” Every government “benefit” is paid for by somebody.

Friedman would have been 100 years old today. His wise counsel is missed, but the lessons he taught apply just as much to today’s debates as they did during his lifetime.

___________

I have written about Obamacare over and over again on this blog. Dan Mitchell has shared many funny cartoons about Obamacare too. Milton Friedman has spoken out about government healthcare many times in the past and his film series FREE TO CHOOSE is on You Tube and I encourage you to watch it. It is clear that the federal government debt is growing so much that it is endangering us because if things keep going like they are now we will not have any money left for the national defense because we are so far in debt as a nation.

We have been spending so much on our welfare state through food stamps and other programs that I am worrying that many of our citizens are becoming more dependent on government and in many cases they are losing their incentive to work hard because of the welfare trap the government has put in place. Other nations in Europe have gone down this road and we see what mess this has gotten them in. People really are losing their faith in big government and they want more liberty back. It seems to me we have to get back to the founding  principles that made our country great.  We also need to realize that a big government will encourage waste and corruption. Also raising taxes on the job creators is a very bad idea too. The Laffer Curve clearly demonstrates that when the tax rates are raised many individuals will move their investments to places where they will not get taxed as much.

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.

Milton Friedman – Health Care Reform (1992) pt 1/4

Milton Friedman – Health Care Reform (1992) pt 2/4

Milton Friedman – Health Care Reform (1992) pt 3/4

Milton Friedman – Health Care Reform (1992) pt 4/4

_____________________

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Dan Mitchell on Obamacare Supreme Court Decision: “I’m disgusted that the Supreme Court once again has decided to put politics above the Constitution!” (Includes lots of videos and cartoons)

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Open letter to President Obama (Part 718) Cartoonists Go to War against Obamacare

Open letter to President Obama (Part 718) (Emailed to White House on 6-25-13.) President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get […]

The Region – Banking and Policy Issues Magazine – Interview with Milton Friedman June 1992

______ Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980), episode 3 – Anatomy of a Crisis. part 1 The Region – Banking and Policy Issues Magazine – Interview with Milton Friedman June 1992 In his new book, Money Mischief, economist Milton Friedman compares inflation to alcoholism; blames the rise of Chinese communism, in large part, on an […]

NEW RIVER MEDIA INTERVIEW WITH: MILTON FRIEDMAN Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Chicago Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

______ Milton Friedman – A Conversation On Minimum Wage Milton Friedman Interview Milton Friedman is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.Dr. Friedman received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science. Member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1937 […]

Walter E. Williams: “Milton Friedman was an economist’s economist” Wednesday, Dec. 6 2006 1

________ Milton Friedman on Donahue – 1979 Uploaded on Aug 26, 2009 Dr. Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate, promoting “Free to Choose” on the show Donahue. Walter E. Williams: Milton Friedman was an economist’s economist Print Font [+] [-] Leave a comment » By Walter E. Williams Published: Wednesday, Dec. 6 2006 12:00 a.m. MST Walter […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY 40 Years Later: Milton Friedman’s Legacy in Chile “Chilean Miracle” Struck a Blow against Communism When Needed Most José Niño April 22, 2015

_______ José Niño José Niño is a graduate student based in Santiago, Chile. A citizen of the world, he has lived in Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States. He is currently an international research analyst with the Acton Circle of Chile. Follow@JoseAlNino. 40 Years Later: Milton Friedman’s Legacy in Chile “Chilean Miracle” Struck a Blow […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY Milton Friedman came up with the NEGATIVE INCOME TAX

____ Milton Friedman – The Negative Income Tax The Conservative Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income NOAH GORDON AUG 6, 2014 Creating a wage floor is an effective way to fight poverty—and it would reduce government spending and intrusion. Swiss backers of a minimum income spread out coins in Bern. Denis Balibouse/Reuters Last week, my […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY Which Fed Bill Would Milton Friedman Have Liked? Posted on March 10, 2015by John Taylor

________________ Which Fed Bill Would Milton Friedman Have Liked? Posted on March 10, 2015by John Taylor Writing last week on the Cato at Liberty blog, Steve Hanke argued that Milton Friedman would have supported the “Audit the Fed” bill recently introduced in the Senate.  Steve’s reasoning is based on Friedman’s 1962 essay “Should there be an […]

5 myths that conceal reality by Milton Friedman

A great speech below: Here are the myths:Robber Baron Myth, The Cause of Great Depression Myth, The Demand for Government Service Myth, The Free Lunch Smith, and The Robin Hood Myth. 1) the Robber Baron Myth, 2) the Great Depression Myth, 3) the Demand for Government Service Myth, 4) the Free Lunch Myth, and 5) […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 4, 2006 An Interview with Milton Friedman

_______________ FEATURED ARTICLE | SEPTEMBER 4, 2006 An Interview with Milton Friedman Milton Friedman* I recently sat down with Milton Friedman, a few days before his 94th birthday, to discuss the impact of two of his most important contributions to economics and liberty: A Monetary History of the United States, 1870-1960 [co-written] with Anna Schwartz, […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits by Milton Friedman The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970.

Milton Friedman on Self-Interest and the Profit Motive 1of2 Milton Friedman on Self-Interest and the Profit Motive 2of2 The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits by Milton FriedmanThe New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970. Copyright @ 1970 by The New York Times Company. When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY Levin on Milton Friedman: ‘One Thing to Have Free Immigration to Jobs, Another for Welfare’ By Michael Morris | January 16, 2015

____________ Levin on Milton Friedman: ‘One Thing to Have Free Immigration to Jobs, Another for Welfare’ By Michael Morris | January 16, 2015 | 5:12 PM EST During his show on January 15, 2015, Nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin recalled the famed economist Milton Friedman and explored an important reason why open immigration, despite […]

FRIEDMAN FRIDAY Bob Chitester, RIP The man who put together the film series FREE TO CHOOSE!


Bob Chitester was managing a small public television station in Erie, PA, when he got the big idea to persuade Nobel laureate Milton Friedman to write and narrate a 10‐​part series on free markets for PBS. As unlikely as that prospect was, Bob made it happen. “Free to Choose” was broadcast on PBS beginning in January of 1980, and it made quite a splash just as Reagan and Thatcher were also starting to change the way people thought about markets and government. Milton and Rose Friedman wrote a book to accompany the series. But television helped take Friedman’s ideas from the pages of books to millions more people, and in the process Chitester made Friedman a bigger celebrity and a bigger influence than a mere Nobel Prize could accomplish.

Bob went on to create Free to Choose Media and produce hundreds of video products for public television, other networks, the internet, and home viewing. They included The Real Adam Smith, a two‐​hour series that gives particular attention to Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments; the Stossel in the Classroom series, which put John Stossel’s television reports into high school classrooms; and A More or Less Perfect Union, a three‐​part series with Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg.

He made Cato senior fellow Johan Norberg a familiar face on public television with documentaries such as “Free & Equal,” an update of “Free to Choose”; “Sweden: Lessons for America?”; “India Awakes”; and “Work and Happiness: The Human Cost of Welfare.”

We at Cato were especially grateful that when our colleague Andrew Coulson died much too young before finishing his television project “School Inc.,” Bob and his Free to Choose team picked it up, finished the production, and got it on hundreds of public television stations in 2017.

For more than 40 years Bob Chitester focused like a laser to get free‐​market ideas on television in high‐​quality presentations. All of us who believe in the power of markets to liberate people are incredibly grateful and, frankly, astounded at his success in this.

Bob lost his seven‐​year battle with cancer this weekend. But his video projects can all be found on the web, and his Free to Choose team will continue his work with new documentaries and online programs.

Bob Chitester Discusses Milton Friedman and ‘Free to Choose’

Published on Jul 30, 2012 by

“There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people.”

That is how former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman. But it is not for his technical work in monetary economics that Friedman is best known. Like mathematician Jacob Bronowski and astronomer Carl Sagan, Friedman had a gift for communicating complex ideas to a general audience.

It was this gift that brought him to the attention of filmmaker Bob Chitester. At Chitester’s urging, Friedman agreed to make a 10 part documentary series explaining the power of economic freedom. It was called “Free to Choose,” and became one of the most watched documentaries in history.

The series not only reached audiences in liberal democracies, but was smuggled behind the iron curtain where it played, in secret, to large audiences. Reflecting on its impact, Czech president Vaclav Klaus has said: “For us, who lived in the communist world, Milton Friedman was the greatest champion of freedom, of limited and unobtrusive government and of free markets. Because of him I became a true believer in the unrestricted market economy.”

July 31st, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth. To commemorate that occasion, we’d like to share an interview with “Free to Choose” producer Bob Chitester. Like this interview, the entire series can now be viewed on-line at no cost at http://www.freetochoose.tv/, thanks to the incredible technological progress brought about by the economic freedom that Milton Friedman celebrated.

Produced by Andrew Coulson, Caleb O. Brown, Austin Bragg, and Lou Richards, with help from the Free to Choose Network

_______________

Celebrating Milton Friedman

by Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew Coulson directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and is the author of Market Education: The Unknown History.

Added to cato.org on July 31, 2012

This article appeared in Cato.org on July 31, 20

For us, who lived in the communist world, Milton Friedman was the greatest champion of freedom, of limited and unobtrusive government and of free markets. Because of him I became a true believer in the unrestricted market economy.

Those are the words of Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Both Friedman’s writings and his landmark 1980 documentary series “Free to Choose”were smuggled into totalitarian communist states, inspiring a generation of future scholars, activists, and politicians.

July 31st, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth. To commemorate that occasion, the Cato Institute has put together a video interview with Bob Chitester, producer of “Free to Choose,” recounting how it came to be, its impact, and what it was like working with Milton Friedman.

Aside from those who lived under communism, there is another group for whom Friedman was and is a colossal figure: advocates of educational freedom. At a time when state-run schooling had been the norm for nearly a century, and had long ceased to be questioned by America’s elites, Friedman offered a modest observation: there was no good reason for the government of a free society to actually run schools and many good reasons for it not to do so.

He made this case in his essay “On the Role of Government in Education,” first published in 1955. The idea had been floated by others, including Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, but Friedman eloquently and powerfully introduced it to the American policy debate. In so doing, he, more than any other individual, can be credited with giving rise to the modern school choice movement.

Not only did Friedman spark the creation of this movement, he helped to fan the flame of educational freedom, writing popular commentaries and book chapters, speaking with and encouraging activists, founding a leading school choice institution, and dedicating the entire sixth episode of “Free to Choose” to this subject.

I had the good fortune to speak and correspond with Milton occasionally, starting in the late 1990s, and what struck me most about him was his personal integrity. He once told me that he never said anything negative about a person in private that he would not be willing to say openly in that person’s presence. So far as I know, he never violated that principle. And while he staunchly defended his conclusions as long as he remained convinced of their correctness, he would amend them if the weight of evidence shifted.

Indeed the rigorous empiricism that Friedman applied in his scholarly work is generally regarded as one of his most influential contributions to the field of economics—for a long time controversial but eventually the norm, at least in principle. His view, published in the 1953 collection Essays in Positive Economics, was that

the ultimate test of the validity of a theory is… the ability to deduce facts that have not yet been observed, that are capable of being contradicted by observation, and that subsequent observation does not contradict. [p. 300]

Equally wise, though not yet as widely accepted, is the long time horizon against which Friedman measured policy outcomes. Economist and philosopher of science James R. Wible notes that Friedman’s greatest contribution “may be his constant reminder not to forget the long run consequences of short run policies.”

In the 1982 edition of his book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman observed that scholars cannot single-handedly bring about change. Their real role, he wrote, is to “keep the lights on”—to remind us which policies work and which do not, and to show us how to advance our understanding even further. His own unfailing empiricism and concern for the long term remain valuable beacons today, both for advocates of educational freedom and the broader policy community.

_____________

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Quotes from Milton Friedman on his 100th birthday

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Milton Friedman destroys liberal student challenges

In the video above Milton Friedman takes on some liberal students with their challenges to capitalism.   Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld speaking at Tribute to Milton Friedman (transcript) As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, White House, Washington, D.C., Thursday, May 09, 2002 Mr. President (George W. Bush), Rose and Milton […]

Every Friday you need to click on www.theDailyHatch.org for “Friedman Friday”

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Milton Friedman videos and transcripts Part 12

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Chattanooga Times Free Press comments on 100th year since Milton Friedman’s birth

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Milton Friedman’s passion was to make a difference in the lives of young people

No one did more to advance the cause of school vouchers than Milton and Rose Friedman. Friedman made it clear in his film series “Free to Choose” how sad he was that young people who live in the inner cities did not have good education opportunities available to them. Remembering Milton Friedman’s School Choice Legacy […]

Milton Friedman remembered at 100 years from his birth (Part 5)

Testing Milton Friedman – Preview Uploaded by FreeToChooseNetwork on Feb 21, 2012 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birth. His work and ideas continue to make the world a better place. As part of Milton Friedman’s Century, a revival of the ideas featured in the landmark television series Free To Choose are being […]

Defending Milton Friedman

What a great defense of Milton Friedman!!!!   Defaming Milton Friedman by Johan Norberg This article appeared in Reason Online on September 26, 2008  PRINT PAGE  CITE THIS      Sans Serif      Serif Share with your friends: ShareThis In the future, if you tell a student or a journalist that you favor free markets and limited government, there is […]

Milton and Rose Friedman “Two Lucky People”

Milton Friedman on Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” 1994 Interview 2 of 2 Uploaded by PenguinProseMedia on Oct 26, 2011 2nd half of 1994 interview. ________________ I have a lot of respect for the Friedmans.Two Lucky People by Milton and Rose Friedman reviewed by David Frum — October 1998. However, I liked this review below better. It […]

Friedman’s smashing success By Scott Sumner

Friedman’s smashing success

By Scott Sumner

In the late 1940s, Milton Friedman was considered an important economist who had made significant technical contributions. At the beginning of the 1950s, however, he moved away from Keynesian economics and as a result was increasingly viewed as a bit of a nut. Two decades later, however, Friedman had become far and away the most important macroeconomist in the world. Much of the ongoing macro debate revolved around economists addressing Friedman’s ideas, pro or con. How did this happen?

Edward Nelson’s outstanding two volume study of Friedman provides the most complete answer that I have seen. During the 1960s, Friedman rejected 4 key tenets of Keynesian economics. And within less than a decade, all four of his critiques were shown to be correct. As a result, Keynesian economics absorbed much of monetarism, and this led to the creation of a new macroeconomic framework called New Keynesianism. Keep in mind that when I talk about “Keynesians”, I am not describing the views of J.M. Keynes or the views of modern Keynesians, I am describing the views of many of the most prominent Keynesian economists during the 1960s. (Samuelson, Tobin, Modigliani, Solow, Heller, etc.)

Here are the four Keynesian ideas that Friedman rejected:

1. Nominal interest rates are the correct indicator of the stance of monetary policy.  The Fisher effect is not an important factor in the US.

2. Fiscal austerity (higher taxes) is the best way to reduce excessive aggregate demand.

3. There is a stable (negative) relationship between inflation and unemployment (the “Phillips Curve”).

4. Modern economies face an increasing problem of cost/push inflation, and hence wage/price controls are often the best way to control inflation.

Let’s take these one at a time.

In the mid-1960s, Friedman argued that nominal interest rates were rising because of increasing inflation expectations. Nelson points out that Keynesians like James Tobin rejected this claim (vol. 2, p. 113.) By the 1970s, inflation and nominal interest rates had increased much further, and there was almost universal agreement that Friedman was right and Tobin was wrong. Nominal interest rates are not a good indicator of the stance of monetary policy.

Thus the Keynesians were saying that if you want tight money to reduce inflation, you need high interest rates. Friedman basically said no, high interest rates are not the solution; you need to reduce growth in the money supply. By the late 1960s, the US had both high interest rates and a fast growing money supply, and inflation kept rising. It turned out that Friedman was right.

But Keynesians did not draw the correct inferences from this episode. Rather they decided that monetary policy must not be very effective, and instead advocated higher taxes as a way to reduce inflation (the MMT approach.) In 1968, LBJ raised income taxes so high that the US budget went into surplus, but inflation continued to increase.

Friedman had two reasons for doubting the efficacy of higher taxes. First, his permanent income theory suggested that temporary tax changes would be offset by changes in private saving, leaving aggregate demand almost unaffected. More importantly, he saw that a tax increase could only slow inflation by reducing velocity, which would have only a one-time effect. Even if velocity fell one or two percent, the contractionary effects (on M*V) would soon be overwhelmed by increasingly rapid growth in the money supply.

Thus Keynesians assumed that tax increases could slow inflation, while Friedman said no, you need to reduce the growth rate of the money supply.

When the tax increases failed to slow inflation, Keynesians began to focus on the Phillips curve, which suggested that there was an inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment. A policy of higher inflation would lead to lower unemployment, and vice versa. Friedman said this was wrong, as workers would eventually catch on to changes in the rate of inflation and demand compensating changes in nominal wage rates. In the long run, unemployment would return to the natural rate, regardless of the trend rate of inflation.  By 1970, we had high inflation and high unemployment, which showed that Friedman was right.  (Note that this was three years before the first oil shock.)

Thus the Keynesians thought that high unemployment was the solution to inflation.  Friedman said no, you need to reduce the growth rate of the money supply.

When the high unemployment of 1970 did not work, Keynesian economists blamed inflation on “cost-push factors”, such as monopoly power or strong labor unions.  They supported wage/price controls, which President Nixon implemented in August 1971.  After a brief decline in inflation, the problem got much worse during the mid and late-1970s.  Friedman saw that while wage/price controls might lead to a one-time drop in the price level of a few percentage points, as long as the money supply was growing rapidly, any gains from wage/price controls would be soon overwhelmed by a rising money supply.

Thus Keynesians said that the solution for high inflation is wage-price controls, whereas Friedman said no, these controls will not work; you need to reduce the growth rate of the money supply.  See a pattern here?

In the early 1980s, the Fed finally began reducing the growth rate of the money supply, and inflation fell sharply.

Why isn’t the amazing success of Friedman’s ideas better understood?  It’s partly because his preferred policy target—stable growth in a monetary aggregate such as M2—was not adopted due to concerns about unstable velocity.   Even Friedman eventually accepted inflation targeting as a reasonable alternative.  And the other four ideas discussed above all got incorporated in 1990s-era New Keynesianism.  NKs accepted the importance of the Fisher effect, switching their focus from nominal to real interest rates.  They accepted that monetary policy is the appropriate tool to control inflation, not fiscal policy.  They accepted Friedman’s Natural Rate Hypothesis, the idea that higher inflation will not permanently reduce unemployment.  And they accepted that a contractionary monetary policy, not wage/price controls, is the solution to inflation.

In one important respect, Friedman’s achievement is even more amazing than what I have outline here.  In all four cases, Friedman’s claims were made at a time when they looked wrong.  The Fisher effect had not been a very important factor in the setting of US interest rates when inflation expectation were near zero, including the period when the price of gold was pegged at $20.67/oz (1879-1933).  And during 1934-68, when gold was $35/oz, inflation expectation were generally pretty low (even as actual inflation bounced around unpredictably.)  During the early to mid-1960s, inflation expectations were probably not much more than 1%.  The Fisher effect became a major factor afterFriedman began warning about the issue.  Similarly, in the mid-1960s it was widely believed that tax changes had a big impact on aggregate demand, as the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964 were followed by a strong economy (albeit perhaps for supply-side reasons.)  Keynesians were genuinely surprised when the big tax increase of 1968 failed to slow inflation.  When Friedman gave famous AEA Presidential address outlining the Natural Rate Hypothesis in late 1967, a stable Phillips curve seemed quite plausible, indeed the 1960s fit the model better than almost any other decade.  It was in the 1970s that the relationship completely broke down.  And the Nixon wage/price controls seemed to work at first; it was only a few years later that they began to fall apart.  Thus in all four cases Friedman rejected the orthodox view at a time when the orthodox approach seemed to be working fine, and in all four cases his views were eventually vindicated.

Milton Friedman’s achievements in the late 1960s and early 1970s were truly amazing, and deserve to be better known.

In a subsequent post, I’ll try to explain how Friedman was able to see the flaws in mainstream Keynesianism before most other economists.  Why was his model better?  We’ll see that all four of his successful critiques have something in common.


Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE “Who protects the consumer?” Transcript and Video (60 Minutes)

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. From the original Free To Choose series Milton asks: “Who Protects the Consumer?”. Many government agencies have been created for this purpose, yet they do so by restricting freedom and stifling beneficial innovation, and eventually become agents for the groups they have been created to regulate.

Allowing the free market to work is the best thing for consumers. Milton Friedman noted, “Over a quarter of a century ago, I bought, second hand, a desk calculator for which I paid $300. One of these little calculators today which I can buy for $10 or so, will do everything that did and more besides. What produced this tremendous improvement in technology? It was self-interest or if your prefer, greed. The greed of producers who wanted it to produce something that they can made a dollar on. The greed of consumers who wanted to buy things as cheaply as they could. Did government play a role in this? Very little. Only by keeping the road clear for human greed and self-interest to promote the welfare of the consumer.”
Volume 7 – Who Protects the Consumer?
Abstract:

Do consumers need protection? Increasingly the public answer to this question has been “yes.” Increasingly, too, the Federal government has been identified as the source of this protection. Milton Friedman disputes the views that (1) consumers are in dire need of governmental protection against the wiles of the business community and that (2) governmental actions tend to make consumers better off. He argues that consumers’ problems more frequently than not can be attributed to failures of government rather than to failures of free markets. The best protection for the consumer, in Dr. Friedman’s view, is the free market. Despite popular mythology, business interests do not have the power to make people purchase something they do not want. Consider, for example, the failure of the highly touted Edsel, a product that was heavily promoted by the best advertising brains at the Ford Motor Company and its advertising agencies.When people have alternatives, they will not accept products they do not want. In a competitive market system, business people’s recognition that consumers have alternatives provides a powerful stimulus to keep product quality high. Fear of losing business to competitors provides a strong protective shield for the consumer. Armed with the protection offered by the free market, the consumer, says Dr. Friedman, really needs very little protection by the government. Indeed, many government attempts to protect consumers have made them worse off than they were beforehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgVvUz6mUkY

Volume 7 – Who Protects the Consumer?
Transcript:
Friedman: The 1960’s Corvair, condemned by Ralph Nader as unsafe at any speed. Since Nader’s attack it is being increasingly accepted that we need government protection in the marketplace. Today there are agencies all over Washington where bureaucrats decide what’s good for us. Agencies to control the prices we pay, the quality of goods we can buy, the choice of products available. It’s already costing us more than $5 billion a year. Since the attack on the Corvair the government has been spending more and more money in the name of protecting the consumer. This is hardly what the 3rd president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, whose monument this is, had in mind when he defined a wise and frugal government as, one, which restrains men from injuring each other and leaves them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement. Ever since the Corvair affair the U.S. government has been increasingly been muscling in between buyer and seller in the marketplaces of America. By Thomas Jefferson’s standards, what we have today is not a wise and frugal government but a spendthrift and snooping government.
The federal regulations that govern our lives are available in many place. One set is here, in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In 1936, the Federal Government established the Federal Register to record all of the regulations, hearings and other materials connected with the agencies in Washington. This is volume 1, number 1. In 1936 it took three volumes like this to record all these matters. In 1937 it took four and then it grew and grew and grew. At first rather slowly and gradually, but even so, year by year it took a bigger and bigger pile to hold all the regulations and hearings for that year. Then around 1970 came a veritable explosion so that one pile is no longer enough to hold the regulations for that year. It takes two and then three piles. Until on one day in 1977, September 28, the Federal Register had no fewer than 1,754 pages and these aren’t exactly what you’d call small pages either.
Many of those regulations come from this building.
Worker: Consumer Protection Safety hotline _ can you hold please?
Friedman: The Consumer Product Safety Commission is one of the newest agencies set up on our behalf. One of its jobs is to give advice to consumers.
Workers: The clue that gave it away….. What has been done about the flammability of children’s garments?
Friedman: But its main function is to produce rules and regulations. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Designed to assure safety of products on the market. It’s hard to escape the invisible hand of the Consumer Product Safety Commission except for food and drugs, ammunition and automobiles that are covered by other agencies. It has power to regulate just about anything you can imagine. Already it costs $41 million a year to test and regulate all these products on our behalf and that’s just the beginning. The Commission employees highly trained technicians to carry out tests like this, checking the brakes on a bike. But the fact is that 80% of bike accidents are caused by human error. These tests may one day lead to safer brakes, but even that isn’t sure. The one thing that is sure is that the regulations that come out of here will make bikes more expensive and will reduce the variety available. Yes, they really are testing how matches strike. And the tests are very precise. The pressure must be exactly one pound, the match exactly at right angles.
No matter how many tests are done, children’s swings are never going to be totally safe. You cannot outlaw accidents. If you try, you end up with ludicrous results. It hardly seems possible but they really do use highly skilled people to devise regulations that will prevent toy guns from making to big of a bang.
The Commission, in effect, is deciding what they think is good for us. They are taking away our freedom to choose.
Consumers don’t have to be hemmed in by rules and regulations. They’re protected by the market itself. They want the best possible products at the lowest price. And the self-interest of the producer leaves him to provide those products in order to keep customers satisfied. After all, if they bring goods of low quality here, your not going to keep coming back to buy. If they bring goods that don’t serve your needs, you’re not going to buy them. And therefore, they search out all over the world, the products that might meet your needs and might appeal to you. And they stand in back of them because if they don’t they’re going to go out of business. You see the difference between the market and the political action, the governmental agencies. Here nobody forces you, your free, you do what you want to. There’s no policemen to take money out of your pocket or to make sure that you do what you’re told to. Over a quarter of a century ago, I bought, second hand, a desk calculator for which I paid $300. One of these little calculators today which I can buy for $10 or so, will do everything that did and more besides. What produced this tremendous improvement in technology? It was self-interest or if your prefer, greed. The greed of producers who wanted it to produce something that they can made a dollar on. The greed of consumers who wanted to buy things as cheaply as they could. Did government play a role in this? Very little. Only by keeping the road clear for human greed and self-interest to promote the welfare of the consumer.
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Milton Friedman noted how the government usually messes up things when they start regulating: “When governments do intervene in business, innovation is stifled. Railroads have been regulated for nearly a century and they are one of our most backward industries.”
Part 2
When governments do intervene in business, innovation is stifled. Railroads have been regulated for nearly a century and they are one of our most backward industries. The railroad story shows what so often results from the good intentions of consumer protection groups. In the 1860’s railroad rates were lower in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Yet many customers thought they were too high. They complained bitterly about the profits of the railroads.
Now the railway men of the time had their problems too. Problems that arose out of the fierce competitiveness among them. Many railroads all trying to get their share of the market, all trying to make a name for themselves. If you want to see what their problems were as they saw them, come and have a look at this.
From inside this private railroad car it may not look as if the people who ran the railroads had any real problems. Some, like the owner of this private car, had done very well. This was the equivalent of the private jet of today’s business tycoons. But for each one who succeeded, many didn’t survive the cutthroat competition.
What we have here is a railroad map of the United States for the year 1882. It shows every railroad then in existence. The country was literally crisscrossed with railroads going to every remote hamlet and covering the nation from coast to coast. Between points far distant like for example New York and Chicago, there might be a half a dozen lines that would be running between those two points. Each of the half dozen trying to get business would cut rates and rates would get very low. The people who benefited most from this competition were the customers shipping goods on a long trip.
On the other hand, between some segments of that trip, say for example, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, there might be only a single line that was running and that line would take full advantage of its monopoly position. It would charge all that the traffic would bear. The result was that the sum of the fares charged for the short haul was typically larger than the total sum charged for the long haul between the two distant points. Of course, none of the consumers complained about the low price for the long haul, but the consumer certainly did complain about the higher prices for the short hauls. And that was one of the major sources of agitation leading ultimately to the establishment of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The cartoonists of the day delighted in pointing out that railroads had tremendous political instinct. As indeed they did. They used the consumer’s complaints to get the government to establish a commission that would protect the railroad’s interest. It took about a decade to get the commission into full operation. By that time, needless to say, the consumer advocates had moved on to their next crusade. But the railway men were still there. They had soon learned how to use the commission to their own advantage. They solved the long haul/short haul problem, by raising the long haul rates. The customers ended up paying more, some protection. The first commissioner was Thomas Cooley, a lawyer who had represented the railroads for many years. The railroads continued to dominate the Commission.
In the 1920’s and 30’s when trucks emerged as serious competitors for long distance hauling, the railroads induced the Commission to extend control over trucking. Truckers, in their turn, learned how to use the Commission to protect themselves from competition. This firm carries freight to and from the Dayton, Ohio International Airport. Its the only one serving some routes and its customers depend on it. But Dayton Airfreight has real problems. Its ICC license only permits it to carry freight from Dayton to Detroit. To serve other routes it’s had to buy rights from other ICC license holders including one who doesn’t own a single truck. It’s paid as much as $100,000 a year for the privilege.
Secretary: Our company is in the process of trying to get rights to go there now. Yes, we’ll do that and thank you for calling sir.
The owners of the firm have been trying for years to get their license extended to cover more routes.
Air freight company: Now I don’t have any argument with the people who already have ICC permits except for the fact that this is a big country and since the inception of the ICC in 1936, there has been very few entrants into the business. They do not allow new entrants to come in and compete with those who are already in.
Unnamed individual: Of course, Dayton Airfreight suffers but so do the customers who pay higher freight charges. Quite frankly, I don’t know why the ICC is sitting on its hands doing nothing. This is the third time to my knowledge that we’ve support the application of Dayton Airfreight to help us save money, help free enterprise, help the country save energy, help, help, help. It all comes down to consumers ultimately going to pay for all of this and they are the blame. The ICC has to be the blame.
Friedman: Dayton Airfreight now has many of its trucks lying idle. Trucks that could be providing a valuable service. Far from protecting consumers, the ICC has ended up making them worse off.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no free enterprise in interstate commerce. It no longer exists in this country. You have to pay the price and you have to pay the price very dearly and I don’t mean we have to pay the price, it means that the consumer is paying that price.
The price consumers pay when it comes to medicine could be their lives. In the 19th Century pharmacies contained an impressive array of pills and potions. Most were ineffective and some were deadly. There was an outcry about drugs that maimed or killed. The Food and Drug Administration in response to consumer pressure succeeded in banning a whole range of medicines. The tonics and lotions with their excessive claims disappeared from the market. In 1962 the Kefauver Amendment gave the FDA power to regulate all drugs for effectiveness as well as for safety. Today, every drug marketed in the United States must pass the FDA. It’s clear that this has protected us from some drugs with horrific side effects like thalidomide. And we all know of people who have benefited from modern drugs. What we don’t hear much about however, are the beneficial drugs that the FDA has prohibited.
Well, if you examine the therapeutic benefits of significant drugs that haven’t arrived in the U.S. but are available somewhere in the rest of the world, such as in Britain, you can come across numerous examples where the patient has suffered. For example, there are one or two drugs called beta blockers which now can prevent death after heart attack, we call it secondary prevention of coronary death after myocardial infarction, which if available here, could be saving about 10,000 lives a year in the United States. In the ten years after the 1962 amendments no drug was approved for hypertension. That’s for the control the blood pressure in the United States, where as several were approve in Britain. In the entire cardiovascular area, only one drug was approved in the five year period from 67 to 72. And this can be correlated with known organizational problems at FDA.
These carts are taking to an FDA official the documents required to get just one drug approved.
Worker: Well, hi there, must be the new one they called me about.
Friedman: It took six years work by the drug company to get this drug passed.
Worker: This one right here, all 119 volumes.
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Milton Friedman noted, “The men and women who have fostered this movement… believe that we as consumers are not able to protect ourselves… But as so often happens the results have been very different from the intentions. Not only have our pockets been picked of billions of dollars, but also we are left less well protected than we were before.”
Part 3
Friedman: The implications for the patients are that therapeutic decisions that used to be the preserve of the doctor and the patient are increasingly becoming made at a national level by committees of experts. And these committees and the agencies for whom they are acting, FDA, are highly skewed to avoid risks. So there is a tendency for us to have drugs that are safer but not to have those that are effective. Now, I’ve heard some remarkable statement from these advisory committees in considering drugs. One has seen the statement, there are not enough patients with the disease of this severity to warrant marketing this drug for general use. Now that’s fine if what you are trying to do is to minimize drug toxicity for the whole population. But if you happen to be one of these “not enough patients” and you have a disease that’s of high severity or a disease that’s very rare than that’s just tough luck on you.
For ten years Mrs. Esther Usdane suffered from severe asthma. The medication she received had serious side effects. Her condition was getting worse. But the drug her doctor preferred is prohibited by the FDA. So, twice a year Mrs. Usdane had to set out on a journey.
Mrs. Usdane: I had been very sick. I had been in and out of the hospital several times and they couldn’t seem to find a way to control the asthma and I had to change my lifestyle once I was out even for a short time, mainly because the cortisone derivatives were softening the bones and causing a puffiness of the face and other changes in my body. The doctors were pretty anxious to get me off the cortisone derivative.
Friedman: The drug her doctor wanted her to have had been available for use for five years in Canada. Once across the boarder of Niagara Falls, Mrs. Usdane could make use of the prescription that she obtained from a Canadian doctor. All she had to do was go to any pharmacy. There she could buy the drug that was totally prohibited in her own country. The drug worked immediately.
Mrs. Usdane: This one made such a difference in my life both because of the shortness of breath being resolved and also because now we don’t have to worry so much about the softening of the bones. Fortunately, once I got that medicine, very quickly, everything sort of reverted back to a much more the normal lifestyle and I’m very grateful that I was able to find relief.
Friedman: It was easy for Mrs. Usdane to get around the FDA regulations because she happens to live near the Canadian boarder. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s no accident that despite the best of intentions, the Food and Drug Administration operates so as to discourage the development and prevent the marketing of new and potentially useful drugs. Put yourself in the position of a bureaucrat who works over there. Suppose you approve a drug that turns out to be dangerous, a thalidomide. Your name is going to be on the front page of every newspaper. You will be in deep disgrace. On the other hand, what if you make the mistake of failing to approve a drug that could have saved thousands of lives. Who will know? The people whose lives might have been saved will not be around. Their relatives are unlikely to know that there was something that could have saved their lives. A few doctors, a few research workers, they will be disgruntled, they will know. You or I, if we were in the position of that bureaucrat, we’d behave exactly the same way. Our own interests would demand that we take any chance, whatsoever, almost, of refusing to approve a good drug in order to be sure that we never approve a bad one.
Drug companies can no longer afford to develop new drugs in the United States for patients with rare diseases. Increasing, they must rely on drugs with high volume sales. Four drug firms have already gone out of business and the number of new drugs introduced is going down.
Where will it all lead? We simply haven’t learned from experience. Remember Prohibition? In a burst of moral righteousness at the end of the first world war, when many young men were oversees, the non-drinkers imposed on all of us prohibition of alcohol. They did it for our own good. And there is no doubt that alcohol is a dangerous substance. Unquestionably, more lives are lost each year through alcohol and also the smoking of cigarettes than through all the dangerous substances the FDA controls. But where did it lead?
This place is today a legitimate business. It’s the oldest bar in Chicago. But during Prohibition days it was a speakeasy. Al Capone, Buggs Moran, and many of the other gangsters of the day sat around this very bar planning the exploits that made them so notorious; murder, extortion, highjacking, bootlegging. Who were the customers who came here? They were people who regarded themselves as respectable individuals, who would never had approved of the activities that Al Capone and Moran were engaged in. They wanted a drink but in order to have a drink they had to break the law. Prohibition didn’t stop drinking, but it did convert a lot of otherwise law obedient citizens into law breakers. Fortunately, we’re a very long way from that today with the Prohibition on cyclamate and DDT. But make no mistake about it, there is already something of a gray market in drugs that are prohibited by the FDA. Many a conscientious physicians fees himself in a dilemma caught between what he regards as the welfare of his patient and strict obedience to the law. If we continue down this path, there is no doubt where it will end. After all, if it is appropriate for the government to protect us from using dangerous guns and bicycles for logic calls for prohibiting still more dangerous activities such as hand gliding, motorcycling, skiing. If the government is to protect us from ingesting dangerous substances, the logic calls for prohibiting alcohol and tobacco. Even the people who administered the regulatory agencies are appalled at this prospect and withdrawal from it. As for the rest of us, we want no part of it. Let the government give us information but let us decide for ourselves what chances we want to take with our own lives.
As you can see all sorts of silly things happen when government starts to regulate our lives. Setting up agencies to tell us what we can buy, what we can’t buy, what we can do.
Remember, we started out this program with a Corvair and on the bill that was castigated by Ralph Nader as unsafe at any speed. The reaction to his crusade led to the establishment of a whole series of agencies designed to protect us from ourselves. Well, some ten years later, one of the agencies that was set up in response to that, now finally got around to testing the Corvair that started the whole thing off. What do you suppose they found? They spent a year and a half comparing the performance of the Corvair with the performance of other comparable vehicles and they concluded and I quote “The 1960_63 Corvair compared favorably with the other contemporary vehicles used in the test.”
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Milton Friedman correctly noted, “It’s time all of us stopped being fooled by those well-meaning bureaucrats who claim to protect us because they say we can’t protect ourselves.”
Pt 4
Nowadays, there are Corvair fan clubs throughout the country. Corvair’s have become collector items. Consumers have given their verdict on Ralph Nader and the government regulations. As Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. It’s time all of us stopped being fooled by those well-meaning bureaucrats who claim to protect us because they say we can’t protect ourselves. The men and women who have fostered this movement have been sincere. They believe that we as consumers are not able to protect ourselves. That we need the help of a wise and effervescent government. But as so often happens the results have been very different from the intentions. Not only have our pockets been picked of billions of dollars, but also we are left less well protected than we were before.
DISCUSSION
Participants: Robert McKenzie, Moderator; Milton Friedman; Kathleen O’Reilly, Consumer Federation of America; Richard Landau, Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago; Joan Claybrook, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Robert Crandall, Brookings Institute
MCKENZIE: Now back at the University of Chicago the consumerists, themselves, get their chance to argue their case.
O’REILLY: I agree with Mr. Friedman with respect to those agencies which have had the major purpose of economically propping up a certain industry which is why consumer advocates like myself advocate the elimination of the ICC, the CAB, the Maritime Commission. But when you’re talking about consumer protection in the marketplace and when you’re talking about government watchdog in competition, consumers need and as every poll is showing, they’re demanding more and more protection. And to give just two examples of how information is simply not enough to protect the consumer, five years ago I could not have bought a child’s crib in this country that would have had the slats sufficiently close together that I did not have to worry about the child strangling. Not until the government and the Consumer Product Safety Commission stepped in did consumers then have the choice to buy that type of a crib, strangulation’s down 50 percent. And in 1975, if I had wanted to lease a Xerox machine, I could not have done it. And not until the Federal Trade Commission antitrust stepped in and forced competition into that marketplace did I have that choice and in one year the price went from 14,000 dollars to 5,000 dollars. Those are dollars back in our pocketbooks to say nothing of minimized emotional trauma.
MCKENZIE: Well, before we ask Milton Friedman to come back on that, lets establish the viewpoint of our other participants and experts. Dr. Richard Landau, what’s your reaction?
LANDAU: Well I think the cost is certainly outrageously large and the benefits are trivial if any. I think that perhaps Milton overstates it slightly to make his point, but basically I would have to agree with it in the area that I know best, which is the regulation of new drug development.
MCKENZIE: And Joan Claybrook.
CLAYBROOK: Well in the auto safety field we’ve saved about 55,000 lives and millions of injuries because of auto safety regulations since the mid_1960s. I might also comment that the cost of auto crashes each year, the American public is 48 billion dollars a year, fairly substantial when you compare it to other things, much less, again, the human trauma.
MCKENZIE: Bob Crandall.
CRANDALL: Well I think it’s impossible to disagree with Milton Friedman on the effects of economic rate regulation of the sort that the railroads and the trucking industry have been through. The intent of that legislation was, of course, to protect the railroad and to protect the trucks, and the same thing is true for maritime regulation. What sustains regulation is sort of a populist theory that somehow through government we will redistribute wealth from people who own business firms to consumers. In fact it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way in economic regulation and there’s very little evidence that it works that way in any kind of regulation. As to whether we get any value from health and safety regulation, I think much of it is too new to know.
MCKENZIE: Well now that’s the area I want to start with because remember that was the first part of his argument. The whole idea of consumer product safety action by the state. Now, is that so far working? Very close to your interest I know. What’s your reaction, Kathleen O’Reilly?
O’REILLY: Well in product safety in the state of that, the lawnmower industry had said for twenty years they could not design a safe lawnmower. Only when the Consumer Product Safety Commission forced them with the new standard suddenly their creative genius was overnight. They came up with net whips that were made out of plastic and they came up with very innovative forces. Which is why __ where that government presence actually triggered innovation that otherwise would have been left uncovered.
FRIEDMAN: It’s very easy to see the good results. The bad result it’s very much harder to see. You haven’t mentioned the products that aren’t there because the extra cost imposed by Consumer Product Safety Commission have prevented them from existing. You haven’t mentioned the case of the triss (phonetic) problem on the flammable garments. Here you had a clear case where the __ regulation of the CPSC essentially had the effect of requiring all manufacturers of children’s sleepwear to impregnate them with triss.
O’REILLY: Oh, but that’s not true at all.
FRIEDMAN: Three years __ five years later the regulation required that garments to be nonflammable and as it happened, triss was the most readily available chemical which could do it.
MCKENZIE: Kathleen O’Reilly.
O’REILLY: It’s absolutely not true.
FRIEDMAN: But let me finish the story first. Because the second half of the story is the important part of it. It turned out that triss was a carcinogen. And five years later or three years later, I’m not sure the exact time, the same agency had to prohibit the use of those sleepwear garments forcing them to be disposed of at great cost to everybody concerned.
O’REILLY: All right, lets look at the real interesting history here. In 1968, when Congress passed the Flammable Fabric Act, they did not tell the CPSC what chemicals would comply with that and what would not. And so initially when industry said, “we’re going to use triss,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission, from their initial tests, were disturbed by it and had announced informally to industry that they were not going to allow triss to be used. Industry balked and said, “we’re gonna to take you to court because the Act only says it has to be flame retardant.” You, the government, cannot tell us how to comply. And it was the industry that forced the hand of CPSC away. And they don’t even deny that now.
FRIEDMAN: I’m not trying to defend the industry. Go slowly. I am not pro-industry. I am pro-consumer. I’m like you. I’m not pro-industry. and, of course, industry will do a lot of bad things. The whole question at issue is what mechanism is more effective in protecting the interests of the consumers, the disbursed, widespread forces of the market. Take the case of the flammable fabrics, suppose you had not had the requirements.
MCKENZIE: But you believe it was right to test them, don’t you? For a government agency to test it?
FRIEDMAN: No, not at all.
MCKENZIE: No, no.
FRIEDMAN: There are private consumer testing agencies. There’s the Consumers Research. There’s Consumers Union. You speak about a widespread demand for more protection, those agencies have never __ those organizations __
CLAYBROOK: Oh, of course, they have all these publications on cars __
FRIEDMAN: Of course.
CLAYBROOK:__ but what they do is they test the brakes and steering. They never crash test them and the most important thing to know about a car when you buy it is if the car crashes are you going to be killed unnecessarily?
FRIEDMAN: The reason they __
CLAYBROOK: You can’t even get that information.
FRIEDMAN: But the reason they don’t test __
CLAYBROOK: It’s too expensive, that’s the reason why.
FRIEDMAN: Of course. Anyway it is too expensive for them because the number of consumers who are willing to buy their service and take it is very, very small.
CLAYBROOK: That is not why. The reason why is because it’s enormously expensive.
FRIEDMAN: Of course, but if they had a large enough number of customers, if there were enough customers, enough consumers who wanted the __
CLAYBROOK: Yes, but that’s a chicken and egg situation which is ridiculous.
FRIEDMAN: It’s not a chicken and egg situation. The whole situation __
CLAYBROOK: If you believe that technological information is important for consumer to have, which is that basis ad the thesis of your argument, surely that you would say that one of the things that society does as it groups together to provide basic services to the public; police, traffic services, all sorts of basic kinds of things, the mail service and the fire service and all the rest of it. Why is that they shouldn’t even do testing of technological subjects which the public has no way of knowing?
MCKENZIE: Before you reply, I want one or two others in on this, Bob Crandall.
CRANDALL: It seems to me that Professor Friedman could give a little bit on this ground. Certainly in the dissemination of information there’s a free rider problem. And one of the problems is that while you and I might value the results from a Consumer Union rather highly, we don’t have to pay for it. We can look over the shoulder of someone else, borrow the magazine from the library and so forth. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the government should not at all be in the business of generating information though I am concerned about exactly the same forces, this evil industry that Miss O’Reilly talks about, having its influence on how this information is prepared. I don’t see how we guard ourselves against that.
FRIEDMAN: We don’t
CRANDALL: But it seems to me that there is a case to be made that the market does not supply enough information.
FRIEDMAN: It may not. But the market supplies a great deal and there is also a free rider problem in the negative sense on government provision of information because people who have no use for that information are required to pay for it.
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Milton Friedman rightly noted, “The most anti-consumer measures on our statute books are restrictions on foreign trade.”
Pt 5
MCKENZIE: Milton, I don’t quite understand your position on this. Are you saying, though, that there’s no place for government to test consumer product safety at all?
FRIEDMAN: I am saying, lets separate issues. I am saying there is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products, the effect of which will be to harm themselves. There is, of course, a place __
MCKENZIE: But how do they know that effect?
FRIEDMAN: Well, for a moment I’m trying to separate the issues. There is a place for government to protect third parties. If we go to your automobile case __
CLAYBROOK: Well, how about children? Children don’t __ aren’t choosers.
FRIEDMAN: No, no.
CLAYBROOK: They don’t make choices because they ride in the cars.
FRIEDMAN: The parents make their choices. But let’s go __
O’REILLY: But if the industry has it there’s no choice.
FRIEDMAN: We can only take one issue at a time. We’re a little difficult to take them all at once. Let’s take one at a time. I say there is no place for government to require me to do something to protect myself.
(Applause)
FRIEDMAN: Now if government has information __
MCKENZIE: Has of obtains?
FRIEDMAN: __ for a moment, suppose it has information, then it should make that public and available. The next question is: are there circumstances under which it’s appropriate for government to collect information? There may be some such circumstances. They have to be considered one at a time. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t. But you see, I want to get back. Take your area Miss Claybrook, you are now involved on the airbag problem.
CLAYBROOK: That’s right.
FRIEDMAN: If I understand the situation, I don’t know anything about the technical aspects of it, but the airbag, in a car, is there to protect me as a driver. It doesn’t prevent me from having an accident, hurting somebody else because it’s only activated by an accident. All right then, why shouldn’t I make that decision? Who are you to tell me that I have to spend whatever it is, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred dollars on that airbag.
CLAYBROOK: Well we don’t tell you that. What we say is that when a car crashes into a brick wall at 30 miles an hour, the front seat occupants have to have automatic protection built into that car.
FRIEDMAN: Have to, why have to?
CLAYBROOK: And it’s a very __ it’s a very minimal __
FRIEDMAN: Why have to? I don’t care whether it’s an airbag or a seatbelt.
CLAYBROOK: The reason why __ well, there are two reasons why. One is that the sanctity of life is a fairly precious entity in this country.
FRIEDMAN: It’s more precious to me than it is to you. My life is more precious to me than to you.
MCKENZIE: Well, you know.
CLAYBROOK: Do you wear you seatbelt?
FRIEDMAN: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
CLAYBROOK: I see. Well then it couldn’t be too precious to you because if it were you’d wear it all the time.
FRIEDMAN: I beg you pardon.
CLAYBROOK: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: Other things are precious too.
CLAYBROOK: Yes. Okay, but wearing your seatbelt is a relatively simple thing to go into.
FRIEDMAN: But now my question is __ but I want an answer, a direct answer.
CLAYBROOK: But there is a very __ there’s a very basic reason why.
FRIEDMAN: Yes.
CLAYBROOK: And it’s because a person does not know when they buy a car what that car is gonna do when it performs in various and sundry different ways. That’s number one. Number two, there’s a basic minimum standard, it’s performance standard. It’s not a requirement that you have certain pieces of products in your cars, but it’s a basic performance standard built into your car that when you buy it no one’s going to have less than that. So that you don’t have people needlessly injured on the highway, the cost to society, the cost to the individuals, the trauma to their families and so on. You’re suggesting theoretically that it’s much better to let people go out and kill themselves even though they really don’t know that that’s what’s gonna happen to them when they have that crash.
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me. You’re evading the fundamental issue. If you have the information, give it to them. The question is not a question of giving them the information. The question is what is your right to force somebody to spend money to protect his own life, not anybody else, but only himself and the next question I’m gonna ask you: do you doubt for a moment that prohibiting alcohol would save far more lives on the highways than an airbag, seatbelts and everything else, and on what grounds are you opposed to prohibition on grounds of principle or only because you don’t think you can get it by the legislature?
CLAYBROOK: I’m opposed to prohibition because I don’t think it’s gonna work. That’s the reason I’m opposed to it.
FRIEDMAN: But suppose it would work? I want to get to the __ I want to get to the principle.
CLAYBROOK: Can I answer you __ sure.
FRIEDMAN: I want to __ suppose you could believe it would work. Suppose you could believe__
MCKENZIE: Prohibition?
FRIEDMAN: Prohibition could work. Would you be in favor of it?
CLAYBROOK: No. What I am in favor of is building products __ I am in favor of building products so that at least they service the public.
FRIEDMAN: I was fascinated by some of the initial comments. Everybody agrees that the old agencies are bad, but the new agencies that we haven’t had a chance ___
MCKENZIE: No. You’re trying to sweep them into your net. They didn’t agree to that. But anyway __ hole on to your point.
O’REILLY: When you talk about __ the basic principle is: give me the information. Let me choose for myself. If that’s the ultimate goal, why is it that in any hearings that you’ve every gone to and I beg anyone to find me an exception, whether it’s airbags or DES, saccharine, whatever, you never; you never have the victims of the injury who lost their arm because of a lawnmower, standing up and saying “thank God that you gave me the right to become incapacitated.” Never do you hear a victim thanking the government for backing off. Never do you hear the victim of an anti-competitive action thanking the Justice Department for not bring a suit.
MCKENZIE: Dr. Landau, I promised you could make an observation on that without going into great detail.
LANDAU: Now, when DES was used to preserve pregnancies in women 25 and 30 years ago, there was absolutely zero evidence that it would cause cancer in anybody, certainly not in the children of the women who were pregnant and for you to say that it is __
O’REILLY: Then you’re ignoring the 1941 studies that show just that.
LANDAU: There is no 1941 study. This happens to be my area of expertise, I’m an endocrinologist. There was nothing.
O’REILLY: Well, there are a lot __
MCKENZIE: Now let’s not go any further down that road.
CRANDALL: Let me ask you __ yeah, let me ask Miss O’Reilly a question. I don’t see __ if the problem in drugs is that there is a lack of competition, there are a number of drug companies in the United States __
O’REILLY: That’s one of them.
CRANDALL: __ and around the world; and a lack of innovation, how regulation, which is designed to keep products off the market, that is further restrict the supply of drugs is going to enhance either competition or innovation; as a matter of fact, everything that I have learned in economics would tell me that that is likely to reduce innovation and reduce competition. And one of the great benefits of drug regulation is that if I’m a pharmaceutical company with an old tried and true drug on the market, I really want the FDA to keep new drugs off the market. It will enhance the market value of that drug. I think that’s the lesson that you learn from government regulation, whether it’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulation of fuel economy standards, be it drugs, be it pollution controls, their effect is anti-competitive, it’s not pro-competitve at all.
FRIEDMAN: It I go on with Bob’s point for just a moment. He and I, I’m sure, and all economists would agree that the most effective way to stimulate competition would be to have complete free trade and eliminate tariffs. The most anti-consumer measures on our statute books are restrictions on foreign trade.
MCKENZIE: Milton __
FRIEDMAN: Has the Consumer Federation of America testified against tariffs?
O’REILLY: We haven’t even been asked to.
(Laughter)
___________________________________________
Milton Friedman noted, “I would agree with his general position that there is a role for government in pollution. I would agree secondly that the present techniques of controlling pollution are terrible and they are terrible and they are what they are for precisely the reasons he specifies because they are an effective way in which you could use the excuse of pollution to serve some very different objectives.”
Pt 6
MCKENZIE: Now the Food and Drug Administration, and here, Doctor, I know you’re keenly interested in this __ what was your reaction to Milton’s analysis of where it’s fallen down?
LANDAU: Well, I think it’s even worse than Milton’s analysis or Dr. Wordell’s (phonics) analysis of it. If one could look at the past 25 or 30 years of new drug innovation, one could see that most of the drugs that you all would regard as miracle drugs were developed before the Kefauver Amendments.
MCKENZIE: That’s the 1962 amendments __
LANDAU: The 1962 amendments.
MCKENZIE: Which ruled what now again, just a rundown.
LANDAU: Well, the 1962 amendments as Milton said, added efficacy to the regulation of safety. Actually it’s what the regulators did with this law that went haywire. I don’t see how one can object to the law in itself. What the regulators did was go mad with respect to safety. When the only thing that was added to the law was the point of efficacy.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
LANDAU: After all the two are intertwined inextricably fir a very hazardous disease like cancer you will tolerate a very dangerous drug and for a headache it’s got to be very, very safe. Now this we’ve know all the time, but the regulators have gone to the point of utilizing some hysteria over thalidomide and new legislation which I think was originally designed by Kefauver to get himself to be president by lowering the cost of drugs, to make regulations which are absolutely obstructive. Now instead of 75 percent of the new drugs used in this country being developed in this country, less than 25 percent of them are. They’re being developed elsewhere.
MCKENZIE: Yeah, now could we just clarify this point, though. Are you saying there should not be government intervention in the food and drug field of that kind, or is it simply the policy adopted by the FDA or imposed on it by the Kefauver Amendment is where it went wrong?
LANDAU: I believe that certain guidelines are necessary and it’s possible to construct guidelines based upon the Kefauver Amendment taking the responsibility for decision making away from the bureaucrats in the Food and Drug Administration. You say, how? I would say by giving it to panels of impartial experts to make this decision.
MCKENZIE: Now, Milton, do you take that? Do you buy that?
FRIEDMAN: Nope. I’m not gonna buy that.
O’REILLY: Can I comment?
MCKENZIE: Why not?
FRIEDMAN: Because I have never seen __ have you ever seen a cat that barked?
MCKENZIE: Not especially, no.
FRIEDMAN: Well, governmental agencies and governmental laws follow their own laws just as the physical laws say that cats don’t bark. These laws of social science say that when you start and set up a regulatory agency with power, those powers are going to be used.
MCKENZIE: I want to move on, though, to the third area that Milton chose, the Interstate Commerce Commission as an illustration. Now this is closer to you line, Robert. What is your reaction, first to his analysis and what do you think needs doing about it?
CRANDALL: Well, you’re not going to get much dispute from, I don’t think anybody’s sitting around here as to what the benefits of __ or costs of rate regulation in transportation are. The only group that you will find now supporting continued regulation would be the American Trucking Association and they can’t even make a very persuasive case or one that is consistent from one day to the next. There simply is no good reason for continuing this type of regulation. If might continue longer then, say, airline regulation did because the number of people whose wealth has been enhanced by this regulation, that is people who drive trucks, people who won licenses to operate, to haul only hardbound books between Peoria and Springfield, Illinois or something of that sort. Those people are very numerous. And it’s going to very hard to o something about it.
MCKENZIE: Does this prove anything about the nature of government intervention and regulation or is it simply an example of where the thing was done extremely badly and not in the interest of the public.
CRANDALL: It proves _ _ I think it proves a great deal about government regulation and it is no different. I don’t think in the area of health and safety regulations. Let me give you one piece of information about one area of very important health and safety regulation which I think eve Milton Friedman would be in favor of in some form and that is the regulation of pollution control or at least the establishment of property rights, so as to somehow reduce pollutant levels from what they would be if we allowed unlimited pollution. In the case of environmental policy, the strongest proponents in the Congress for environmental policy come from the northeastern part of the United States and the weakest proponents, those with the worst voting records in the Congress come from the Southwest and Alaska. You might ask yourself why is that. And one possible answer I guess is that well the air’s dirty in New York City, but I don’t think you find many people really worried about the quality of the air in New York City. What they’re worried about is their future employment and the value of their assets in New York City. What would happen in the absence of environmental policy in this country is that more business would move to the southwest and the western part of the United States. As a result, eastern Congressmen are very much in favor of a policy which prohibits through pollution control regulations, prohibits a gravitation.
MCKENZIE: Do you favor that too?
CRANDALL: I don’t prohibit the form it takes, but they use this as an excuse, just as they will use various excuses, let’s say, before the __ Miss Claybrook’s agency, for a very tight standards in order to promote the value of their product.
MCKENZIE: Well before we go back to ICC and I want to do that; Milton, what’s your reaction to his pollution point because I know he’s very keenly interested in it.
FRIEDMAN: Well he and I would __ I would agree with his general position that there is a role for government in pollution. I would agree secondly that the present techniques of controlling pollution are terrible and they are terrible and they are what they are for precisely the reasons he specifies because they are an effective way in which you could use the excuse of pollution to serve some very different objectives. That’s part of the way in which governments meow, if I may go back to my cat. We’ve discussed this at greater lengths in a book that we’ve written to go along with this program on Free to Choose. The program itself was too short for us to be able to get much in about pollution, indeed, we really had to skip it because it’s such a complicated and difficult subject. But there is a real role for government because that is a case in which you’re protecting third parties. And every one of the valid cases, in my opinion, for government entering in has to do with third parties. There’s a case for requiring brakes because that’s to protect the person you might hit. That’s wholly different. There’s no case for requiring an airbag in my opinion, but there is a case for requiring good brakes.
MCKENZIE: Do you accept that distinction, by the way?
O’REILLY: No because when you’re injured because of a failure to us a passive restraint, I am in a sense going to have to help pick up part of your medical bills, part of your insurance rates __
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
O’REILLY: __ because they’re spread across.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
O’REILLY: And so only on Gilligan’s Island, when you have six or nine people not interacting such that all of society is affected, does your distinction have any validity?
FRIEDMAN: Go slowly.
CRANDALL: The same thing is true in alcohol. When you’re sick from alcoholism, who pays for it?
O’REILLY: On the alcohol, the studies have only shown excessive amounts of alcohol to be injurious.
CRANDALL: I’m not speaking of accidents. What about cirrhosis of the liver, my dear, it’s a very common disease.
O’REILLY: All of the reasons why we need a stronger __
LANDAU: Because it’s a long and expensive disease.
MCKENZIE: Could we pause on __ Milton’s made a very interesting distinction here, that you can damage yourself, you’ve been saying. Or it’s up to you if you want to run the risk of damaging yourself, but if __ but can you make the distinction.
FRIEDMAN: But let me go back to her question because she says, “no, we mustn’t do that because the fellow who hurts himself is going to go to a government subsidized hospital.”
O’REILLY: Not just government, no, no.
CRANDALL: Oh, but it’s more than that. It’s all the parties and liability as well, answer that issue with it. Because my __
FRIEDMAN: Go slowly. Let me separate the two issues because I really want to get to this because you’re answer is a very favorite one and there is an element of validity to it. Of course. Well, it’s only because we’ve made two mistakes.
O’REILLY: But you don’t have to be in a government hospital for it to be valid because when you’re in traction __
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me. Hold on for a moment. Hold on for a moment. The problem with your answer is that you’re saying one wrong justifies another. I believe that we ought to have much less government intervention into those areas as well. And I don’t __ am not willing to follow a policy which implies saying, you __ that every person goes around with a sign on his back saying, “Property of the U.S. Government do not mutilate, spindle or bend.”
_______________________________
The best point Milton Friedman made below about the Consumer Protection Agency is this:
“When government intervenes into these affairs that harms third parties. It picks my pocket. It reduces my freedom.”
Pt 7
O’REILLY: Do you favor the government intervention in those areas where, for example, the bar associations and the eyeglass industry were not allowing their members to advertise and then the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and now consumers have the ability to make those kinds of comparisons?
FRIEDMAN: You’re getting into another area, but the answer, a brief answer because we oughtn’t to discuss this here. I am against those governmental measures which have enabled the organizations to have the power to prevent advertising.
O’REILLY: But they were no government __
MCKENZIE: Now, now look, Bob Crandall said __ Bob Crandall said that in an area like the Interstate Commerce Commission there is nothing really to be said in defense at all. Does anybody dissent from that or have we knocked them down flat?
FRIEDMAN: That happens to be the one area on which, so far as I know, you cannot find any dissent anywhere, even __ one of the most effective presentations of what was wrong with ICC was done by one of Ralph Nader’s groups, maybe you were associated with that group. That’s the thing that really baffles me. Fundamentally, here are people, like Ralph Nader and his groups who look at ICC and what is their solution to the problem? More of the same, a different kind of regulation __
CLAYBROOK: No.
FRIEDMAN: __ the only problem is that the wrong people were in there regulating.
CLAYBROOK: No, no, no. That’s not true. No, that’s a complete misrepresentation.
MCKENZIE: You work with Nader now, that’s __
CLAYBROOK: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: That’s Dr. Landau’s solution for the medical problem. Let’s have the right people doing the regulating.
CLAYBROOK: No, no, no. That’s a complete misnomer about the difference between ICC and Health and Safety regulation. There are a number of differences. One is, one involves the economic and the benefits of profits to industry and the other involves the sanctity of life in __ among people.
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me.
MCKENZIE: Now let her finish this point, Milton.
FRIEDMAN: Okay.
MCKENZIE: Yes.
CLAYBROOK: The second one and it deals with your third party relationship is that __ what you’re talking about there is brakes because they’re gonna affect somebody else, but there are also other third-party effects. For example, if you don’t have a helmet used by someone and you hit them with your motorcycle, you’re gonna have huge damage payments to make because they didn’t properly take proper precautions on the public highways. And the question is: Should the public highways be used so that they’re gonna harm somebody else, potentially?
FRIEDMAN: There is nothing that two people do in a world. No man is an island to himself, everything has third-party issues; but you’ve got to have a sense of proportion and the important thing is that government intervention has third-party issues. When government intervenes into these affairs that harms third parties. It picks my pocket. It reduces my freedom. It restricts many activities around the world.
CLAYBROOK: That’s what you question is: what are the benefits? And if the benefits in the auto field, for example, are 55,000 deaths saved, it means __
FRIEDMAN: That’s a very dubious statistic because once again every study has looked at the benefits and not looked at the costs.
CLAYBROOK: Oh no, that’s not true at all. Absolutely not that they haven’t looked at the costs.
FRIEDMAN: I mean the costs in life. You haven’t looked at the fact, for example __
MCKENZIE: Let me clarify this, Milton. I don’t quite follow you.
FRIEDMAN: Sure.
MCKENZIE: Would you explain what you mean exactly?
FRIEDMAN: Of course.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
FRIEDMAN: Look, take the automobile, by making automobiles more expensive it makes it more profitable to keep older automobiles on the road. The increased age of the automobile is an anti-safety factor by making automobiles safer so people are __ can drive them, people drive them faster or more recklessly then they otherwise would. There are more pedestrian deaths.
CLAYBROOK: That’s a totally unproven and indeed fully rebutted theory. And, in fact, all the savings in lives could __
MCKENZIE: By whom? You or __
CLAYBROOK: Well, no, there are numerous studies, including from__
MCKENZIE: Yeah, I see.
CLAYBROOK: __ Yale and Cooper from Yale and so on, but the key issue has been shown by the regulation that’s been in in the last ten years, you’ve had a huge saving in lives, a decrease in the __ the vehicle deaths that have occurred, the rate of vehicle deaths occurred and so on.
FRIEDMAN: Let me go back again for a moment.
CLAYBROOK: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: You see, the major effect on the saving of life has been from 55_mile_an_hour speed limits.
CLAYBROOK: Oh no, that’s not true.
FRIEDMAN: Which is not after all in there __
CLAYBROOK: Well that is also a regulation.
FRIEDMAN: __ as a safety regulation. That primarily is a fuel regulation.
CLAYBROOK: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a regulation.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
CLAYBROOK: But your statement’s not accurate.
FRIEDMAN: All right.
CLAYBROOK: That the savings in life have not been primarily __ they’ve been, they’re important from 55. But there have been 55,000 deaths saved by vehicle crash safety regulations.
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me.
CLAYBROOK: Uh_huh.
FRIEDMAN: There have been 55,000 deaths that you have estimated to have been saved by it. Other estimates __
CLAYBROOK: Not me, the General Accounting Office.
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me. Other estimates as well, the estimate by Professor Sam Peltzman (phonetic) of this university, a very, very serious study estimated that there were no lives saved in you took into account all of the indirect effects. Now maybe his study isn’t exactly right.
CLAYBROOK: I don’t think it is.
FRIEDMAN: I’m not going to try to __ but maybe the other study isn’t exactly right either.
CLAYBROOK: Yes, okay, right.
(Laughter)
O’REILLY: But if you’re somewhere in between. If you look at __ consumers have done well if it’s even in between.
FRIEDMAN: No, no. I beg your pardon. If people voluntarily want to risk their lives. Are you saying again you really would not be in favor of prohibiting hand gliding.
CLAYBROOK: We asked the auto __ we asked the auto industry if __
FRIEDMAN: That’s far more dangerous. Did you prohibit the 500_mile speedway?
CLAYBROOK: I think the __ let me answer this. We asked the auto industry if they would remove all the safety standards that have been in effect since 1968 and what would be the savings to the public if they did that. And the answer, sir, that they came back with was, “We couldn’t remove those, they expect them now.” The laminated windshields that don’t crack their head open and the collapsible steering assemblies and the padded dashboards. That __ why the public __ that is now the societal norm. Regulation has changed the thinking of the public and the understanding of what’s possible and so the, you know , what you’re suggesting is that government regulation is willy-nilly and it produces things the public doesn’t want, but you don’t have any__
FRIEDMAN: Excuse me for a moment. You can’t take credit for everything that’s happened in this area. Four-wheel brakes were introduced before there were safety regulations. Many of these developments would have __
MCKENZIE: Well, we leave the matter now for this week and we hope you’ll join us again for the next episode in a week’s time.

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“FREE TO CHOOSE” 1: The Power of the Market (Milton Friedman) Free to Choose ^ | 1980 | Milton Friedman Posted on Monday, July 17, 2006 4:20:46 PM by Choose Ye This Day FREE TO CHOOSE: The Power of the Market Friedman: Once all of this was a swamp, covered with forest. The Canarce Indians […]

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“Friedman Friday,” EPISODE “The Failure of Socialism” of Free to Choose in 1990 by Milton Friedman (Part 1)

Milton Friedman: Free To Choose – The Failure Of Socialism With Ronald Reagan (Full) Published on Mar 19, 2012 by NoNationalityNeeded Milton Friedman’s writings affected me greatly when I first discovered them and I wanted to share with you. We must not head down the path of socialism like Greece has done. Abstract: Ronald Reagan […]

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Dan Mitchell article The Higher Education Racket, Part

The Higher Education Racket, Part I

Sometimes Bill Maher, the host of Real Time on HBO, says smart things and sometimes he says not-so-smart things.

His recent monologue on the “college scam” was an example of the former. It’s almost as if he was channeling Professor Daniel Lin.

Maher makes great points about how government subsidies for higher education are a backwards form of redistribution, taking money from lower-income people and giving it to higher-income people.

And I love what he says about credentialism, where people can’t climb the job ladder without getting useless degrees like masters in education.

But his monologue wasn’t perfect. He mentioned how tuition costs have exploded, but he didn’t make the should-be-obvious connection between rising costs and government subsidies.

To be more explicit, tuition expenses have skyrocketed becausecolleges and universities have raised prices to capture all the extra loot politicians are dumping into the system.

Which, by the way, is what happens in every sector of the economy (health care being an obvious example) where government tries to make things more affordable.

By the way, if you don’t want to trust Maher’s comments because he’s an entertainer rather than a policy expert, you may want to read a column in the Wall Street Journal by Tomas Philipson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

Here’s some of his analysis.

The student-loan crisis is rooted in government policy… The Biden administration’s American Families Plan is designed to perpetuate the cycle. The student-loan crisis has a long history but accelerated dramatically in 2010, when lawmakers moved the portfolio onto the Education Department’s balance sheet to “pay” for ObamaCare. …But Education Department bureaucrats, not experts in lending, didn’t bother with prudent practices, such as underwriting, that are routine in private credit markets. The result: A lender with the lowest cost of capital on the planet is now about $500 billion in the red. …And federal student loans are highly regressive. …The Brookings Institution found in April 2019 that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s loan-forgiveness proposal would mainly help the rich, with families with income in the top 40% receiving about two-thirds of the benefits. …These policies reward professors and administrators who can then raise the price of their services. …Tuition rising as loan subsidies expand is no different. It isn’t a coincidence that education and health care, the industries in which government subsidies are most pervasive, took the highest price increases over the past 15 years—3.7% and 3.1% a year, compared with the 1.8% average across industries.

Amen, especially with regards to the final sentence. Student loans and other subsidies are the reason colleges and universities can get away with never-ending tuition increases.

And Joe Biden wants to make matters worse, as Bill Maher noted. Not that we should be surprised since that’s what Barack Obama wanted and what Hillary Clinton wanted.

The left is in favor of just about anything, other than the policy that would solve the problem.

P.S. There’s even academic research showing that government spending on higher education has a negative impact on economic performance.

Milton Friedman at Hillsdale College 2006

July 2006

Free to Choose: A Conversation with Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman
Economist

Milton Friedman is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Chicago, where he taught from 1946-1976. Dr. Friedman received the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1976, and the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. He served as an unofficial adviser to presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He is the author of numerous books, including Two Lucky People (with Rose Friedman).

The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn and Milton Friedman, which took place on May 22, 2006, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, California, during a two-day Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar celebrating the 25th anniversary of Milton and Rose Friedman’s book, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement.

_______

LA: In Free to Choose you discuss Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, which you relate to the great task that the American people face. Like Lincoln, you argue that a house divided against itself cannot stand: America is going to be a government intervention country or it’s going to be a free market country, but it cannot continue indefinitely as a mixture of both. Do you still believe that?

MF: Yes, I very much believe that, and I believe that we’ve been making some headway since Free to Choose appeared. However, even though it is real headway compared to what was happening before, we are mostly holding ground.

LA: What do you think are the major factors behind the economic growth we have experienced since the publication of Free to Choose?

MF: Economic growth since that time has been phenomenal, which has very little to do with most of what we’ve been talking about in terms of the conflict between government and private enterprise. It has much more to do with the technical problem of establishing sound monetary policy. The economic situation during the past 20 years has been unprecedented in the history of the world. You will find no other 20-year period in which prices have been as stable—relatively speaking—in which there has been as little variability in price levels, in which inflation has been so well-controlled, and in which output has gone up as regularly. You hear all this talk about economic difficulties, when the fact is we are at the absolute peak of prosperity in the history of the world. Never before have so many people had as much as they do today. I believe a large part of that is to be attributed to better monetary policy. The improved policy is a result of the acceptance of the view that inflation is a monetary phenomenon, not a real phenomenon. We have accepted the view that central banks are primarily responsible for maintaining stable prices and nothing else.

LA: Do you think the Great Depression was triggered by bad monetary policy at a crucial moment?

MF: Absolutely. Unfortunately, it is still the case that if you ask people what caused the Great Depression, nine out of ten will probably tell you it was a failure of business. But it’s absolutely clear that the Depression was a failure of government and not a failure of business.

LA: You don’t think the Smoot-Hawley tariff caused the Depression?

MF: No. I think the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a bad law. I think it did harm. But the Smoot-Hawley tariff by itself would not have made one quarter of the labor force unemployed. However, reducing the quantity of money by one third did make a quarter of the labor force unemployed. When I graduated from undergraduate college in 1932, I was baffled by the fact that there were idle machines and idle men and you couldn’t get them together. Those men wanted to cooperate; they wanted to work; they wanted to produce what they wore; and they wanted to produce the food they ate. Yet something had gone wrong: The government was mismanaging the money supply.

LA: Do you think our government has learned its lesson about how to manage the money supply?

MF: I think that the lesson has been learned, but I don’t think it will last forever. Sooner or later, government will want to raise funds without imposing taxes. It will want to spend money it does not have. So I hesitate to join those who are predicting two percent inflation for the next 20 years. The temptation for government to lay its hands on that money is going to be very hard to resist. The fundamental problem is that you shouldn’t have an institution such as the Federal Reserve, which depends for its success on the abilities of its chairman. My first preference would be to abolish the Federal Reserve, but that’s not going to happen.

LA: I want to talk now about education and especially about vouchers, because I know they are dear to your heart. Why do you think teachers unions oppose vouchers?

MF: The president of the National Education Association was once asked when his union was going to do something about students. He replied that when the students became members of the union, the union would take care of them. And that was a correct answer. Why? His responsibility as president of the NEA was to serve the members of his union, not to serve public purposes. I give him credit: The trade union has been very effective in serving its members. However, in the process, they’ve destroyed American education. But you see, education isn’t the union’s function. It’s our fault for allowing the union to pursue its agenda. Consider this fact: There are two areas in the United States that suffer from the same disease—education is one and health care is the other. They both suffer from the disease that takes a system that should be bottom-up and converts it into a system that is top-down. Education is a simple case. It isn’t the public purpose to build brick schools and have students taught there. The public purpose is to provide education. Think of it this way: If you want to subsidize the production of a product, there are two ways you can do it. You can subsidize the producer or you can subsidize the consumer. In education, we subsidize the producer—the school. If you subsidize the student instead—the consumer—you will have competition. The student could choose the school he attends and that would force schools to improve and to meet the demands of their students.

LA: Although you discuss many policy issues in Free to Choose, you have turned much of your attention to education, and to vouchers as a method of education reform. Why is that your focus?

MF: I don’t see how we can maintain a decent society if we have a world split into haves and have-nots, with the haves subsidizing the have-nots. In our current educational system, close to 30 percent of the youngsters who start high school never finish. They are condemned to low-income jobs. They are condemned to a situation in which they are going to be at the bottom. That leads in turn to a divisive society; it leads to a stratified society rather than one of general cooperation and general understanding. The effective literacy rate in the United States today is almost surely less than it was 100 years ago. Before government had any involvement in education, the majority of youngsters were schooled, literate, and able to learn. It is a disgrace that in a country like the United States, 30 percent of youngsters never graduate from high school. And I haven’t even mentioned those who drop out in elementary school. It’s a disgrace that there are so many people who can’t read and write. It’s hard for me to see how we can continue to maintain a decent and free society if a large subsection of that society is condemned to poverty and to handouts.

LA: Do you think the voucher campaign is going well?

MF: No. I think it’s going much too slowly. What success we have had is almost entirely in the area of income-limited vouchers. There are two kinds of vouchers: One is a charity voucher that is limited to people below a certain income level. The other is an education voucher, which, if you think of vouchers as a way of transforming the educational industry, is available to everybody. How can we make vouchers available to everybody? First, education ought to be a state and local matter, not a federal matter. The 1994 Contract with America called for the elimination of the Department of Education. Since then, the budget for the Department of Education has tripled. This trend must be reversed. Next, education ought to be a parental matter. The responsibility for educating children is with parents. But in order to make it a parental matter, we must have a situation in which parents are Free to Choose the schools their children attend. They aren’t free to do that now. Today the schools pick the children. Children are assigned to schools by geography—by where they live. By contrast, I would argue that if the government is going to spend money on education, the money ought to travel with the children. The objective of such an expenditure ought to be educated children, not beautiful buildings. The way to accomplish this is to have a universal voucher. As I said in 1955, we should take the amount of money that we’re now spending on education, divide it by the number of children, and give that amount of money to each parent. After all, that’s what we’re spending now, so we might as well let parents spend it in the form of vouchers.

LA: I have one more question for you. You describe a society in which people look after themselves because they know the most about themselves, and they will flourish if you let them. You, however, are a crusader for the rights of others. For example, you say in Free to Choose—and it’s a very powerful statement—a tiny minority is what matters. So is it one of the weaknesses of the free market that it requires certain extremely talented and disinterested people who can defend it?

MF: No, that’s not right. The self-interest of the kind of people you just described is promoting public policy. That’s what they’re interested in doing. For example, what was my self-interest in economics? My self-interest to begin with was to understand the real mystery and puzzle that was the Great Depression. My self-interest was to try to understand why that happened, and that’s what I enjoyed doing—that was my self-interest. Out of that I grew to learn some things—to have some knowledge. Following that, my self-interest was to see that other people understood the same things and took appropriate action.

LA: Do you define self-interest as what the individual wants?

MF: Yes, self-interest is what the individual wants. Mother Teresa, to take one example, operated on a completely self-interested basis. Self-interest does not mean narrow self-interest. Self-interest does not mean monetary self-interest. Self-interest means pursuing those things that are valuable to you but which you can also persuade others to value. Such things very often go beyond immediate material interest.

LA: Does that mean self-interest is a synonym for self-sacrifice?

MF: If you want to see how pervasive this sort of self-interest is that I’m describing, look at the enormous amount of money contributed after Hurricane Katrina. That was a tremendous display of self-interest: The self-interest of people in that case was to help others. Self-interest, rightly understood, works for the benefit of society as a whole.


In describing Biden Administration Dan Mitchell notes “During the Obama years, I shared a cartoon strip that cleverly makes the point that some people will choose not to work if they can get enough goodies from the government”

The Economics of “Labor Shortages”

During the Obama years, I shared a cartoon strip that cleverly makes the point that some people will choose not to work if they can get enough goodies from the government.

That Wizard-of-Id parody has been viewed more than 56,000 times, which suggests many readers also thought it was worth sharing.

But it obviously hasn’t been shared often enough with the crowd in Washington. Politicians have created a welfare state that penalizes work and rewards dependency.

Especially now that there are bonus payments for staying unemployed. Which makes it hard to businesses to find workers.

Our friends on the left, however, think there’s a solution to this problem.

In his column for the New York Times, David Leonhardt says there is not a labor shortage because employers can simply raise wages.

The idea that the United States suffers from a labor shortage is fast becoming conventional wisdom. But before you accept the idea, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think it through. Once you do, you may realize that the labor shortage is more myth than reality. …one of the beauties of capitalism is its mechanism for dealing with shortages.In a communist system, people must wait in long lines when there is more demand than supply for an item. That’s an actual shortage. In a capitalist economy, however, there is a ready solution. …When a company is struggling to find enough labor, it can solve the problem by offering to pay a higher price for that labor — also known as higher wages. More workers will then enter the labor market. Suddenly, the labor shortage will be no more. …Sure enough, some companies have responded to the alleged labor shortage by doing exactly this. …companies that have recently announced pay increases include Amazon, Chipotle, Costco, McDonald’s, Walmart, J.P. Morgan Chase and Sheetz convenience stores.

Leonhardt is correct that businesses can lure workers back into the job market by boosting wages. I’m glad he recognizes how the price system works.

But he completely ignores the issue of whether some jobs will simply disappear because they’re not worth the amount of money that would be required to out-compete government handouts.

That’s the key argument from the Wall Street Journal‘s editorialon the topic.

…the U.S. labor market turned in its second disappointing result in a row in May, according to Friday’s Labor Department report. That’s what happens when government pays Americans not to work. Employers created 559,000 net new jobs in the month, which sounds great until you notice that 1.5 million fewer workers in May said they were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.…The civilian labor force shrank in May by 53,000, and the number of men over age 20 who were employed fell by 8,000. …What gives? The Occam’s razor explanation is that in March the Biden Administration and Congress ladled out another mountain of cash to Americans—work not required. The extra $300 a week in enhanced jobless benefits is one problem, since millions of Americans can make more staying on the couch. …This is on top of regular jobless benefits, plus new or extended cash payments such as the $3,000 per child tax credit, additional ObamaCare subsidies, and the $1,400 checks to individuals. Again, no work required.

For all intents and purposes, politicians in DC have been undoing the great achievement of welfare reform. That 1996 law was designed to push people from idleness into employment, and it was largely successful.

But over the past couple of decades, laws like Obamacare have given people goodies without any conditionality, which has resulted in many people deciding once again that they don’t need to work.

And if Biden’s per-child handouts are made permanent, expect the problem to get even worse.

Since we started with a cartoon, let’s close with another cartoon.

This gem from Henry Payne captures the problem facing many small businesses.

Big companies have enough financial depth that they can adapt. They have considerable ability to get rid of low-skilled jobs, invest in labor-saving technologies, and even give some raises to employees they retain.

Many small businesses, however, are simply out of luck. That’s one group of victims.

The other victims are the people who get goodies from politicians. Yes, the various handouts make their lives easier in the short run, but once they get trapped in the quicksand of government dependency, it’s very difficult to escape.

P.S. Because he said some sensible things about “basic income” back in 2017, I had hoped Biden would be better on this issue. I should have known better based on his track record.


Rolling Stones – Hang Fire LIVE East Rutherford, New Jersey ’81

Comparing Rolling Stones’ Song HANG FIRE to the Way People in USA are reacting to President Biden increasing Unemployment  Benefits!

https://youtu.be/3xbtlW16Gts

Dan Henninger also opined for the WSJ. Here’s some of what he wrote.

By making unemployment insurance competitive with market wage rates in a pandemic, the Biden Democrats may have done long-term damage to the American work ethic. …The welfare reforms of the 1990s were based on the realization that transfer payments undermined the work ethic. The Biden-Sanders Democrats are dropping that work requirement for recipients of cash payments.

https://youtu.be/o-u81UnQ16Q

Reminds me of a Rolling Stones song HANG FIRE in which peoples’ desires are to sit around and be lazy and dream about winning a lot at the casino! Check out these lyrics:

In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works
Yeah nothing gets done

We hang fire, we hang fire
You know marrying money is a full time job
I don’t need the aggravation
I’m a lazy slob

I hang fire, I hang fire
Hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire baby, go ahead
Hang fire
We’ve got nothing to eat
We got nowhere to work
Nothing to drink
We just lost our shirts
I’m on the dole
We ain’t for hire
Say what the hell
Say what the hell, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo
Yeah ten thousand dollars, go have some fun
Put it all on at a hundred to one

Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Put it on the wire, baby
Put it on the wire

 

Subsidized Unemployment and the Work Ethic

I wrote two days ago about subsidized unemployment, followed later in the day by this interview.

https://youtu.be/cXfXpgVAefE

This controversy raises a fundamental economic issue.

I explained in the interview that employers only hire people when they expect a new worker will generate at least enough revenue to cover the cost of employment.

There’s a similar calculation on the part of individuals, as shown by this satirical cartoon strip.

People decide to take jobs when they expect the additional after-tax income they earn will compensate them for the loss of leisure and/or the unpleasantness of working.

Which is why many people are now choosing not to work since the government has increased the subsidies for idleness (a bad policy that began under Trump).

The Wall Street Journal editorialized about this issue a couple of days ago.

White House economists say there’s no “measurable” evidence that the $300 federal unemployment bonus is discouraging unemployed people from seeking work. They were rebutted by Tuesday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Jolts survey, which showed a record 8.1 million job openings in March.…But these jobs often pay less than what most workers could make on unemployment. That explains why the number of job openings in many industries increased more than the number of new hires in March. …The number of workers who quit their jobs also grew by 125,000. …some quitters may be leaving their jobs because they figure they can make more unemployed for the next six months after Democrats extended the bonus into September.

Dan Henninger also opined on the issue for the WSJ. Here’s some of what he wrote.

President Biden said, “People will come back to work if they’re paid a decent wage.” But what if he’s wrong? What if his $300 unemployment insurance bonus on top of the checks sent directly to millions of people (which began during the Trump presidency) turns out to be a big, long-term mistake? …Mr. Biden and the left expect these outlays effectively to raise the minimum wage by forcing employers to compete with Uncle Sam’s money. …Ideas have consequences. By making unemployment insurance competitive with market wage rates in a pandemic, the Biden Democrats may have done long-term damage to the American work ethic. …The welfare reforms of the 1990s were based on the realization that transfer payments undermined the work ethic. The Biden-Sanders Democrats are dropping that work requirement for recipients of cash payments.

Amen.

I made similar arguments about the erosion of the work ethic last year when discussing this issue.

And this concern applies to other forms of redistribution. Including, most notably, the foolish idea of big per-child handouts.

P.S. The WSJ editorial cited above mentioned the Labor Department’s JOLT data. Those numbers are also useful if you want proof that federal bureaucrats are overpaid, and you’ll also see that the same thing is true for state and local government employees.

The Upside-Down Morality and Economic Illiteracy of Class Warfare

My Eighth Theorem of Government is very simple.

If someone writes and talks about poverty, I generally assume that they care about poor people. They may have good ideas for helping the poor, or they may have bad ideas. But I usually don’t doubt their sincerity.

But when someone writes and talks about inequality, I worry that they don’t really care about the less fortunate and that they’re instead motivated by envy, resentment, and jealousy of rich people.

And this concern probably applies to a couple of law professors, Michael Heller of Columbia and James Salzman of UCLA. They recently wrote a column for the Washington Post on how the government should grab more money from the private sector when rich people die.

They seem particularly agitated that states such as South Dakota have strong asset-protection laws that limit the reach of the death tax.

Income inequality has widened. One…way to tackle the problem. Instead of focusing only on taxing wealth accumulation, we can address the hidden flip side — wealth transmission. …The place to start is South Dakota… The state has created…wealth-sheltering tools including the aptly named “dynasty trust.” …Congress can…plug holes in our leaky estate tax system. One step would be to tax trusts at the passage of each generation and limit generation-skipping tax-exempt trusts. A bigger step would be to ensure that appreciated stocks…are taxed… Better still, let’s start anew. Ditch the existing estate tax and replace it with an inheritance tax

There’s nothing remarkable in their proposals. Just a typical collection of tax-the-rich schemes one might expect from a couple of academics.

But I can’t resist commenting on their article because of two inadvertent admissions.

First, we have a passage that reveals a twisted sense of morality. They apparently think it’s a “heist” if people keep their own money.

America’s ultra-wealthy have pulled off a brilliantly designed heist, with a string of South Dakota governors as accomplices.

For all intents and purposes, the law professors are making an amazing claim that it’s stealing if you don’t meekly surrender your money to politicians.

Apparently they agree with Richard Murphy that all income belongs to the government and it’s akin to an entitlement program or “state aid” if politicians let you keep a slice.

Second, the law professors make the mistake of trying to be economists. They want readers to think the national economy suffers if money stays in the private sector.

Nearly no one in South Dakota complains, because the harm falls on the national economy… We all suffer high and hidden costs…getting less in government services. …South Dakota locks away resources that could spark entrepreneurial innovation.

According to their analysis, a nation such as Singapore must be very poor while a country such as Greece must be very rich.

Needless to say, the opposite is true. Larger burdens of government spending are associated with less prosperity and dynamism.

I’ll offer one final observation. Professors Heller and Salzman obviously want more and more taxes on the rich.

But I wonder what they would say if confronted with the data showing that the United States already collects a greater share of tax revenue from the rich than any other OECD country.

P.S. The reason the U.S. collects proportionately more taxes from the rich is that other developed countries have bigger welfare states, and that necessarily leads to much higher tax burdens on lower-income and middle-class taxpayers (as honest folks on the left acknowledge).


Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose – Ep.4 (1/7) – From Cradle to Grave

File:President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan in The East Room Congratulating Milton Friedman Receiving The Presidential Medal of Freedom.jpg

January 21, 2021

President Biden c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

With the national debt increasing faster than ever we must make the hard decisions to balance the budget now. If we wait another decade to balance the budget then we will surely risk our economic collapse.

The first step is to remove all welfare programs and replace them with the negative income tax program that Milton Friedman first suggested.

Milton Friedman points out that though many government welfare programs are well intentioned, they tend to have pernicious side effects. In Dr. Friedman’s view, perhaps the most serious shortcoming of governmental welfare activities is their tendency to strip away individual independence and dignity. This is because bureaucrats in welfare agencies are placed in positions of tremendous power over welfare recipients, exercising great influence over their lives. In addition, welfare programs tend to be self-perpetuating because they destroy work incentives. Dr. Friedman suggests a negative income tax as a way of helping the poor. The government would pay money to people falling below a certain income level. As they obtained jobs and earned money, they would continue to receive some payments from the government until their outside income reached a certain ceiling. This system would make people better off who sought work and earned income.

Here is a transcript of a portion of the “Free to Choose” program called “From Cradle to Grave” (program #4 in the 10 part series):

Transcript:
Friedman: After the 2nd World War, New York City authorities retained rent control supposedly to help their poorer citizens. The intentions were good. This in the Bronx was one result.
By the 50′s the same authorities were taxing their citizens. Including those who lived in the Bronx and other devastated areas beyond the East River to subsidize public housing. Another idea with good intentions yet poor people are paying for this, subsidized apartments for the well-to-do. When government at city or federal level spends our money to help us, strange things happen.
The idea that government had to protect us came to be accepted during the terrible years of the Depression. Capitalism was said to have failed. And politicians were looking for a new approach.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a candidate for the presidency. He was governor of New York State. At the governor’s mansion in Albany, he met repeatedly with friends and colleagues to try to find some way out of the Depression. The problems of the day were to be solved by government action and government spending. The measures that FDR and his associates discussed here derived from a long line of past experience. Some of the roots of these measures go back to Bismark’s Germany at the end of the 19th Century. The first modern state to institute old age pensions and other similar measures on the part of government. In the early 20th Century Great Britain followed suit under Lloyd George and Churchill. It too instituted old age pensions and similar plans.
These precursors of the modern welfare state had little effect on practice in the United States. But they did have a very great effect on the intellectuals on the campus like those who gathered here with FDR. The people who met here had little personal experience of the horrors of the Depression but they were confident that they had the solution. In their long discussions as they sat around this fireplace trying to design programs to meet the problems raised by the worst Depression in the history of the United States, they quite naturally drew upon the ideas that were prevalent at the time. The intellectual climate had become one in which it was taken for granted that government had to play a major role in solving the problems in providing what came later to be called Security from Cradle to Grave.
Roosevelt’s first priority after his election was to deal with massive unemployment. A Public Works program was started. The government financed projects to build highways, bridges and dams. The National Recovery Administration was set up to revitalize industry. Roosevelt wanted to see America move into a new era. The Social Security Act was passed and other measures followed. Unemployment benefits, welfare payments, distribution of surplus food. With these measures, of course, came rules, regulations and red tape as familiar today as they were novel then. The government bureaucracy began to grow and it’s been growing ever since.
This is just a small part of the Social Security empire today. Their headquarters in Baltimore has 16 rooms this size. All these people are dispensing our money with the best possible intentions. But at what cost?
In the 50 years since the Albany meetings, we have given government more and more control over our lives and our income. In New York State alone, these government buildings house 11,000 bureaucrats. Administering government programs that cost New York taxpayers 22 billion dollars. At the federal level, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare alone has a budget larger than any government in the world except only Russia and the United States.
Yet these government measures often do not help the people they are supposed to. Richard Brown’s daughter, Helema, needs constant medical attention. She has a throat defect and has to be connected to a breathing machine so that she’ll survive the nights. It’s expensive treatment and you might expect the family to qualify for a Medicaid grant.
Richard Brown: No, I don’t get it, cause I’m not eligible for it. I make a few dollars too much and the salary that I make I can’t afford to really live and to save anything is out of the question. And I mean, I live, we live from payday to payday. I mean literally from payday to payday.
Friedman: His struggle isn’t made any easier by the fact that Mr. Brown knows that if he gave up his job as an orderly at the Harlem Hospital, he would qualify for a government handout. And he’d be better off financially.
Hospital Worker: Mr. Brown, do me a favor please? There is a section patient.
Friedman: It’s a terrible pressure on him. But he is proud of the work that he does here and he’s strong enough to resist the pressure.
Richard Brown: I’m Mr. Brown. Your fully dilated and I’m here to take you to the delivery. Try not to push, please. We want to have a nice sterile delivery.
Friedman: Mr. Brown has found out the hard way that welfare programs destroy an individual’s independence.
Richard Brown: We’ve considered welfare. We went to see, to apply for welfare but, we were told that we were only eligible for $5.00 a month. And, to receive this $5.00 we would have to cash in our son’s savings bonds. And that’s not even worth it. I don’t believe in something for nothing anyway.
Mrs. Brown: I think a lot of people are capable of working and are willing to work, but it’s just the way it is set up. It, the mother and the children are better off if the husband isn’t working or if the husband isn’t there. And this breaks up so many poor families.
Friedman: One of the saddest things is that many of the children whose parents are on welfare will in their turn end up in the welfare trap when they grow up. In this public housing project in the Bronx, New York, 3/4′s of the families are now receiving welfare payments.
Well Mr. Brown wanted to keep away from this kind of thing for a very good reason. The people who get on welfare lose their human independence and feeling of dignity. They become subject to the dictates and whims of their welfare supervisor who can tell them whether they can live here or there, whether they may put in a telephone, what they may do with their lives. They are treated like children, not like responsible adults and they are trapped in the system. Maybe a job comes up which looks better than welfare but they are afraid to take it because if they lose it after a few months it maybe six months or nine months before they can get back onto welfare. And as a result, this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle rather than simply a temporary state of affairs.
Things have gone even further elsewhere. This is a huge mistake. A public housing project in Manchester, England.
Well we’re 3,000 miles away from the Bronx here but you’d never know it just by looking around. It looks as if we are at the same place. It’s the same kind of flats, the same kind of massive housing units, decrepit even though they were only built 7 or 8 years ago. Vandalism, graffiti, the same feeling about the place. Of people who don’t have a great deal of drive and energy because somebody else is taking care of their day to day needs because the state has deprived them of an incentive to find jobs to become responsible people to be the real support for themselves and their families.
_______________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

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Jennifer Graham: “The minimum wage did not increase during the eight years that Reagan was president, a term that began in 1980. That was the same year that Friedman and his wife, Rose Friedman, published a book that was so popular that it led to a PBS series and videos that are even now popular on YouTube”

<img class="i-amphtml-blurry-placeholder" src="data:;base64,

Photo illustration by Ethan Hendricks and Zoë Petersen

As Congress considers what to do about a proposed $15 minimum wage, Republican opposition to the bill can be traced to two influential voices of the past: President Ronald Reagan and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

The minimum wage did not increase during the eight years that Reagan was president, a term that began in 1980. That was the same year that Friedman and his wife, Rose Friedman, published a book that was so popular that it led to a PBS series and videos that are even now popular on YouTube.

In “Free to Choose,” an examination of economics and liberty, the Friedmans wrote that minimum-wage laws require employers to discriminate against unskilled workers. That argument and others made by Friedman have informed a generation of Republicans and Libertarians who now face the challenge of defending a longstanding principle in light of growing income inequality and public sentiment that has bent toward increasing the minimum wage.

Democrats’ efforts to include the wage increase in a COVID-19 relief bill were stalled Thursday when Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a nonpartisan official, ruled that it is not permissible as written, The Washington Post reported.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney is among those seeking to identify a compromise that would avert stalled legislation of the past that has left the minimum wage unchanged since 2009, when it was set at $7.25 an hour.

<img class="i-amphtml-blurry-placeholder" src="data:;base64,

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pauses during an interview with KSL’s Doug Wright in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the day after he voted to convict President Donald Trump on one impeachment count.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Romney, along with Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, crafted a bill introduced Thursday that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour over four years with a slower phase-in for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Unlike some of his fellow Republicans, who oppose a minimum wage in principle, Romney believes that legislation to increase the wage should reflect changes in the cost of living while seeking to avert negative effects, such as job loss.

“There may be philosophical debates about whether or not we should have a minimum wage, but the reality is, we’re going to have a minimum wage,” said Romney, who also pushed for smaller increases than Democrats wanted when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, meanwhile, has said he would support the Democratic proposal for a $15 minimum wage, but only for employees of large companies. He has proposed a “blue-collar bonus” that would provide refundable tax credits for people making below $16.50 an hour.

Lost in much of the debate is how relatively few Americans would see an increase in pay, if the federal minimum wage is increased. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, about 1.5% of hourly workers in the U.S. earned the minimum wage or less.

The history of the minimum wage begins with Franklin D. Roosevelt and the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which launched a series of guaranteed wages that ranged from $12 to $15 — a week. But it’s the time period between Reagan’s inauguration and Romney’s proposal that Republican thinking on the minimum wage became more entrenched. Here’s why the minimum wage has caused so much angst for the Republican Party, and where it may be headed this year.

A minimum wage of zero?

Survey any number of conservative pundits and podcasters, and you’ll find sharp-tongued resistance to President Joe Biden’s proposal to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh, for example, recently wrote on Twitter that “competent adults” aren’t working for minimum wage.

Walsh and other conservative pundits argue that most people who earn minimum wage are young and unskilled, and they may not need more money (for example, if they are students still living at home) or don’t deserve more because they provide little value to their employer. That thinking is at the heart of the Friedmans’ assertion in “Free to Choose” that “the minimum wage law requires employers to discriminate against people with low skills.”

“No one describes it that way, but that is in fact what it is,” the Friedmans wrote, adding that a poorly educated teen with no work history might only be worth $2 an hour to an employer, and unless the employer is willing to throw in another 90 cents of “charity” to reach the then-minimum wage of $2.90, the teen wouldn’t have a job at all.

“It has always been a mystery to us why a young person is better off unemployed from a job that would pay $2.90 an hour than employed at a job that pays $2.00 an hour,” the Friedmans wrote.

The Friedmans also said that low-paying jobs and apprenticeships provide other value than money to the unskilled worker, such as the chance to learn new skills and acquire experience.

More than 100 studies have shown that increases in the minimum wage result in fewer available jobs, said Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who was a senior economist on President Reagan’s council of economic advisers.

A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that if the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is enacted as written, there would be 1.4 million fewer jobs in the U.S., a decline of 0.9%.

“The people the minimum wage is designed to help, it hurts, because they don’t get the minimum wage. They don’t have a job. If you jack the minimum wage up higher than someone is worth, they’re not going to be hired,” Hanke said.

Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, agreed, saying that people often think the minimum-wage debate pits an employee against an employer; in fact, he said, it’s about employees competing against each other.

“Low-skilled workers compete against higher-skilled workers. That’s something that often gets overlooked. Employers will overlook those lower-skilled workers in favor of hiring higher-skilled workers,” Perry said.

“As (economist) Thomas Sowell has pointed out, the real minimum wage is always zero because that’s what the worker makes if he or she can’t find a job because he’s been priced out of the labor market because the minimum wage is above what they’re really worth to an employer.”

Costs vs. benefits

The Congressional Budget Office report, however, also says a minimum wage increase would reduce the number of Americans in poverty by 0.9 million, and that there would be fewer people reliant on government programs, such as food assistance.

Paul K. Sonn, state policy program director for the National Employment Law Project, a New York nonprofit that advocates for a $15 minimum wage, said any negative effects of the change, such as the potential for increased consumer prices, are outweighed by the benefits. And he notes that recent surveys have found a majority of Americans favor a higher minimum wage, as do many companies. Amazon, for example, which already has an in-house $15 minimum wage, supports the change nationwide.

“We believe $15 an hour is the minimum anyone in the U.S. should be paid for an hour of labor. We also believe it’s good for business,” Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, wrote on the company website.

Walmart, the largest employer in the U.S., starts its workers at $11, offering a Friedman-like argument that the pay structure allows its workers to advance.

“Those people that we’re raising wages for tend to have been with us for a longer period of time than someone that might be earning the entry wage,” CEO Doug McMillon told investors, Business Insider reported. “We’re trying to … create this ladder of opportunity, providing an opportunity for people when they start with the company to build a career like so many of us already have.”

McMillon, who began his career at Walmart as a teen making $6.50 an hour, said the company wouldn’t be able to implement its ladder of increases if it had to pay everyone a minimum of $15 an hour right now.

The minimum wage in the U.S. is a complicated patchwork of laws, with states and even cities having standards independent of federal law.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states and the District of Columbia have established minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.

But it is the differences between the states that are a prime component of arguments against a federal minimum wage, according to Perry, at the American Enterprise Institute.

“There’s no reason that we should have a $15 uniform wage for the entire country, for both high-cost-of-living areas and low-cost-of-living areas,” he said. Fifteen dollars an hour might be appropriate in Hawaii, which has the nation’s highest cost of living, he said, but $10 might be more appropriate for Mississippi.

“You could make the case that if there is going to be a minimum-wage law, it should be set by the state or county or city government, not by the federal government,” he said.

But Romney, the senator from Utah, said America has a federal minimum wage and it’s not going away, so it’s incumbent upon policymakers to enact one that has a minimal effect on the number of jobs. He said the $10 proposal he has put forth with Cotton and three other senators would not result in lost jobs, and he has long been in favor of a minimum wage that adjusts for inflation. In the matter of wages, he says, the government has a justifiable interest in what private businesses do.

“The federal government does provide support for people at the very low income level,” he said. “Not having a minimum wage can increase the amount of federal expenditures for health care, food, clothing and child benefits, so the federal government does very much have a stake in what businesses are paying people.”

What would Reagan do?

With his proposal, Romney has again established himself as an outlier. He has previously said that Republicans are “nuts” to not want to raise the minimum wage, adding “I think, as a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal.”

Yet proponents of a higher minimum wage, such as Sonn at the National Employment Law Project, are unhappy with the Romney-Cotton plan, which also requires employers to verify the employment status of their workers through E-Verify.

Sonn called the stipulation a “punitive anti-immigrant measure masquerading as a minimum-wage increase.”

Romney also finds himself outside the tent of people like Hanke, who considered Friedman a friend and mentor and who also was friends with another economist widely admired by conservatives, Friedrich Hayek.

Romney, Hanke said, is “off the reservation” when it comes to the minimum wage. “The government should not be in the business of setting prices, whether they’re for labor or for goods and services,” he said. “The market should be determinant, with sellers and buyers voluntarily agreeing what price they pay. … From my point of view, it really is immoral for the government to be coming in and setting prices of things.”

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President Ronald Reagan visits Hooper, Weber County, on Sept. 10, 1982.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

Hanke doesn’t think much of Hawley’s proposal, either. “Milton Friedman would scold him and give him a quick lesson in economics, and so would I,” he said.

And what would Hanke’s former employer, Ronald Reagan, do, if he’d been confronted with legislation to raise the minimum wage, which was $3.35 during his administration, to $15, as Democrats propose today?

“I don’t think he would have abolished it all together, because Reagan was principled, but pragmatic,” Hanke said. “I don’t think he would think the abolition of the minimum wage would be worth the political cost of doing it, even though he would be very happy to have gotten rid of the whole thing.

“I think he would have remained as quiet as possible on raising it, as he did.”

Ep. 4 – From Cradle to Grave [6/7]. Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980)

March 11, 2021

President Biden c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for taking time to have your office try and get a pulse on what is going on out here in the country. I wanted to let you know what I think about the minimum wage increase you have proposed for the whole country and I wanted to quote Milton Friedman who you are familiar with and you made it clear in July that you didn’t care for his views! Let me challenge you to take a closer look at what he had to say!

_____________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

Williams with Sowell – Minimum Wage

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell – Reducing Black Unemployment

By WALTER WILLIAMS

—-

Ronald Reagan with Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 2-5

Milton Friedman’s Revenge

Milton Friedman’s Revenge

Milton Friedman in 2004. (Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice/Public Domain/via Wikimedia)
The specter of inflation haunts Joe Biden’s presidency.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen got into trouble Tuesday for telling the truth. That morning, at a conference sponsored by the Atlantic, she raised the possibility that one day the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates “to make sure our economy doesn’t overheat.”

Anyone with a basic understanding of economics knew what she was talking about. The combination of President Joe Biden’s gargantuan spending and the accelerating economic recovery may well lead to a rise in consumer prices and hikes in interest rates. But an end to the Federal Reserve’s program of easy money would hurt asset prices and possibly employment as well.

Which is not what most investors want to hear. When Yellen’s words reached Wall Street, the market tanked. By the afternoon she was in retreat, telling the Wall Street Journal CEO summit that she had been misunderstood. “So let me be clear,” she said. “That’s not something I’m predicting or recommending.”

No, of course not. But it still might happen anyway.

A specter is haunting the Biden administration — the specter of inflation. Past inflations have not only harmed consumers, savers, and people on fixed incomes. They have also brought down politicians. Among the risks to the Democratic congressional majority is a rise in prices that lifts inflation to near the top of voters’ concerns, coupled by the type of Fed rate increase that hits stocks and housing. Inflation is one more signpost on the road to Republican revival, along with illegal immigration, crime, and semi-closed public schools embracing far-left critical race theory.

The classic definition of inflation is too much money chasing too few goods. That might also describe America sometime soon — if not already. The economy has started its post-virus comeback. Jobs and growth are on the upswing. U.S. households sit on a trillion-dollar pile of savings. Over the last year, on top of its regular spending, the federal government has appropriated a mind-boggling amount of money: a $2 trillion CARES Act, a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, and a $2 trillion American Rescue Plan. And President Biden wants to spend about $4 trillion more.

Surging this incredible amount of cash into an economy that is rapidly approaching capacity may have unintended and harmful consequences. But the Biden administration is either unconcerned about inflation or afraid of bringing it up in public.

Why? Well, one reason is that earlier warnings, after the global financial crisis in particular, didn’t seem to come true. (The inflation may have shown up in the dramatic ascent in prices of stocks and bonds, as well as in odd places such as the market for high-end art.) Another reason is that some economists think a little bit of inflation would be a good thing. But the main explanation may be related to status-quo bias: Inflation hasn’t been a driving force in our economic and public life for decades, and so we blithely assume it won’t be in the future.

Which is why an experienced leader worries about repeating the mistakes of the past. And yet, for a politician who came to Washington in 1973, Joe Biden has a lackadaisical attitude toward inflationary fiscal and monetary policy. Was he paying attention? It was the great inflation of the ’60s and ’70s, caused in part by high spending, the Arab oil embargo, and spiraling wages and prices in a heavily regulated and unionized economy, that helped ruin the presidencies of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Inflation led to bracket creep, with voters propelled into higher income-tax brackets by monetary forces over which they had no control. And bracket creep inspired the tax revolt, supply-side economics, and the Reaganite idea that, “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The eventual cure for inflation was the painful “shock therapy” administered by Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and what at the time was the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Why anyone would want to repeat this experiment in the dismal science is a mystery. Biden, however, is fixated not on inflation but on repudiating the legacy of the man known for describing it as “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.”

Milton Friedman, whose empiricism led him to embrace free-market public policy, was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century. But Biden has a weird habit of treating Friedman as a devilish spirit who must be exorcised from the nation’s capital. For Biden, Friedman represents deregulation, low taxes, and the idea that a corporation’s primary responsibility is not to a group of politicized “stakeholders” but to its shareholders. “Milton Friedman isn’t running the show anymore,” Biden told Politico last year. “When did Milton Friedman die and become king?” Biden asked in 2019. The truth is that Friedman, who died in 2006, has held little sway over either Democrats or Republicans for almost two decades. But Biden wants to mark the definitive end of Friedman and the “neoliberal” economics he espoused by unleashing a tsunami of dollars into the global economy and inundating Americans with new entitlements.

The irony is that Biden’s rejection of Friedman’s teachings on money, taxes, and spending may bring about the same circumstances that established Friedman’s preeminence. In a year or two, the American economy and Biden’s political fortunes may look considerably different than when Janet Yellen blurted out the obvious about inflation. Voters won’t like the combination of rising prices and declining assets. Biden’s experts might rediscover that it is difficult to control or stop inflation once it begins. And Milton Friedman will have his revenge.


Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE “How to cure inflation” Transcript and Video (60 Minutes)

Image result for milton friedman free to choose

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.“If we could just stop the printing presses, we would stop inflation,” Milton Friedman says in “How to Cure Inflation” from the Free To Choose series. Now as then, there is only one cause of inflation, and that is when governments print too much money. Milton explains why it is that politicians like inflation, and why wage and price controls are not solutions to the problem.

http://www.freetochoosemedia.org/freetochoose/detail_ftc1980_transcript.php?page=9While many people have a fairly good grasp of what inflation is, few really understand its fundamental cause. There are many popular scapegoats: labor unions, big business, spendthrift consumers, greed, and international forces. Dr. Friedman explains that the actual cause is a government that has exclusive control of the money supply. Friedman says that the solution to inflation is well known among those who have the power to stop it: simply slow down the rate at which new money is printed. But government is one of the primary beneficiaries of inflation. By inflating the currency, tax revenues rise as families are pushed into higher income tax brackets. Thus, inflation transfers wealth and resources from the private to the public sector. In short, inflation is attractive to government because it is a way of increasing taxes without having to pass new legislation to raise tax rates. Inflation is in fact taxation without representation. Wage and price controls are not the cure for inflation because they treat only the symptom (rising prices) and not the disease (monetary expansion). History records that such controls do not work; instead, they have perverse effects on both prices and economic growth and undermine the fundamental productivity of the economy. There is only one cure for inflation: slow the printing presses. But the cure produces the painful side effects of a temporary increase in unemployment and reduced economic growth. It takes considerable political courage to undergo the cure. Friedman cites the example of Japan, which successfully underwent the cure in the mid-seventies but took five years to squeeze inflation out of the system. Inflation is a social disease that has the potential for destroying a free society if it is unchecked. Prolonged inflation undermines belief in the basic equity of the free market system because it tends to destroy the link between effort and reward. And it tears the social fabric because it divides society into winners and losers and sets group against group.(Taxation without representation: Getting knocked up to higher tax brackets because of inflation pt 1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1dTWDNKH3c

Volume 9 – How to Cure Inflation

Transcript:
Friedman: The Sierra Nevada’s in California 10,000 feet above sea level, in the winter temperatures drop to 40 below zero, in the summer the place bakes in the thin mountain air. In this unlikely spot the town of Body sprang up. In its day Body was filled with prostitutes, drunkards and gamblers part of a colorful history of the American West.
A century ago, this was a town of 10,000 people. What brought them here? Gold. If this were real gold, people would be scrambling for it. The series of gold strikes throughout the West brought people from all over the world, all kinds of people. They came here for one purpose and one purpose only, to strike it rich, quick. But in the process, they built towns, cities, in places where nobody would otherwise have dreamed of building a city. Gold built these cities and when the gold was exhausted, the cities collapsed and became ghost towns. Many of the people who came here ended up the way they began, broke and unhappy. But a few struck it rich. For them, gold was real wealth. But was it for the world as a whole. People couldn’t eat the gold, they couldn’t wear the gold, they couldn’t live in houses made of gold. Because there was more gold, they had to pay a little more gold to buy goods and services. The prices of things in terms of gold went up.
At tremendous cost, at sacrifice of lives, people dug gold out of the bowels of the earth. What happened to that gold? Eventually, at long last, it was transported to distant places only to be buried again under the ground. This time in the vaults of banks throughout the world. There is hardly anything that hasn’t been used for money; rock salt in Ethiopia, brass rings in West Africa, Calgary shells in Uganda, even a toy cannon. Anything can be used as money. Crocodile money in Malaysia, absurd isn’t it?
That beleaguered minority of the population that still smokes may recognize this stuff as the raw material from which their cigarettes are made. But in the early days of the colonies, long before the U.S. was established, this was money. It was the common money of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. It was used for all sorts of things. The legislature voted that it could be used legally to pay taxes. It was used to buy food, clothing and housing. Indeed, one of the most interesting sites was to see the husky young fellows at that time, lug 100 pounds of it down to the docks to pay the costs of the passage of the beauteous young ladies who had come over from England to be their brides.
Now you know how money is. There’s a tendency for it to grow, for more and more of it to be produced and that’s what happened with this tobacco. As more tobacco was produced, there was more money. And as always when there’s more money, prices went up. Inflation. Indeed, at the very end of the process, prices were 40 times as high in terms of tobacco as they had been at the beginning of the process. And as always when inflation occurs, people complained. And as always, the legislature tried to do something. And as always, to very little avail. They prohibited certain classes of people from growing tobacco. They tried to reduce the total amount of tobacco grown, they required people to destroy part of their tobacco. But it did no good. Finally, many people took it into their own hands and they went around destroying other people’s tobacco fields. That was too much. Then they passed a law making it a capital offense, punishable by death, to destroy somebody else’s tobacco. Grecian’s Law, one of the oldest laws in economics, was well illustrated. That law says that cheap money drives out dear money and so it was with tobacco. Anybody who had a debt to pay, of course, tried to pay it in the worst quality of tobacco he had. He saved the good tobacco to sell overseas for hard money. The result was that bad money drove out good money.
Finally, almost a century after they had started using tobacco as money, they established warehouses in which tobacco was deposited in barrels, certified by an inspector according to his views as to it’s quality and quantity. And they issued warehouse certificates which people gave from one to another to pay for the bills that they accumulated.
These pieces of green printed paper are today’s counterparts of those tobacco certificates. Except that they bear no relation to any commodity. In this program I want to take you to Britain to see how inflation weakens the social fabric of society. Then to Tokyo, where the Japanese have the courage to cure inflation. To Berlin, where there is a lesson to be learned from the West Germans and how so called cures are often worse than the disease. And to Washington where our government keeps these machines working overtime. And I am going to show you how inflation can be cured.
The fact is that most people enjoy the early stages of the inflationary process. Britain, in the swinging 60’s, there was plenty of money around, business was brisk, jobs were plentiful and prices had not yet taken off. Everybody seemed happy at first. But by the early 70’s, as the good times rolled along, prices started to rise more and more rapidly. Soon, some of these people are going to lose their jobs. The party was coming to an end.
The story is much the same in the U.S. Only the process started a little later. We’ve had one inflationary party after another. Yet we still can’t seem to avoid them. How come?
Before every election our representatives would like to make us think we are getting a tax break. When they are able to do it, while at the same time actually raising our taxes because of a bit of magic they have in their kit bag. That magic is inflation. They reduced the tax rates but the taxes we have to pay go up because we are automatically shoved into higher brackets by the effective inflation. A neat trick. Taxation without representation.
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Pt 2 Many a political leader has been tempted to turn to wage and price controls despite their repeated failure in practice. On this subject they never seem to learn. But some lessons may be learned. That happened to British P
Bob Crawford: The more I work, it seems like the more they take off me. I know if I work an extra day or two extra days, what they take in federal income tax alone is almost doubled because apparently it puts you in a higher income tax bracket and it takes more off you.
Friedman: Bob Crawford lives with his wife and three children in a suburb of Pittsburgh. They’re a fairly average American family.
Mrs. Crawford: Don’t slam the door Daphne. Okay. Alright. What are you doing? Making your favorite dish.
Friedman: We went to the Crawford’s home after he had spent a couple of days working out his federal and state income taxes for the year. For our benefit, he tried to estimate all the other taxes he had paid as well. In the end, though, he didn’t discover much that would surprise anybody.
Bob Crawford: Inflation is going up, everything is getting more expensive. No matter what you do, as soon as you walk out of the house, everything went up. Your gas bills keep going up, electric bills, your gasoline, you can name a thousand things that are going up. Everything is going sky high. Your food. My wife goes to the grocery store. We used to live on say, $60 or $50 every two weeks just for our basic food. Now it’s $80 or $90 every two weeks. Things are just going out of sight as far as expense to live on. Like I say it’s getting tough. It seems like every month it gets worse and worse. And I don’t know where it’s going to end. At the end of the day that I spend nearly $6,000 of my earnings on taxes. That leaves me with a total of $12,000 to live on. It might seem like a lot of money, but five, six years ago I was earning $12,000.
Friedman: How does taxation without representation really effect how much the Crawford family has left to spend after it’s paid its income taxes. Well in 1972 Bob Crawford earned $12,000. Some of that income was not subject to income tax. After paying income tax on the rest he had this much left to spend. Six years later he was earning $18,000 a year. By 1978 the amount free from tax was larger. But he was now in a higher tax bracket so his taxes went up by a larger percentage than his income. However, those dollars weren’t worth anything like as much. Even his wages, let alone his income after taxes, hadn’t kept up with inflation. His buying power was lower than before. That is taxation without representation in practice.
Unnamed Individual: We have with us today you brothers that are sitting here today that were with us on that committee and I’d like to tell you….
Friedman: There are many traditional scapegoats blamed for inflation. How often have you heard inflation blamed on labor unions for pushing up wages. Workers, of course, don’t agree.
Unnamed Individual: But fellows this is not true. This is subterfuge. This is a myth. Your wage rates are not creating inflation.
Friedman: And he’s right. Higher wages are mostly a result of inflation rather than a cause of it. Indeed, the impression that unions cause inflation arises partly because union wages are slow to react to inflation and then there is pressure to catch up.
Worker: On a day to day basis, try to represent our own numbers. But that in fact is not the case. Not only can we not play catch up, we can’t even maintain a wage rate commensurate with the cost of living that’s gone up in this country.
Friedman: Another scapegoat for inflation is the cost of goods coming from abroad. Inflation, we’re told, is imported. Higher prices abroad driving up prices at home. It’s another way government can blame someone else for inflation. But this argument, too, is wrong. The prices of imports and the countries from which they come are not in terms of dollars, they are in terms of lira or yen or other foreign currencies. What happens to their prices in dollars depends on exchange rates which in turn reflect inflation in the United States.
Since 1973 some governments have had a field day blaming the Arabs for inflation. But if high oil prices were the cause of inflation, how is it that inflation has been less here in Germany, a country that must import every drop of oil and gas that it uses on the roads and in industry, then for example it is in the U.S. which produces half of its own oil. Japan has no oil of its own at all. Yet at the very time the Arabs were quadrupling oil prices, the Japanese people were bringing inflation down from 30 to less than 5% a year. The fallacy is to confuse particular prices like the price of oil, with prices in general. Back at home, President Nixon understood this.
Nixon: “Now here’s what I will not do. I will not take this nation down the road of wage and price controls however politically expedient that may seem. The pros of rationing may seem like an easy way out, but they are really an easy way in for more trouble. To the explosion that follows when you try to clamp a lid on a rising head of steam without turning down the fire under the pot, wage and price controls only postpone the day of reckoning. And in so doing, they rob every American of a very important part of his freedom.
Friedman: Now listen to this:
Nixon: “The time has come for decisive action. Action that will break the vicious circle of spiraling prices and costs. I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States for a period of 90 days. In addition, I call upon corporations to extend the wage price freeze to all dividends.”
Friedman: Many a political leader has been tempted to turn to wage and price controls despite their repeated failure in practice. On this subject they never seem to learn. But some lessons may be learned. That happened to British Prime Minister James Callahan who finally discovered that a very different economic myth was wrong. He told the Labor Party Conference about it in 1976.
James Callahan: “We used to think that you could use, spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candor that option no longer exists. It only works on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. That’s the history of the last 20 years.”
Friedman: Well, it’s one thing to say it. One reason why inflation does so much harm is because it effects different groups differently. Some benefit and of course they attribute that to their own cleverness. Some are hurt, but of course they attribute that to the evil actions of other people. And the whole problem is made far worse by the false cures which government adopts, particularly wage and price control.
The garbage collectors in London felt justifiably aggrieved because their wages had not been permitted to keep pace with the cost of living. They struck, hurting not the people who impose the controls, but their friends and neighbors who had to live with mounting piles of rat infested garbage. Hospital attendants felt justifiably aggrieved because their wages had not been permitted to keep up with the cost of living. They struck, hurting not the people who impose the controls, but cancer patients who were turned out of hospital beds. The attendants behaved as a group in a way they never would have behaved as individuals. One group is set against another group. The social fabric of society is torn apart inflicting scars that it will take decades to heal and all to no avail because wage and price controls, far from being a cure for inflation, only make inflation worse.
Within the memory of most of our political leaders, there’s one vivid example of how economic ruin can be magnified by controls. And the classic demonstration of what to do when it happens.
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(Wage and Price Controls don’t work)

Inflation is just like alcoholism. In both cases when you start drinking or when you start printing too much money, the good effects come first. The bad effects only come later.
That’s why in both cases there is a strong temptation to overdo it. To drink too much and to print too much money. When it comes to the cure, it’s the other way around. When you stop drinking or when you stop printing money, the bad effects come first and the good effects only come later.
Pt 3
Germany, 1945, a devastated country. A nation defeated in war. The new governing body was the Allied Control Commission, representing the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. They imposed strict controls on practically every aspect of life including wages and prices. Along with the effects of war, the results were tragic. The basic economic order of the country began to collapse. Money lost its value. People reverted to primitive barter where they used cameras, fountain pens, cigarettes, whiskey as money. That was less than 40 years ago.
This is Germany as we know it today. Transformed into a place a lot of people would like to live in. How did they achieve their miraculous recovery? What did they know that we don’t know?
Early one Sunday morning, it was June 20, 1948, the German Minister of Economics, Ludwig Earhardt, a professional economist, simultaneously introduced a new currency, today’s Deutsche Mark, and in one fell swoop, abolished almost all controls on prices and wages. Why did he do it on a Sunday morning? It wasn’t as you might suppose because the Stock Markets were closed on that day, it was, as he loved to confess, because the offices of the American, the British, and the French occupation authorities were closed that day. He was sure that if he had done it when they open they would have countermanded the order. It worked like a charm. Within days, the shops were full of goods. Within months, the German economy was humming along at full steam. Economists weren’t surprised at the results, after all, that’s what a price system is for. But to the rest of the world it seemed an economic miracle that a defeated and devastated country could in little more than a decade become the strongest economy on the continent of Europe.
In a sense this city, West Berlin, is something of a unique economic test tube. Set as it is deep in Communist East Germany. Two fundamentally different economic systems collide here in Europe. Ours and theirs, separated by political philosophies, definitions of freedom and a steel and concrete wall.
To digress from inflation, economic freedom does not stand alone. It is part of a wider order. I wanted to show you how much difference it makes by letting you see how the people live on the other side of that Berlin Wall. But the East German authorities wouldn’t let us. The people over there speak the same language as the people over here. They have the same culture. They have the same for bearers. They are the same people. Yet you don’t need me to tell you how differently they live. There is one simple explanation. The political system over there cannot tolerate economic freedom. The political system over here could not exist without it.
But political freedom cannot be preserved unless inflation is kept in bounds. That’s the responsibility of government which has a monopoly over places like this. The reason we have inflation in the United States or for that matter anywhere in the world is because these pieces of paper and the accompanying book entry or their counterparts in other nations are growing more rapidly than the quantity of goods and services produced. The truth is inflation is made in one place and in one place only. Here in Washington. This is the only place were there are presses like this that turn out these pieces of paper we call money. This is the place where the power resides to determine how rapidly the amount of money shall increase.
What happened to all that noise? That’s what would happen to inflation if we stop letting the amount of money grow so rapidly. This is not a new idea. It’s not a new cure. It’s not a new problem. It’s happened over and over again in history. Sometimes inflation has been cured this way on purpose. Sometimes it’s happened by accident. During the Civil War the North, late in the Civil War, overran the place in the South where the printing presses were sitting up, where the pieces of paper were being turned out. Prior to that point, the South had a very rapid inflation. If my memory serves me right, something like 4% a month. It took the Confederacy something over two weeks to find a new place where they could set up their printing presses and start them going again. During that two week period, inflation came to a halt. After the two week period, when the presses started running again, inflation started up again. It’s that clear, that straightforward. More recently, there’s another dramatic example of the only effective way to deal with rampant inflation.
In 1973, Japanese housewives going to market were faced with an unpleasant fact. The cash in their purses seemed to be losing its value. Prices were starting to sore as the awful story of inflation began to unfold once again. The Japanese government knew what to do. What’s more, they were prepared to do it. When it was all over, economists were able to record precisely what had happened. In 1971 the quantity of money started to grow more rapidly. As always happens, inflation wasn’t affected for a time. But by late 1972 it started to respond. In early 73 the government reacted. It started to cut monetary growth. But inflation continued to soar for a time. The delayed reaction made 1973 a very tough year of recession. Inflation tumbled only when the government demonstrated its determination to keep monetary growth in check. It took five years to squeeze inflation out of the system. Japan attained relative stability. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid the difficult road the Japanese had to follow before they could have both low inflation and a healthy economy. First they had to live through a recession until slow monetary growth had its delayed effect on inflation.
Inflation is just like alcoholism. In both cases when you start drinking or when you start printing too much money, the good effects come first. The bad effects only come later.
That’s why in both cases there is a strong temptation to overdo it. To drink too much and to print too much money. When it comes to the cure, it’s the other way around. When you stop drinking or when you stop printing money, the bad effects come first and the good effects only come later. That’s why it’s so hard to persist with the cure. In the United States, four times in the 20 years after 1957, we undertook the cure. But each time we lacked the will to continue. As a result, we had all the bad effects and none of the good effects. Japan on the other hand, by sticking to a policy of slowing down the printing presses for five years, was by 1978 able to reap all the benefits, low inflation and a recovering economy. But there is nothing special about Japan. Every country that has had the courage to persist in a policy of slow monetary growth has been able to cure inflation and at the same time achieve a healthy economy.
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Pt 4
The job of the Federal Reserve is not to run government spending; it’s not to run government taxation. The job of the Federal Reserve is to control the money supply and I believe, frankly, I have always believed as you know, that these are excuses and not reasons for the performance.
DISCUSSION
Participants: Robert McKenzie, Moderator; Milton Friedman; Congressman Clarence J. Brown; William M. Martin, Chairman of Federal Reserve 1951_1970; Beryl W. Sprinkel, Executive Vice President, Harris Bank, Chicago; Otmar Emminger, President, Ieutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt West Germany
MCKENZIE: And here at the Harper Library of the University of Chicago, our distinguished guests have their own ideas, too. So, lets join them now.
BROWN: If you could control the money supply, you can certainly cut back or control the rate of inflation. I’d have to say that that prescription is a little bit easier to write than it is to fill. I think there are some other ways to do it and I would relate the money supply __ I think inflation is a measure of the relationship between money and the goods and services that money is meant to cover. And so if you can stimulate the goods, the production of goods and services, it’s helpful. It’s a little tougher to control the money supply, although I think it can be done, than just saying that you should control it, because we’ve got the growth of credit cards, which is a form of money; created, in effect, by the free enterprise system. It isn’t all just printed in Washington, but that may sound too defensive. I think he was right in saying that the inflation is Washington based.
MCKENZIE: Mr. Martin, nobody has been in the firing line longer than you, 17 years head of the Fed. Could you briefly comment on that and we’ll go around the group.
MARTIN: I want to say 19 years.
(Laughter)
MARTIN: I wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for Milton Friedman, today. He came down and gave us advice from time to time.
FRIEDMAN: You’ve never taken it.
(Laughter)
MCKENZIE: He’s going to do some interviewing later, I warn you.
MARTIN: And I’m rather glad we didn’t take it __
(Laughter)
MARTIN: __ all the time.
SPRINKEL: In your 19 years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bill, the average growth in the money supply was 3.1 percent per year. The inflation rate was 2.2 percent. Since you left, the money supply has exactly doubled. The inflation rate is average over 7 percent, and, of course, in recent times the money supply has been growing in double-digit territory as has our inflation rate.
EMMINGER: May I, first of all, confirm two facts which have been so vividly brought out in the film of Professor Friedman; namely, that at the basis of the relatively good performance of Western Germany were really two events. One, the establishment of a new sound money which we try to preserve sound afterwards. And, secondly, the jump overnight into a free market economy without any controls over prices and wages. These are the two fundamental facts. We have tried to preserve monetary stability by just trying to follow this prescription of Professor Friedman; namely, monetary discipline. Keeping monetary growth relatively moderate. I must, however, warn you it’s not so easy as it looks. If you just say, governments have to have the courage to persist in that course.
FRIEDMAN: Nobody does disagree with the proposition that excessive growth in money supply is an essential element in the inflationary process and that the real problem is not what to do, but how to have the courage and the will to do it. And I want to go and start, if I may, on that subject; because I think that’s what we ought to explore. Why is it we haven’t had the courage and don’t, and under what circumstances will we? And I want to start with Bill Martin because his experience is a very interesting experience. His 19 years was divided into different periods. In the first period, that average that Beryl Sprinkel spoke about, averaged two very different periods. An early period of very slow growth and slow inflation; a later period of what at the time was regarded as creeping inflation __ now we’d be delighted to get back to it. People don’t remember that at the time that Mr. Nixon introduced price and wage controls in 1971 to control an outrageous inflation, the rate of inflation was four-and-a-half percent per year. Today we’d regard that as a major achievement; but the part of the period when you were Chairman, was a period when the inflation rate was starting to creep up and money growth rate was also creeping up. Now if I go from your period, you were eloquent in your statements to the public, to the press, to everyone, about the evils of inflation, and about the determination on the Federal Reserve not to be the architect of inflation. Your successor, Arthur Burns, was just as eloquent. Made exactly the same kinds of statements as effectively, and again over and over again said the Federal Reserve will not be the architect of inflation. His successor, Mr. G. William Miller, made the same speeches, and the same statements, and the same protestations. His successor, Paul Volcker, he is making the same statements. Now my question to you is: Why is it that there has been such a striking difference between the excellent pronouncements of all Chairmen of the Fed, therefore it’s not personal on you. You have a lot of company, unfortunately for the country. Why is it that there has been such a wide diversion between the excellent pronouncements on the one hand and what I regard as a very poor performance on the other?
MARTIN: Because monetary policy is not the only element. Fiscal policy is equally important.
FRIEDMAN: You’re shifting the buck to the Treasury.
MARTIN: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: To the Congress. We’ll get to Mr. Brown, don’t worry.
MARTIN: Yeah, that’s right.
(Laughter)
MARTIN: The relationship of fiscal policy to monetary policy is one of the important things.
MCKENZIE: Would you remind us, the general audience, when you say “fiscal policy”, what you mean in distinction to “monetary policy”?
MARTIN: Well, taxation.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
MARTIN: The raising revenue.
FRIEDMAN: And spending.
MARTIN: And spending.
FRIEDMAN: And deficits.
MARTIN: And deficits, yes, exactly. And I think that you have to realize that when I’ve talked for a long time about the independence of the Federal Reserve. That’s independence within the government, not independence of the government. And I’ve worked consistently with the Treasury to try to see that the government is financed. Now this gets back to spending. The government says they’re gonna spend a certain amount, and then it turns out they don’t spend that amount. It doubles.
FRIEDMAN: The job of the Federal Reserve is not to run government spending; it’s not to run government taxation. The job of the Federal Reserve is to control the money supply and I believe, frankly, I have always believed as you know, that these are excuses and not reasons for the performance.
MARTIN: Well that’s where you and I differ, because I think we would be irresponsible if we didn’t take into account the needs and what the government is saying and doing. I think if we just went on our own, irresponsibly, I say it on this, because I was in the Treasury before I came to this __
FRIEDMAN: I know. I know.
MARTIN: __ go to the Fed; and I know the other side of the picture. I think we’d be rightly condemned by the American people and by the electorate.
FRIEDMAN: Every central bank in this world, including the German Central Bank, including the Federal Reserve System, has the technical capacity to make the money supply do over a period of two or three or four months, not daily, but over a period, has the technical capacity to control it.
(Several people talking at once.)
FRIEDMAN: I cannot explain the kind of excessive money creation that has occurred, in terms of the technical incapacity of the Federal Reserve System or of the German Central Bank, or of the Bank of England, or any other central bank in the world.
EMMINGER: I wouldn’t say technically we are incapable of doing that, although we have never succeeded in controlling the money supply month that way. But I would say we can, technically, control it half yearly, from one half-year period to the next and that would be sufficient __
FRIEDMAN: That would be sufficient.
EMMINGER: __ for controlling inflation. But however I __
VOICE OFF SCREEN: It doesn’t move.
FRIEDMAN: I’m an economic scientist, and I’m trying to observe phenomena, and I observe that every Federal Reserve Chairman says one thing and does another. I don’t mean he does, the system does.
MCKENZIE: Yeah. How different is your setup in Germany? You’ve heard this problem of governments getting committed to spending and the Fed having, one way or the other, to accommodate itself to it. Now what’s your position on this very interesting problem?
EMMINGER: We are very independent of the government, from the government, but, on the other hand, we are an advisor of the government. Also on the budget deficits and they would not easily go before Parliament with a deficit which much of it is openly criticized and disapproved by the same bank. Why because we have a tradition in our country that we can also publicly criticize the government on his account. And second, as if happened in our case too, the government goes beyond what is tolerable for the sake of moral equilibrium. We have let it come through in the capital markets. That is to say they have enough interest rates that has drawn public criticism and that has had some effect on their attitude.
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Pt 5
 I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN:
FRIEDMAN: I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN: Well, first I think we have to make one point. I’m not so much with the government as I am against it.
FRIEDMAN: I understand.
BROWN: As you know, I’m a minority member of Congress.
FRIEDMAN: Again, I’m not __ I’m not directing this at you personally.
BROWN: I understand, of course; and while the administrations, as you’ve mentioned, Republican and Democratic administrations, have both been responsible for increases in spending, at least in terms of their recommendations. It is the Congress and only the Congress that appropriates the funds and determines what the taxes are. The President has no authority to do that and so one must lay it at the feet of the U.S. Congress. Now, I guess we’d have to concede that it’s a little bit more fun to give away things than it is to withhold them. And this is the reason that the Congress responds to a general public that says, “I want you to cut everybody else’s program but the one in which I am most particularly interested. Save money, but incidentally, my wife is taking care of the orphanages and so lets try to help the orphanages,” or whatever it is. Let me try to make a point, if I can, however, on what I think is a new spirit moving within the Congress and that is that inflation, as a national affliction, is beginning to have an impact on the political psychology of many Americans. Now the Germans, the Japanese and others have had this terrific postwar inflation. The Germans have been through it twice, after World War I and World War II, and it’s a part of their national psyche. But we are affected in this country by the depression. Our whole tax structure is built on the depression. The idea of the tax structure in the past has been to get the money out of the mattress where it went after the banks failed in this country and jobs were lost, and out of the woodshed or the tin box in the back yard, get it out of there and put it into circulation. Get it moving, get things going. And one of the ways to do that was to encourage inflation. Because if you held on to it, the money would depreciate; and the other way was to tax it away from people and let the government spend it. Now there’s a reaction to that and people are beginning to say, “Wait just a minute. We’re not afflicted as much as we were by depression. We’re now afflicted by inflation, and we’d like for you to get it under control.” Now you can do that in another way and that without reducing the money supply radically. I think the Joint Economic Committee has recommended that we do it gradually. But the way that you can do it is to reduce taxes and the impact of government, that is the weight of government and increase private savings so that the private savings can finance some of the debt that you have.
FRIEDMAN: There is no way you can do it without reducing, in my opinion, the rate of monetary growth. And I, recognizing the facts, even though they ought not to be that way, I wonder whether you can reduce the rate of monetary growth unless Congress actually does reduce government spending as well as government taxes.
BROWN: The problem is that every time we use demand management, we get into a kind of an iron maiden kind of situation. We twist this way and one of the spikes grabs us here, so we twist that way and a spike over here gets us. And every recession has had higher basic unemployment rates than the previous recession in the last several years and every inflation has had higher inflation. We’ve got to get that tilt out of the society.
MCKENZIE: Wouldn’t it be fair to say, though, that a fundamental difference is the Germans are more deeply fearful of a return to inflation, having had the horrifying experience between the wars, especially. We tend to be more afraid of recession turning into depression.
EMMINGER: I think there is something in it and in particular in Germany the government would have to fear very much in their electoral prospects if they went into such an election period with a high inflation rate. But there is another important difference.
MARTIN: We fear unemployment more than inflation it seems.
EMMINGER: You fear unemployment, but unemployment is feared with us, too, but inflation is just as much feared. But there is another difference; namely, once you have got into that escalating inflation, every time the base, the plateau is higher, it’s extremely difficult to get out of it. You must avoid getting into that, now that’s very cheap advice from me because you are now.
(Laughing)
EMMINGER: But we had, for the last fifteen, twenty years, always studied foreign experiences, and told ourselves we never must get into this vicious circle. Once you are in, it takes a long time to get out of it. That is what I am preaching now, that we should avoid at all costs to get again into this vicious circle as we had it already in ’73_’74. It took us, also, four years to get out of it, although we were only at eight percent inflation. Four years to get down to three percent. So you __
MCKENZIE: Those were __ yes.
EMMINGER: You have, I think, the question of whether you can do if in a gradualist way over many, many years, or whether you don’t need a sort of shock treatment.
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her we go into a period of still higher unemployment later on and have it to do all over again. That’s the only choice we face. And when the public at large recognizes that, they will then elect people to Congress, and a President to office who is committed to less government spending and to less government printing of money and until that happens we will not cure inflation
Pt 6
SPRINKEL: The film said it took the Japanese _ what _ four years?
FRIEDMAN: Five years.
SPRINKEL: Five years. But one of my greatest concerns is that we haven’t suffered enough yet. Most of the nations that have finally got their inflations __
BROWN: Bad election speech.
SPRINKEL: __ well, I’m not running for office, Clarence.
(Laughter)
SPRINKEL: Most countries that finally got their inflation under control had 20, 30 percent or worse inflation. Germany had much worse and the public supports them. We live in a Democracy, and we’re getting constituencies that gain from inflation. You look at people that own real estate, they’ve done very well.
MCKENZIE: Yes.
SPRINKEL: And how can we get there without going through even more pain, and I doubt that we will.
FRIEDMAN: If you ask who are the constituencies that have benefited most from inflation there are no doubt, it is the homeowners.
SPRINKEL: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: But it’s also the __ it’s also the Congressmen who have been able to vote higher spending without having to vote higher taxes. They have in fact __
BROWN: That’s right.
FRIEDMAN: __ Congress has in fact voted for inflation. But you have never had a Congressman on record to that effect. It’s the government civil servants who have their own salaries are indexed and tied to inflation. They have a retirement benefit, a retirement pension that’s tied to inflation. They qualify, a large fraction of them, for Social Security as well, which is tied to inflation. So that the beneficial __
BROWN: Labor contracts that are indexed and many pricing things that are tied to it.
FRIEDMAN: But the one thing that isn’t tied to inflation and here I want to come back and ask why Congress has been so __ so bad in this area, is our taxes. It has been impossible to get Congress to index the tax system so that you don’t have the present effect where every one percent increase in inflation pushes people up into higher brackets and forces them to pay higher taxes.
BROWN: Well, as you know, I’m an advocate of that.
FRIEDMAN: I know you are.
MCKENZIE: Some countries do that, of course.
FRIEDMAN: Oh, of course.
MCKENZIE: Canada does that. Indexes the __
BROWN: And I went up to Canada on a little weekend seminar program on indexing and came back an advocate of indexing because I found out that the people who are delighted with indexing are the taxpayers.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
BROWN: Because as the inflation rate goes up their tax level either maintains at the same level or goes down. The people who are least __ well, the people who are very unhappy with it are the people who have to plan government spending because it is reducing the amount of money that the government has rather than watching it go up by ten or twelve billion. You get a little dividend to spend in this country, the bureaucrats do every year, but the politicians are unhappy with it too, as Dr. Friedman points out because, you see, politicians don’t get to vote a tax reduction, it happens automatically.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
BROWN: And so you can’t go back and in a praiseworthy way tell your constituents that I am for you, I voted a tax reduction. And I think we ought to be able to index the tax system so that tax reduction is automatic, rather than have what we’ve had in the past, and that is an automatic increase in the taxes. And the politicians say, “Well, we’re sorry about inflation, but __”.
FRIEDMAN: You’re right and I want to __ I want to go and make a very different point. I sit here and berate you and you as government officials, and so on, but I understand very well that the real culprits are not the politicians, are not the central bankers, but it’s I and my fellow citizens. I always say to people when I talk about this, “If you want to know who’s responsible for inflation, look in the mirror.” It’s not because of the way you spend you money. Inflation doesn’t arise because you got consumers who are spendthrifts; they’ve always been spendthrifts. It doesn’t arise because you’ve got businessmen who are greedy. They’ve always been greedy. Inflation arises because we as citizens have been asking you as politicians to perform an impossible task. We’ve been asking you to spend somebody else’s money on us, but not to spend our money on anybody else.
BROWN: You don’t want us to cut back those dollars for education, right?
FRIEDMAN: Right. And, therefore, __ well, no, I do.
MCKENZIE: We’ve already had a program on that.
FRIEDMAN: We’ve already had a program on that and there’s no viewer of these programs who will be in any doubt about my position on that. But the public at large has not and this is where we come to the political will that Dr. Emminger quite properly talked about. It is __ everybody talks against inflation, but what he means is that he wants the prices of the things he sells to go up and the prices of the things he buys to go down. But, sooner or later, we come to the point where it will be politically profitable to end inflation. This is the point that __
SPRINKEL: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: __ I think you were making.
SPRINKEL: The suffering idea.
FRIEDMAN: Where do you think the __ you know, what do you think the rate of inflation has to be and judged by the experience of other countries before we will be in that position and when do you think that will happen?
SPRINKEL: Well, the evidence says it’s got to be over 20 percent. Now you would think we could learn from others rather than have to repeat mistakes.
FRIEDMAN: Apparently nobody can learn from history.
SPRINKEL: But at the present time we’re going toward higher and not lower inflation.
MCKENZIE: You said earlier, if you want to see who causes inflation look in the mirror.
FRIEDMAN: Right.
MCKENZIE: Now, for everybody watching and taking part in this, there must be some moral to that. What does need __ what has to be the change of attitude of the man in the mirror you’re looking at before we can effectively implement what you call a tough policy that takes courage?
FRIEDMAN: I think that the man in the mirror has to come to recognize that inflation is the most destructive disease known to modern society. There is nothing which will destroy a society so thoroughly and so fully as letting inflation run riot. He must come to recognize that he doesn’t have any good choices. That there are no easy answers. That once you get in this situation where the economy is sick of this insidious disease, there’s gonna be no miracle drug which will enable them to be well tomorrow. That the only choices he has, do I go through a tough period for four or five years of relatively high unemployment, relatively low growth or do I try to push it off by taking some more of the hair of the dog that bit me and get around it now at the cost of still higher unemployment, as Clarence Brown said, later on. The only choice this country faces, is whether we have temporary unemployment for a short period, as a side effect of curling inflation or whether we go into a period of still higher unemployment later on and have it to do all over again. That’s the only choice we face. And when the public at large recognizes that, they will then elect people to Congress, and a President to office who is committed to less government spending and to less government printing of money and until that happens we will not cure inflation.
____________________________________
FRIEDMAN: And therefore the crucial thing is to cut down total government spending from the point of view of inflation. From the point of view of productivity, some of the other measures you were talking about are far more important.
BROWN
Pt 7
BROWN: But, Dr. Friedman, let me __
(Applause)
BROWN: Let me differ with you to this extent. I think it is important that at the time you are trying to get inflation out of the economy that you also give the man in the street, the common man, the opportunity to have a little bit more of his own resources to spend. And if you can reduce his taxes at that time and then reduce government in that process, you give him his money to spend rather than having to yield up all that money to government. If you cut his taxes in a way to encourage it, to putting that money into savings, you can encourage the additional savings in a private sense to finance the debt that you have to carry, and you can also encourage the stimulation of growth in the society, that is the investment into the capital improvements of modernization of plant, make the U.S. more competitive with other countries. And we can try to do it without as much painful unemployment as we can get by with. Don’t you think that has some merit?
FRIEDMAN: The only way __ I am all in favor, as you know, of cutting government spending. I am all in favor of getting rid of the counterproductive government regulation that reduces productivity and disrupts investment. But __
BROWN: And we do that, we can cut taxes some, can we not?
FRIEDMAN: We should __ taxes __ but you are introducing a confusion that has confused the American people. And that is the confusion between spending and taxes. The real tax on the American people is not what you label taxes. It’s total spending. If Congress spends fifty billion dollars more than it takes in, if government spends fifty billion dollars, who do you suppose pays that fifty billion dollars?
BROWN: Of course, of course.
FRIEDMAN: The Arab Sheiks aren’t paying it. Santa Claus isn’t paying it. The Tooth Fairy isn’t paying it. You and I as taxpayers are paying it indirectly through hidden taxation.
MCKENZIE: Your view __
FRIEDMAN: And therefore the crucial thing is to cut down total government spending from the point of view of inflation. From the point of view of productivity, some of the other measures you were talking about are far more important.
BROWN: But if you concede that inflation and taxes are both part and parcel of the same thing, and if you cut spending __
FRIEDMAN: They’re not part and parcel of the same thing.
BROWN: If you cut spending you __ well, but, you take the money from them in one way or another. The average citizen.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
BROWN: To finance the growth of government.
FRIEDMAN: That’s right.
BROWN: So if you cut back the size of government, you can cut both their inflation and their taxes.
FRIEDMAN: That’s right.
BROWN: If you __
FRIEDMAN: I am all in favor of that.
BROWN: All right.
FRIEDMAN: All I am saying is don’t kid yourself into thinking that there is some painless way to do it. There just is not.
BROWN: One other way is productivity. If you can __ if you can increase production, then the impact of inflation is less because you have more goods chasing __
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely, but you have to have a sense of proportion. From the point of view of the real income of the American people, nothing is more important than increasing productivity. But from the point of view of inflation, it’s a bit actor. It would be a miracle if we could raise our productivity from three to five percent a year, that would reduce inflation by two percent.
BROWN: No question, it won’t happen overnight, but it’s part of the __ it’s part of a long range squeezing out of inflation.
FRIEDMAN: There is only one way to ease the __ in my opinion there is only one way to ease the pains of curing inflation and that way is not available. That way is to make it credible to the American people that you are really going to follow the policy you say you’re going to follow. Unfortunately I don’t see any way we can do that.
(Several people talking at once.)
EMMINGER: Professor Friedman, that’s exactly the point which I wanted to illustrate by our own experience. We also had to squeeze out inflation and there was a painful time of one-and-a-half years, but after that we had a continuous lowering of the inflation rate with a slow upward movement in the economy since 1975. Year by year inflation went down and we had a moderate growth rate which has led us now to full employment.
FRIEDMAN: That’s what __
EMMINGER: So you can shorten this period by just this credibility and by a consensus you must have, also with the trade unions, with the whole population that they acknowledge that policy and also play their part in it. Then the pains will be much less.
SPRINKEL: You see in our case, expectations are that inflation’s going to get worse because it always has. This means we must disappoint in a very painful way those expectations and it’s likely to take longer, at least the first time around. Now our real problem has not been that we haven’t tried. We have tried and brought inflation down. Our real problem was, we didn’t stick to it. And then you have it all to do over.
BROWN: Well I would __ I would concede that psychology plays a great, perhaps even the major part, but I do believe that if you have private savings stimulated by your tax system, rather than discouraged by your tax system, you can finance some of that public debt by private savings rather than by inflation and the result will be to ease to some degree the paint of that heavy unemployment that you seem to suggest is the only way to deal with the problem.
FRIEDMAN: The talk is fine, but the problem is that it’s used to evade the key issue: How do you make it credible to the public that you are really going to stick to a policy? Four times we’ve tried it and four times we’ve stopped before we’ve run the course.
(Several people talking at once.)
MCKENZIE: There we leave the matter for tonight, and next week’s concluding program in this series is not to be missed.
(Applause)
From Harper Library, goodbye.

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US Inflation Rate by Year from 1929 to 2023

How Bad Is Inflation? Past, Present, Future

 

U.S. & WORLD ECONOMIES
US ECONOMY

US Inflation Rate by Year from 1929 to 2023

How Bad Is Inflation? Past, Present, Future

Updated February 28, 2021

<img class="i-amphtml-blurry-placeholder" src="data:;base64,boat yard during world war II

The U.S. inflation rate by year is the percentage of change in product and service prices from one year to the next, or year-over-year

 

The inflation rate responds to each phase of the business cycle. That’s the natural rise and fall of economic growth that occurs over time. The cycle corresponds to the highs and lows of a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), which measures all goods and services produced in the country.

 

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. inflation rate by year is how much prices change year-over-year.
  • Year-over-year inflation rates give a clearer picture of price changes than annual average inflation. 
  • The Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to achieve its target rate of 2% inflation.
  • Inflation has been stable over the last couple of years thanks to better policy decisions and managing inflation expectations.

Business Cycle: Expansion and Peak

The business cycle runs in four phases. The first phase is the expansion phase. This is when economic growth is positive, with a healthy 2% rate of inflation. The Federal Reserve considers this an acceptable rate of inflation.

 

On August 27, 2020, the FOMC announced it will allow a target inflation rate of more than 2% if that will help ensure maximum employment. It still seeks a 2% inflation over time but is willing to allow higher rates if inflation has been low for a while.

 

As the economy expands past a 3% rate of growth, it can create an asset bubble. That’s when the market value of an asset increases more rapidly than its underlying real value.

 

The second phase of the cycle is known as the peak. This is the time when expansion ends and contraction begins.

 
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Business Cycle Phases.

Business Cycle: Contraction and Trough

As the market resists any higher prices, a decline begins. This is the beginning of the third, or contraction, phase. The growth rate turns negative. If it lasts long enough, it can create a recession.

 

During a recession, deflation can occur. That’s a decrease in the prices of goods and services. It can often be more dangerous than inflation.

 

As the economy continues its downward trend, it reaches the lowest level possible for the circumstances. This trough is the fourth phase, where contraction ends and economic expansion begins. The rate of inflation begins to increase again, and the cycle repeats.

 

During recessions and troughs, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) uses monetary policy to control inflation, deflation, and disinflation.

 

The Effect of Monetary Policy

The Fed focuses on the core inflation rate, which excludes gas and food prices. These volatile prices change from month to month, hiding underlying inflation trends.

 

The Fed sets a target inflation rate of 2%. If the core rate rises much above that, the Fed will execute a contractionary monetary policy. It will increase the federal funds rate. This is the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight. Historically, this action reduces demand and forces prices lower.

 

The Fed can also lower the federal discount rate, which makes it cheaper to borrow money from the Fed itself. This is an attempt to increase demand and raise prices.

 

Other tools that the Fed uses are:

 
  • Reserve requirements (the amount banks hold in reserves)
  • Open market operations (buying or selling U.S. securities from member banks)
  • Reserve interest (paying interest on excess reserves)
 

U.S. Inflation Rate History and Forecast

The best way to compare inflation rates is to use the end-of-year CPI. This creates an image of a specific point in time.

 

The table below compares the inflation rate (December end-of-year) with the fed funds rate, the phase of the business cycle, and the significant events influencing inflation. A more detailed forecast is in the U.S. Economic Outlook.

 
Year Inflation Rate YOY Fed Funds Rate* Business Cycle (GDP Growth) Events Affecting Inflation
1929 0.6% NA August peak Market crash
1930 -6.4% NA Contraction (-8.5%) Smoot-Hawley
1931 -9.3% NA Contraction (-6.4%) Dust Bowl
1932 -10.3% NA Contraction (-12.9%) Hoover tax hikes
1933 0.8% NA Contraction ended in March (-1.2%) FDR’s New Deal
1934 1.5% NA Expansion (10.8%) U.S. debt rose
1935 3.0% NA Expansion (8.9%) Social Security
1936 1.4% NA Expansion (12.9%) FDR tax hikes
1937 2.9% NA Expansion peaked in May (5.1%) Depression resumes
1938 -2.8% NA Contraction ended in June (-3.3%) Depression ended
1939 0.0% NA Expansion (8.0% Dust Bowl ended
1940 0.7% NA Expansion (8.8%) Defense increased
1941 9.9% NA Expansion (17.7%) Pearl Harbor
1942 9.0% NA Expansion (18.9%) Defense spending 
1943 3.0% NA Expansion (17.0%) Defense spending
1944 2.3% NA Expansion (8.0%) Bretton Woods
1945 2.2% NA Feb. peak, Oct. trough (-1.0%) Truman ended WWII
1946 18.1% NA Expansion (-11.6%) Budget cuts
1947 8.8% NA Expansion (-1.1%) Cold War spending
1948 3.0% NA Nov. peak (4.1%)  
1949 -2.1% NA Oct trough (-0.6%) Fair Deal, NATO
1950 5.9% NA Expansion (8.7%) Korean War
1951 6.0% NA Expansion (8.0%)  
1952 0.8% NA Expansion (4.1%)  
1953 0.7% NA July peak (4.7%) Eisenhower ended Korean War
1954 -0.7% 1.25% May trough (-0.6%) Dow returned to 1929 high
1955 0.4% 2.50% Expansion (7.1%)  
1956 3.0% 3.00% Expansion (2.1%)  
1957 2.9% 3.00% Aug. peak (2.1%) Recession
1958 1.8% 2.50% April trough (-0.7%) Recession ended
1959 1.7% 4.00% Expansion (6.9%) Fed raised rates
1960 1.4% 2.00% April peak (2.6%) Recession
1961 0.7% 2.25% Feb. trough (2.6%) JFK’s deficit spending ended recession
1962 1.3% 3.00% Expansion (6.1%)  
1963 1.6% 3.5% Expansion (4.4%)  
1964 1.0% 3.75% Expansion (5.8%) LBJ Medicare, Medicaid
1965 1.9% 4.25% Expansion (6.5%)  
1966 3.5% 5.50% Expansion (6.6%) Vietnam War
1967 3.0% 4.50% Expansion (2.7%)  
1968 4.7% 6.00% Expansion (4.9%) Moon landing
1969 6.2% 9.00% Dec. peak (3.1%) Nixon took office
1970 5.6% 5.00% Nov. trough (0.2%) Recession
1971 3.3% 5.00% Expansion (3.3%) Wage-price controls
1972 3.4% 5.75% Expansion (5.3%) Stagflation
1973 8.7% 9.00% Nov. peak (5.6%) End of gold standard
1974 12.3% 8.00% Contraction (-0.5%) Watergate
1975 6.9% 4.75% March trough (-0.2%) Stop-gap monetary policy confused businesses and kept prices high
1976 4.9% 4.75% Expansion (5.4%)  
1977 6.7% 6.50% Expansion (4.6%)  
1978 9.0% 10.00% Expansion (5.5%)  
1979 13.3% 12.00% Expansion (3.2%)  
1980 12.5% 18.00% Jan. peak (-0.3%) Recession
1981 8.9% 12.00% July trough (2.5%) Reagan tax cut
1982 3.8% 8.50% November (-1.8%) Recession ended
1983 3.8% 9.25% Expansion (4.6%) Military spending
1984 3.9% 8.25% Expansion (7.2%)  
1985 3.8% 7.75% Expansion (4.2%)  
1986 1.1% 6.00% Expansion (3.5%) Tax cut
1987 4.4% 6.75% Expansion (3.5%) Black Monday crash
1988 4.4% 9.75% Expansion (4.2%) Fed raised rates
1989 4.6% 8.25% Expansion (3.7%) S&L Crisis
1990 6.1% 7.00% July peak (1.9%) Recession
1991 3.1% 4.00% Mar trough (-0.1%) Fed lowered rates
1992 2.9% 3.00% Expansion (3.5%) NAFTA drafted
1993 2.7% 3.00% Expansion (2.8%) Balanced Budget Act
1994 2.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.0%)  
1995 2.5% 5.50% Expansion (2.7%)  
1996 3.3% 5.25% Expansion (3.8%) Welfare reform
1997 1.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.4%) Fed raised rates
1998 1.6% 4.75% Expansion (4.5%) LTCM crisis
1999 2.7% 5.50% Expansion (4.8%) Glass-Steagall repealed
2000 3.4% 6.50% Expansion (4.1%) Tech bubble burst
2001 1.6% 1.75% March peak, Nov. trough (1.0%) Bush tax cut, 9/11 attacks
2002 2.4% 1.25% Expansion (1.7%) War on Terror
2003 1.9% 1.00% Expansion (2.9%) JGTRRA
2004 3.3% 2.25% Expansion (3.8%)  
2005 3.4% 4.25% Expansion (3.5%) Katrina, Bankruptcy Act
2006 2.5% 5.25% Expansion (2.9%) Bernanke became Fed Chair
2007 4.1% 4.25% Dec peak (1.9%) Bank crisis
2008 0.1% 0.25% Contraction (-0.1%) Financial crisis
2009 2.7% 0.25% June trough (-2.5%) ARRA
2010 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (2.6%) ACA, Dodd-Frank Act
2011 3.0% 0.25% Expansion (1.6%) Debt ceiling crisis
2012 1.7% 0.25% Expansion (2.2%)  
2013 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (1.8%) Government shutdown. Sequestration
2014 0.8% 0.25% Expansion (2.5%) QE ends
2015 0.7% 0.50% Expansion (3.1%) Deflation in oil and gas prices
2016 2.1% 0.75% Expansion (1.7%)  
2017 2.1% 1.50% Expansion (2.3%) Core inflation rate 1.7%
2018 1.9% 2.50% Expansion (3.0%) Core rate 2.2%
2019 2.3% 1.75% Expansion (2.2%) Core rate 2.3%

Why the Inflation Rate Matters

The inflation rate demonstrates the health of a country’s economy. It is a measurement tool used by a country’s central bank, economists, and government officials to gauge whether action is needed to keep an economy healthy. That’s when businesses are producing, consumers are spending, and supply and demand are as close to equilibrium as possible.

 

A healthy rate of inflation is good for both consumers and businesses. During deflation, consumers hold on to their cash because the goods will be cheaper tomorrow. Businesses lose money, cutting costs by reducing pay or employment. That happened during the subprime housing crisis.

 

In galloping inflation, consumers spend now before prices rise tomorrow. That artificially increases demand. Businesses raise prices because they can, as inflation spirals out of control.

 

When inflation is steady, at around 2%, the economy is more or less as stable as it can get. Consumers are buying what businesses are selling.

 

Resources for Table

  • Historical Inflation Rate, year-over-year
  • Fed Funds Rate: Before 1971 1971–1989 1990–2002 2003–2022
  • Recession History
  • Business Cycle
  • GDP Growth Rate
  • Forecast for GDP and Inflation
Article Sources

 

 

 

 


Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE “How to cure inflation” Transcript and Video (60 Minutes)

Image result for milton friedman free to choose

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.“If we could just stop the printing presses, we would stop inflation,” Milton Friedman says in “How to Cure Inflation” from the Free To Choose series. Now as then, there is only one cause of inflation, and that is when governments print too much money. Milton explains why it is that politicians like inflation, and why wage and price controls are not solutions to the problem.

 

http://www.freetochoosemedia.org/freetochoose/detail_ftc1980_transcript.php?page=9While many people have a fairly good grasp of what inflation is, few really understand its fundamental cause. There are many popular scapegoats: labor unions, big business, spendthrift consumers, greed, and international forces. Dr. Friedman explains that the actual cause is a government that has exclusive control of the money supply. Friedman says that the solution to inflation is well known among those who have the power to stop it: simply slow down the rate at which new money is printed. But government is one of the primary beneficiaries of inflation. By inflating the currency, tax revenues rise as families are pushed into higher income tax brackets. Thus, inflation transfers wealth and resources from the private to the public sector. In short, inflation is attractive to government because it is a way of increasing taxes without having to pass new legislation to raise tax rates. Inflation is in fact taxation without representation. Wage and price controls are not the cure for inflation because they treat only the symptom (rising prices) and not the disease (monetary expansion). History records that such controls do not work; instead, they have perverse effects on both prices and economic growth and undermine the fundamental productivity of the economy. There is only one cure for inflation: slow the printing presses. But the cure produces the painful side effects of a temporary increase in unemployment and reduced economic growth. It takes considerable political courage to undergo the cure. Friedman cites the example of Japan, which successfully underwent the cure in the mid-seventies but took five years to squeeze inflation out of the system. Inflation is a social disease that has the potential for destroying a free society if it is unchecked. Prolonged inflation undermines belief in the basic equity of the free market system because it tends to destroy the link between effort and reward. And it tears the social fabric because it divides society into winners and losers and sets group against group.(Taxation without representation: Getting knocked up to higher tax brackets because of inflation pt 1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1dTWDNKH3c

 

 

Volume 9 – How to Cure Inflation

Transcript:
Friedman: The Sierra Nevada’s in California 10,000 feet above sea level, in the winter temperatures drop to 40 below zero, in the summer the place bakes in the thin mountain air. In this unlikely spot the town of Body sprang up. In its day Body was filled with prostitutes, drunkards and gamblers part of a colorful history of the American West.
A century ago, this was a town of 10,000 people. What brought them here? Gold. If this were real gold, people would be scrambling for it. The series of gold strikes throughout the West brought people from all over the world, all kinds of people. They came here for one purpose and one purpose only, to strike it rich, quick. But in the process, they built towns, cities, in places where nobody would otherwise have dreamed of building a city. Gold built these cities and when the gold was exhausted, the cities collapsed and became ghost towns. Many of the people who came here ended up the way they began, broke and unhappy. But a few struck it rich. For them, gold was real wealth. But was it for the world as a whole. People couldn’t eat the gold, they couldn’t wear the gold, they couldn’t live in houses made of gold. Because there was more gold, they had to pay a little more gold to buy goods and services. The prices of things in terms of gold went up.
At tremendous cost, at sacrifice of lives, people dug gold out of the bowels of the earth. What happened to that gold? Eventually, at long last, it was transported to distant places only to be buried again under the ground. This time in the vaults of banks throughout the world. There is hardly anything that hasn’t been used for money; rock salt in Ethiopia, brass rings in West Africa, Calgary shells in Uganda, even a toy cannon. Anything can be used as money. Crocodile money in Malaysia, absurd isn’t it?
That beleaguered minority of the population that still smokes may recognize this stuff as the raw material from which their cigarettes are made. But in the early days of the colonies, long before the U.S. was established, this was money. It was the common money of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. It was used for all sorts of things. The legislature voted that it could be used legally to pay taxes. It was used to buy food, clothing and housing. Indeed, one of the most interesting sites was to see the husky young fellows at that time, lug 100 pounds of it down to the docks to pay the costs of the passage of the beauteous young ladies who had come over from England to be their brides.
Now you know how money is. There’s a tendency for it to grow, for more and more of it to be produced and that’s what happened with this tobacco. As more tobacco was produced, there was more money. And as always when there’s more money, prices went up. Inflation. Indeed, at the very end of the process, prices were 40 times as high in terms of tobacco as they had been at the beginning of the process. And as always when inflation occurs, people complained. And as always, the legislature tried to do something. And as always, to very little avail. They prohibited certain classes of people from growing tobacco. They tried to reduce the total amount of tobacco grown, they required people to destroy part of their tobacco. But it did no good. Finally, many people took it into their own hands and they went around destroying other people’s tobacco fields. That was too much. Then they passed a law making it a capital offense, punishable by death, to destroy somebody else’s tobacco. Grecian’s Law, one of the oldest laws in economics, was well illustrated. That law says that cheap money drives out dear money and so it was with tobacco. Anybody who had a debt to pay, of course, tried to pay it in the worst quality of tobacco he had. He saved the good tobacco to sell overseas for hard money. The result was that bad money drove out good money.
Finally, almost a century after they had started using tobacco as money, they established warehouses in which tobacco was deposited in barrels, certified by an inspector according to his views as to it’s quality and quantity. And they issued warehouse certificates which people gave from one to another to pay for the bills that they accumulated.
These pieces of green printed paper are today’s counterparts of those tobacco certificates. Except that they bear no relation to any commodity. In this program I want to take you to Britain to see how inflation weakens the social fabric of society. Then to Tokyo, where the Japanese have the courage to cure inflation. To Berlin, where there is a lesson to be learned from the West Germans and how so called cures are often worse than the disease. And to Washington where our government keeps these machines working overtime. And I am going to show you how inflation can be cured.
The fact is that most people enjoy the early stages of the inflationary process. Britain, in the swinging 60’s, there was plenty of money around, business was brisk, jobs were plentiful and prices had not yet taken off. Everybody seemed happy at first. But by the early 70’s, as the good times rolled along, prices started to rise more and more rapidly. Soon, some of these people are going to lose their jobs. The party was coming to an end.
The story is much the same in the U.S. Only the process started a little later. We’ve had one inflationary party after another. Yet we still can’t seem to avoid them. How come?
Before every election our representatives would like to make us think we are getting a tax break. When they are able to do it, while at the same time actually raising our taxes because of a bit of magic they have in their kit bag. That magic is inflation. They reduced the tax rates but the taxes we have to pay go up because we are automatically shoved into higher brackets by the effective inflation. A neat trick. Taxation without representation.
 
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Pt 2 Many a political leader has been tempted to turn to wage and price controls despite their repeated failure in practice. On this subject they never seem to learn. But some lessons may be learned. That happened to British P
 
 
 
Bob Crawford: The more I work, it seems like the more they take off me. I know if I work an extra day or two extra days, what they take in federal income tax alone is almost doubled because apparently it puts you in a higher income tax bracket and it takes more off you.
Friedman: Bob Crawford lives with his wife and three children in a suburb of Pittsburgh. They’re a fairly average American family.
Mrs. Crawford: Don’t slam the door Daphne. Okay. Alright. What are you doing? Making your favorite dish.
Friedman: We went to the Crawford’s home after he had spent a couple of days working out his federal and state income taxes for the year. For our benefit, he tried to estimate all the other taxes he had paid as well. In the end, though, he didn’t discover much that would surprise anybody.
Bob Crawford: Inflation is going up, everything is getting more expensive. No matter what you do, as soon as you walk out of the house, everything went up. Your gas bills keep going up, electric bills, your gasoline, you can name a thousand things that are going up. Everything is going sky high. Your food. My wife goes to the grocery store. We used to live on say, $60 or $50 every two weeks just for our basic food. Now it’s $80 or $90 every two weeks. Things are just going out of sight as far as expense to live on. Like I say it’s getting tough. It seems like every month it gets worse and worse. And I don’t know where it’s going to end. At the end of the day that I spend nearly $6,000 of my earnings on taxes. That leaves me with a total of $12,000 to live on. It might seem like a lot of money, but five, six years ago I was earning $12,000.
Friedman: How does taxation without representation really effect how much the Crawford family has left to spend after it’s paid its income taxes. Well in 1972 Bob Crawford earned $12,000. Some of that income was not subject to income tax. After paying income tax on the rest he had this much left to spend. Six years later he was earning $18,000 a year. By 1978 the amount free from tax was larger. But he was now in a higher tax bracket so his taxes went up by a larger percentage than his income. However, those dollars weren’t worth anything like as much. Even his wages, let alone his income after taxes, hadn’t kept up with inflation. His buying power was lower than before. That is taxation without representation in practice.
Unnamed Individual: We have with us today you brothers that are sitting here today that were with us on that committee and I’d like to tell you….
Friedman: There are many traditional scapegoats blamed for inflation. How often have you heard inflation blamed on labor unions for pushing up wages. Workers, of course, don’t agree.
Unnamed Individual: But fellows this is not true. This is subterfuge. This is a myth. Your wage rates are not creating inflation.
Friedman: And he’s right. Higher wages are mostly a result of inflation rather than a cause of it. Indeed, the impression that unions cause inflation arises partly because union wages are slow to react to inflation and then there is pressure to catch up.
Worker: On a day to day basis, try to represent our own numbers. But that in fact is not the case. Not only can we not play catch up, we can’t even maintain a wage rate commensurate with the cost of living that’s gone up in this country.
Friedman: Another scapegoat for inflation is the cost of goods coming from abroad. Inflation, we’re told, is imported. Higher prices abroad driving up prices at home. It’s another way government can blame someone else for inflation. But this argument, too, is wrong. The prices of imports and the countries from which they come are not in terms of dollars, they are in terms of lira or yen or other foreign currencies. What happens to their prices in dollars depends on exchange rates which in turn reflect inflation in the United States.
Since 1973 some governments have had a field day blaming the Arabs for inflation. But if high oil prices were the cause of inflation, how is it that inflation has been less here in Germany, a country that must import every drop of oil and gas that it uses on the roads and in industry, then for example it is in the U.S. which produces half of its own oil. Japan has no oil of its own at all. Yet at the very time the Arabs were quadrupling oil prices, the Japanese people were bringing inflation down from 30 to less than 5% a year. The fallacy is to confuse particular prices like the price of oil, with prices in general. Back at home, President Nixon understood this.
Nixon: “Now here’s what I will not do. I will not take this nation down the road of wage and price controls however politically expedient that may seem. The pros of rationing may seem like an easy way out, but they are really an easy way in for more trouble. To the explosion that follows when you try to clamp a lid on a rising head of steam without turning down the fire under the pot, wage and price controls only postpone the day of reckoning. And in so doing, they rob every American of a very important part of his freedom.
Friedman: Now listen to this:
Nixon: “The time has come for decisive action. Action that will break the vicious circle of spiraling prices and costs. I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States for a period of 90 days. In addition, I call upon corporations to extend the wage price freeze to all dividends.”
Friedman: Many a political leader has been tempted to turn to wage and price controls despite their repeated failure in practice. On this subject they never seem to learn. But some lessons may be learned. That happened to British Prime Minister James Callahan who finally discovered that a very different economic myth was wrong. He told the Labor Party Conference about it in 1976.
James Callahan: “We used to think that you could use, spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candor that option no longer exists. It only works on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. That’s the history of the last 20 years.”
Friedman: Well, it’s one thing to say it. One reason why inflation does so much harm is because it effects different groups differently. Some benefit and of course they attribute that to their own cleverness. Some are hurt, but of course they attribute that to the evil actions of other people. And the whole problem is made far worse by the false cures which government adopts, particularly wage and price control.
The garbage collectors in London felt justifiably aggrieved because their wages had not been permitted to keep pace with the cost of living. They struck, hurting not the people who impose the controls, but their friends and neighbors who had to live with mounting piles of rat infested garbage. Hospital attendants felt justifiably aggrieved because their wages had not been permitted to keep up with the cost of living. They struck, hurting not the people who impose the controls, but cancer patients who were turned out of hospital beds. The attendants behaved as a group in a way they never would have behaved as individuals. One group is set against another group. The social fabric of society is torn apart inflicting scars that it will take decades to heal and all to no avail because wage and price controls, far from being a cure for inflation, only make inflation worse.
Within the memory of most of our political leaders, there’s one vivid example of how economic ruin can be magnified by controls. And the classic demonstration of what to do when it happens.
 
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(Wage and Price Controls don’t work)

Inflation is just like alcoholism. In both cases when you start drinking or when you start printing too much money, the good effects come first. The bad effects only come later.
That’s why in both cases there is a strong temptation to overdo it. To drink too much and to print too much money. When it comes to the cure, it’s the other way around. When you stop drinking or when you stop printing money, the bad effects come first and the good effects only come later.
 
Pt 3
 
 
Germany, 1945, a devastated country. A nation defeated in war. The new governing body was the Allied Control Commission, representing the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. They imposed strict controls on practically every aspect of life including wages and prices. Along with the effects of war, the results were tragic. The basic economic order of the country began to collapse. Money lost its value. People reverted to primitive barter where they used cameras, fountain pens, cigarettes, whiskey as money. That was less than 40 years ago.
This is Germany as we know it today. Transformed into a place a lot of people would like to live in. How did they achieve their miraculous recovery? What did they know that we don’t know?
Early one Sunday morning, it was June 20, 1948, the German Minister of Economics, Ludwig Earhardt, a professional economist, simultaneously introduced a new currency, today’s Deutsche Mark, and in one fell swoop, abolished almost all controls on prices and wages. Why did he do it on a Sunday morning? It wasn’t as you might suppose because the Stock Markets were closed on that day, it was, as he loved to confess, because the offices of the American, the British, and the French occupation authorities were closed that day. He was sure that if he had done it when they open they would have countermanded the order. It worked like a charm. Within days, the shops were full of goods. Within months, the German economy was humming along at full steam. Economists weren’t surprised at the results, after all, that’s what a price system is for. But to the rest of the world it seemed an economic miracle that a defeated and devastated country could in little more than a decade become the strongest economy on the continent of Europe.
In a sense this city, West Berlin, is something of a unique economic test tube. Set as it is deep in Communist East Germany. Two fundamentally different economic systems collide here in Europe. Ours and theirs, separated by political philosophies, definitions of freedom and a steel and concrete wall.
To digress from inflation, economic freedom does not stand alone. It is part of a wider order. I wanted to show you how much difference it makes by letting you see how the people live on the other side of that Berlin Wall. But the East German authorities wouldn’t let us. The people over there speak the same language as the people over here. They have the same culture. They have the same for bearers. They are the same people. Yet you don’t need me to tell you how differently they live. There is one simple explanation. The political system over there cannot tolerate economic freedom. The political system over here could not exist without it.
But political freedom cannot be preserved unless inflation is kept in bounds. That’s the responsibility of government which has a monopoly over places like this. The reason we have inflation in the United States or for that matter anywhere in the world is because these pieces of paper and the accompanying book entry or their counterparts in other nations are growing more rapidly than the quantity of goods and services produced. The truth is inflation is made in one place and in one place only. Here in Washington. This is the only place were there are presses like this that turn out these pieces of paper we call money. This is the place where the power resides to determine how rapidly the amount of money shall increase.
What happened to all that noise? That’s what would happen to inflation if we stop letting the amount of money grow so rapidly. This is not a new idea. It’s not a new cure. It’s not a new problem. It’s happened over and over again in history. Sometimes inflation has been cured this way on purpose. Sometimes it’s happened by accident. During the Civil War the North, late in the Civil War, overran the place in the South where the printing presses were sitting up, where the pieces of paper were being turned out. Prior to that point, the South had a very rapid inflation. If my memory serves me right, something like 4% a month. It took the Confederacy something over two weeks to find a new place where they could set up their printing presses and start them going again. During that two week period, inflation came to a halt. After the two week period, when the presses started running again, inflation started up again. It’s that clear, that straightforward. More recently, there’s another dramatic example of the only effective way to deal with rampant inflation.
In 1973, Japanese housewives going to market were faced with an unpleasant fact. The cash in their purses seemed to be losing its value. Prices were starting to sore as the awful story of inflation began to unfold once again. The Japanese government knew what to do. What’s more, they were prepared to do it. When it was all over, economists were able to record precisely what had happened. In 1971 the quantity of money started to grow more rapidly. As always happens, inflation wasn’t affected for a time. But by late 1972 it started to respond. In early 73 the government reacted. It started to cut monetary growth. But inflation continued to soar for a time. The delayed reaction made 1973 a very tough year of recession. Inflation tumbled only when the government demonstrated its determination to keep monetary growth in check. It took five years to squeeze inflation out of the system. Japan attained relative stability. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid the difficult road the Japanese had to follow before they could have both low inflation and a healthy economy. First they had to live through a recession until slow monetary growth had its delayed effect on inflation.
Inflation is just like alcoholism. In both cases when you start drinking or when you start printing too much money, the good effects come first. The bad effects only come later.
That’s why in both cases there is a strong temptation to overdo it. To drink too much and to print too much money. When it comes to the cure, it’s the other way around. When you stop drinking or when you stop printing money, the bad effects come first and the good effects only come later. That’s why it’s so hard to persist with the cure. In the United States, four times in the 20 years after 1957, we undertook the cure. But each time we lacked the will to continue. As a result, we had all the bad effects and none of the good effects. Japan on the other hand, by sticking to a policy of slowing down the printing presses for five years, was by 1978 able to reap all the benefits, low inflation and a recovering economy. But there is nothing special about Japan. Every country that has had the courage to persist in a policy of slow monetary growth has been able to cure inflation and at the same time achieve a healthy economy.
 
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Pt 4
The job of the Federal Reserve is not to run government spending; it’s not to run government taxation. The job of the Federal Reserve is to control the money supply and I believe, frankly, I have always believed as you know, that these are excuses and not reasons for the performance.
 
 
DISCUSSION
Participants: Robert McKenzie, Moderator; Milton Friedman; Congressman Clarence J. Brown; William M. Martin, Chairman of Federal Reserve 1951_1970; Beryl W. Sprinkel, Executive Vice President, Harris Bank, Chicago; Otmar Emminger, President, Ieutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt West Germany
MCKENZIE: And here at the Harper Library of the University of Chicago, our distinguished guests have their own ideas, too. So, lets join them now.
BROWN: If you could control the money supply, you can certainly cut back or control the rate of inflation. I’d have to say that that prescription is a little bit easier to write than it is to fill. I think there are some other ways to do it and I would relate the money supply __ I think inflation is a measure of the relationship between money and the goods and services that money is meant to cover. And so if you can stimulate the goods, the production of goods and services, it’s helpful. It’s a little tougher to control the money supply, although I think it can be done, than just saying that you should control it, because we’ve got the growth of credit cards, which is a form of money; created, in effect, by the free enterprise system. It isn’t all just printed in Washington, but that may sound too defensive. I think he was right in saying that the inflation is Washington based.
MCKENZIE: Mr. Martin, nobody has been in the firing line longer than you, 17 years head of the Fed. Could you briefly comment on that and we’ll go around the group.
MARTIN: I want to say 19 years.
(Laughter)
MARTIN: I wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for Milton Friedman, today. He came down and gave us advice from time to time.
FRIEDMAN: You’ve never taken it.
(Laughter)
MCKENZIE: He’s going to do some interviewing later, I warn you.
MARTIN: And I’m rather glad we didn’t take it __
(Laughter)
MARTIN: __ all the time.
SPRINKEL: In your 19 years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bill, the average growth in the money supply was 3.1 percent per year. The inflation rate was 2.2 percent. Since you left, the money supply has exactly doubled. The inflation rate is average over 7 percent, and, of course, in recent times the money supply has been growing in double-digit territory as has our inflation rate.
EMMINGER: May I, first of all, confirm two facts which have been so vividly brought out in the film of Professor Friedman; namely, that at the basis of the relatively good performance of Western Germany were really two events. One, the establishment of a new sound money which we try to preserve sound afterwards. And, secondly, the jump overnight into a free market economy without any controls over prices and wages. These are the two fundamental facts. We have tried to preserve monetary stability by just trying to follow this prescription of Professor Friedman; namely, monetary discipline. Keeping monetary growth relatively moderate. I must, however, warn you it’s not so easy as it looks. If you just say, governments have to have the courage to persist in that course.
FRIEDMAN: Nobody does disagree with the proposition that excessive growth in money supply is an essential element in the inflationary process and that the real problem is not what to do, but how to have the courage and the will to do it. And I want to go and start, if I may, on that subject; because I think that’s what we ought to explore. Why is it we haven’t had the courage and don’t, and under what circumstances will we? And I want to start with Bill Martin because his experience is a very interesting experience. His 19 years was divided into different periods. In the first period, that average that Beryl Sprinkel spoke about, averaged two very different periods. An early period of very slow growth and slow inflation; a later period of what at the time was regarded as creeping inflation __ now we’d be delighted to get back to it. People don’t remember that at the time that Mr. Nixon introduced price and wage controls in 1971 to control an outrageous inflation, the rate of inflation was four-and-a-half percent per year. Today we’d regard that as a major achievement; but the part of the period when you were Chairman, was a period when the inflation rate was starting to creep up and money growth rate was also creeping up. Now if I go from your period, you were eloquent in your statements to the public, to the press, to everyone, about the evils of inflation, and about the determination on the Federal Reserve not to be the architect of inflation. Your successor, Arthur Burns, was just as eloquent. Made exactly the same kinds of statements as effectively, and again over and over again said the Federal Reserve will not be the architect of inflation. His successor, Mr. G. William Miller, made the same speeches, and the same statements, and the same protestations. His successor, Paul Volcker, he is making the same statements. Now my question to you is: Why is it that there has been such a striking difference between the excellent pronouncements of all Chairmen of the Fed, therefore it’s not personal on you. You have a lot of company, unfortunately for the country. Why is it that there has been such a wide diversion between the excellent pronouncements on the one hand and what I regard as a very poor performance on the other?
MARTIN: Because monetary policy is not the only element. Fiscal policy is equally important.
FRIEDMAN: You’re shifting the buck to the Treasury.
MARTIN: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: To the Congress. We’ll get to Mr. Brown, don’t worry.
MARTIN: Yeah, that’s right.
(Laughter)
MARTIN: The relationship of fiscal policy to monetary policy is one of the important things.
MCKENZIE: Would you remind us, the general audience, when you say “fiscal policy”, what you mean in distinction to “monetary policy”?
MARTIN: Well, taxation.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
MARTIN: The raising revenue.
FRIEDMAN: And spending.
MARTIN: And spending.
FRIEDMAN: And deficits.
MARTIN: And deficits, yes, exactly. And I think that you have to realize that when I’ve talked for a long time about the independence of the Federal Reserve. That’s independence within the government, not independence of the government. And I’ve worked consistently with the Treasury to try to see that the government is financed. Now this gets back to spending. The government says they’re gonna spend a certain amount, and then it turns out they don’t spend that amount. It doubles.
FRIEDMAN: The job of the Federal Reserve is not to run government spending; it’s not to run government taxation. The job of the Federal Reserve is to control the money supply and I believe, frankly, I have always believed as you know, that these are excuses and not reasons for the performance.
MARTIN: Well that’s where you and I differ, because I think we would be irresponsible if we didn’t take into account the needs and what the government is saying and doing. I think if we just went on our own, irresponsibly, I say it on this, because I was in the Treasury before I came to this __
FRIEDMAN: I know. I know.
MARTIN: __ go to the Fed; and I know the other side of the picture. I think we’d be rightly condemned by the American people and by the electorate.
FRIEDMAN: Every central bank in this world, including the German Central Bank, including the Federal Reserve System, has the technical capacity to make the money supply do over a period of two or three or four months, not daily, but over a period, has the technical capacity to control it.
(Several people talking at once.)
FRIEDMAN: I cannot explain the kind of excessive money creation that has occurred, in terms of the technical incapacity of the Federal Reserve System or of the German Central Bank, or of the Bank of England, or any other central bank in the world.
EMMINGER: I wouldn’t say technically we are incapable of doing that, although we have never succeeded in controlling the money supply month that way. But I would say we can, technically, control it half yearly, from one half-year period to the next and that would be sufficient __
FRIEDMAN: That would be sufficient.
EMMINGER: __ for controlling inflation. But however I __
VOICE OFF SCREEN: It doesn’t move.
FRIEDMAN: I’m an economic scientist, and I’m trying to observe phenomena, and I observe that every Federal Reserve Chairman says one thing and does another. I don’t mean he does, the system does.
MCKENZIE: Yeah. How different is your setup in Germany? You’ve heard this problem of governments getting committed to spending and the Fed having, one way or the other, to accommodate itself to it. Now what’s your position on this very interesting problem?
EMMINGER: We are very independent of the government, from the government, but, on the other hand, we are an advisor of the government. Also on the budget deficits and they would not easily go before Parliament with a deficit which much of it is openly criticized and disapproved by the same bank. Why because we have a tradition in our country that we can also publicly criticize the government on his account. And second, as if happened in our case too, the government goes beyond what is tolerable for the sake of moral equilibrium. We have let it come through in the capital markets. That is to say they have enough interest rates that has drawn public criticism and that has had some effect on their attitude.
 
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Pt 5
 I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN:
 
 
 
FRIEDMAN: I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN: Well, first I think we have to make one point. I’m not so much with the government as I am against it.
FRIEDMAN: I understand.
BROWN: As you know, I’m a minority member of Congress.
FRIEDMAN: Again, I’m not __ I’m not directing this at you personally.
BROWN: I understand, of course; and while the administrations, as you’ve mentioned, Republican and Democratic administrations, have both been responsible for increases in spending, at least in terms of their recommendations. It is the Congress and only the Congress that appropriates the funds and determines what the taxes are. The President has no authority to do that and so one must lay it at the feet of the U.S. Congress. Now, I guess we’d have to concede that it’s a little bit more fun to give away things than it is to withhold them. And this is the reason that the Congress responds to a general public that says, “I want you to cut everybody else’s program but the one in which I am most particularly interested. Save money, but incidentally, my wife is taking care of the orphanages and so lets try to help the orphanages,” or whatever it is. Let me try to make a point, if I can, however, on what I think is a new spirit moving within the Congress and that is that inflation, as a national affliction, is beginning to have an impact on the political psychology of many Americans. Now the Germans, the Japanese and others have had this terrific postwar inflation. The Germans have been through it twice, after World War I and World War II, and it’s a part of their national psyche. But we are affected in this country by the depression. Our whole tax structure is built on the depression. The idea of the tax structure in the past has been to get the money out of the mattress where it went after the banks failed in this country and jobs were lost, and out of the woodshed or the tin box in the back yard, get it out of there and put it into circulation. Get it moving, get things going. And one of the ways to do that was to encourage inflation. Because if you held on to it, the money would depreciate; and the other way was to tax it away from people and let the government spend it. Now there’s a reaction to that and people are beginning to say, “Wait just a minute. We’re not afflicted as much as we were by depression. We’re now afflicted by inflation, and we’d like for you to get it under control.” Now you can do that in another way and that without reducing the money supply radically. I think the Joint Economic Committee has recommended that we do it gradually. But the way that you can do it is to reduce taxes and the impact of government, that is the weight of government and increase private savings so that the private savings can finance some of the debt that you have.
FRIEDMAN: There is no way you can do it without reducing, in my opinion, the rate of monetary growth. And I, recognizing the facts, even though they ought not to be that way, I wonder whether you can reduce the rate of monetary growth unless Congress actually does reduce government spending as well as government taxes.
BROWN: The problem is that every time we use demand management, we get into a kind of an iron maiden kind of situation. We twist this way and one of the spikes grabs us here, so we twist that way and a spike over here gets us. And every recession has had higher basic unemployment rates than the previous recession in the last several years and every inflation has had higher inflation. We’ve got to get that tilt out of the society.
MCKENZIE: Wouldn’t it be fair to say, though, that a fundamental difference is the Germans are more deeply fearful of a return to inflation, having had the horrifying experience between the wars, especially. We tend to be more afraid of recession turning into depression.
EMMINGER: I think there is something in it and in particular in Germany the government would have to fear very much in their electoral prospects if they went into such an election period with a high inflation rate. But there is another important difference.
MARTIN: We fear unemployment more than inflation it seems.
EMMINGER: You fear unemployment, but unemployment is feared with us, too, but inflation is just as much feared. But there is another difference; namely, once you have got into that escalating inflation, every time the base, the plateau is higher, it’s extremely difficult to get out of it. You must avoid getting into that, now that’s very cheap advice from me because you are now.
(Laughing)
EMMINGER: But we had, for the last fifteen, twenty years, always studied foreign experiences, and told ourselves we never must get into this vicious circle. Once you are in, it takes a long time to get out of it. That is what I am preaching now, that we should avoid at all costs to get again into this vicious circle as we had it already in ’73_’74. It took us, also, four years to get out of it, although we were only at eight percent inflation. Four years to get down to three percent. So you __
MCKENZIE: Those were __ yes.
EMMINGER: You have, I think, the question of whether you can do if in a gradualist way over many, many years, or whether you don’t need a sort of shock treatment.
 
____________________________________
her we go into a period of still higher unemployment later on and have it to do all over again. That’s the only choice we face. And when the public at large recognizes that, they will then elect people to Congress, and a President to office who is committed to less government spending and to less government printing of money and until that happens we will not cure inflation
 
Pt 6
 
 
SPRINKEL: The film said it took the Japanese _ what _ four years?
FRIEDMAN: Five years.
SPRINKEL: Five years. But one of my greatest concerns is that we haven’t suffered enough yet. Most of the nations that have finally got their inflations __
BROWN: Bad election speech.
SPRINKEL: __ well, I’m not running for office, Clarence.
(Laughter)
SPRINKEL: Most countries that finally got their inflation under control had 20, 30 percent or worse inflation. Germany had much worse and the public supports them. We live in a Democracy, and we’re getting constituencies that gain from inflation. You look at people that own real estate, they’ve done very well.
MCKENZIE: Yes.
SPRINKEL: And how can we get there without going through even more pain, and I doubt that we will.
FRIEDMAN: If you ask who are the constituencies that have benefited most from inflation there are no doubt, it is the homeowners.
SPRINKEL: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: But it’s also the __ it’s also the Congressmen who have been able to vote higher spending without having to vote higher taxes. They have in fact __
BROWN: That’s right.
FRIEDMAN: __ Congress has in fact voted for inflation. But you have never had a Congressman on record to that effect. It’s the government civil servants who have their own salaries are indexed and tied to inflation. They have a retirement benefit, a retirement pension that’s tied to inflation. They qualify, a large fraction of them, for Social Security as well, which is tied to inflation. So that the beneficial __
BROWN: Labor contracts that are indexed and many pricing things that are tied to it.
FRIEDMAN: But the one thing that isn’t tied to inflation and here I want to come back and ask why Congress has been so __ so bad in this area, is our taxes. It has been impossible to get Congress to index the tax system so that you don’t have the present effect where every one percent increase in inflation pushes people up into higher brackets and forces them to pay higher taxes.
BROWN: Well, as you know, I’m an advocate of that.
FRIEDMAN: I know you are.
MCKENZIE: Some countries do that, of course.
FRIEDMAN: Oh, of course.
MCKENZIE: Canada does that. Indexes the __
BROWN: And I went up to Canada on a little weekend seminar program on indexing and came back an advocate of indexing because I found out that the people who are delighted with indexing are the taxpayers.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
BROWN: Because as the inflation rate goes up their tax level either maintains at the same level or goes down. The people who are least __ well, the people who are very unhappy with it are the people who have to plan government spending because it is reducing the amount of money that the government has rather than watching it go up by ten or twelve billion. You get a little dividend to spend in this country, the bureaucrats do every year, but the politicians are unhappy with it too, as Dr. Friedman points out because, you see, politicians don’t get to vote a tax reduction, it happens automatically.
MCKENZIE: Yeah.
BROWN: And so you can’t go back and in a praiseworthy way tell your constituents that I am for you, I voted a tax reduction. And I think we ought to be able to index the tax system so that tax reduction is automatic, rather than have what we’ve had in the past, and that is an automatic increase in the taxes. And the politicians say, “Well, we’re sorry about inflation, but __”.
FRIEDMAN: You’re right and I want to __ I want to go and make a very different point. I sit here and berate you and you as government officials, and so on, but I understand very well that the real culprits are not the politicians, are not the central bankers, but it’s I and my fellow citizens. I always say to people when I talk about this, “If you want to know who’s responsible for inflation, look in the mirror.” It’s not because of the way you spend you money. Inflation doesn’t arise because you got consumers who are spendthrifts; they’ve always been spendthrifts. It doesn’t arise because you’ve got businessmen who are greedy. They’ve always been greedy. Inflation arises because we as citizens have been asking you as politicians to perform an impossible task. We’ve been asking you to spend somebody else’s money on us, but not to spend our money on anybody else.
BROWN: You don’t want us to cut back those dollars for education, right?
FRIEDMAN: Right. And, therefore, __ well, no, I do.
MCKENZIE: We’ve already had a program on that.
FRIEDMAN: We’ve already had a program on that and there’s no viewer of these programs who will be in any doubt about my position on that. But the public at large has not and this is where we come to the political will that Dr. Emminger quite properly talked about. It is __ everybody talks against inflation, but what he means is that he wants the prices of the things he sells to go up and the prices of the things he buys to go down. But, sooner or later, we come to the point where it will be politically profitable to end inflation. This is the point that __
SPRINKEL: Yes.
FRIEDMAN: __ I think you were making.
SPRINKEL: The suffering idea.
FRIEDMAN: Where do you think the __ you know, what do you think the rate of inflation has to be and judged by the experience of other countries before we will be in that position and when do you think that will happen?
SPRINKEL: Well, the evidence says it’s got to be over 20 percent. Now you would think we could learn from others rather than have to repeat mistakes.
FRIEDMAN: Apparently nobody can learn from history.
SPRINKEL: But at the present time we’re going toward higher and not lower inflation.
MCKENZIE: You said earlier, if you want to see who causes inflation look in the mirror.
FRIEDMAN: Right.
MCKENZIE: Now, for everybody watching and taking part in this, there must be some moral to that. What does need __ what has to be the change of attitude of the man in the mirror you’re looking at before we can effectively implement what you call a tough policy that takes courage?
FRIEDMAN: I think that the man in the mirror has to come to recognize that inflation is the most destructive disease known to modern society. There is nothing which will destroy a society so thoroughly and so fully as letting inflation run riot. He must come to recognize that he doesn’t have any good choices. That there are no easy answers. That once you get in this situation where the economy is sick of this insidious disease, there’s gonna be no miracle drug which will enable them to be well tomorrow. That the only choices he has, do I go through a tough period for four or five years of relatively high unemployment, relatively low growth or do I try to push it off by taking some more of the hair of the dog that bit me and get around it now at the cost of still higher unemployment, as Clarence Brown said, later on. The only choice this country faces, is whether we have temporary unemployment for a short period, as a side effect of curling inflation or whether we go into a period of still higher unemployment later on and have it to do all over again. That’s the only choice we face. And when the public at large recognizes that, they will then elect people to Congress, and a President to office who is committed to less government spending and to less government printing of money and until that happens we will not cure inflation.
 
____________________________________
FRIEDMAN: And therefore the crucial thing is to cut down total government spending from the point of view of inflation. From the point of view of productivity, some of the other measures you were talking about are far more important.
BROWN
 
Pt 7
 
BROWN: But, Dr. Friedman, let me __
(Applause)
BROWN: Let me differ with you to this extent. I think it is important that at the time you are trying to get inflation out of the economy that you also give the man in the street, the common man, the opportunity to have a little bit more of his own resources to spend. And if you can reduce his taxes at that time and then reduce government in that process, you give him his money to spend rather than having to yield up all that money to government. If you cut his taxes in a way to encourage it, to putting that money into savings, you can encourage the additional savings in a private sense to finance the debt that you have to carry, and you can also encourage the stimulation of growth in the society, that is the investment into the capital improvements of modernization of plant, make the U.S. more competitive with other countries. And we can try to do it without as much painful unemployment as we can get by with. Don’t you think that has some merit?
FRIEDMAN: The only way __ I am all in favor, as you know, of cutting government spending. I am all in favor of getting rid of the counterproductive government regulation that reduces productivity and disrupts investment. But __
BROWN: And we do that, we can cut taxes some, can we not?
FRIEDMAN: We should __ taxes __ but you are introducing a confusion that has confused the American people. And that is the confusion between spending and taxes. The real tax on the American people is not what you label taxes. It’s total spending. If Congress spends fifty billion dollars more than it takes in, if government spends fifty billion dollars, who do you suppose pays that fifty billion dollars?
BROWN: Of course, of course.
FRIEDMAN: The Arab Sheiks aren’t paying it. Santa Claus isn’t paying it. The Tooth Fairy isn’t paying it. You and I as taxpayers are paying it indirectly through hidden taxation.
MCKENZIE: Your view __
FRIEDMAN: And therefore the crucial thing is to cut down total government spending from the point of view of inflation. From the point of view of productivity, some of the other measures you were talking about are far more important.
BROWN: But if you concede that inflation and taxes are both part and parcel of the same thing, and if you cut spending __
FRIEDMAN: They’re not part and parcel of the same thing.
BROWN: If you cut spending you __ well, but, you take the money from them in one way or another. The average citizen.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.
BROWN: To finance the growth of government.
FRIEDMAN: That’s right.
BROWN: So if you cut back the size of government, you can cut both their inflation and their taxes.
FRIEDMAN: That’s right.
BROWN: If you __
FRIEDMAN: I am all in favor of that.
BROWN: All right.
FRIEDMAN: All I am saying is don’t kid yourself into thinking that there is some painless way to do it. There just is not.
BROWN: One other way is productivity. If you can __ if you can increase production, then the impact of inflation is less because you have more goods chasing __
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely, but you have to have a sense of proportion. From the point of view of the real income of the American people, nothing is more important than increasing productivity. But from the point of view of inflation, it’s a bit actor. It would be a miracle if we could raise our productivity from three to five percent a year, that would reduce inflation by two percent.
BROWN: No question, it won’t happen overnight, but it’s part of the __ it’s part of a long range squeezing out of inflation.
FRIEDMAN: There is only one way to ease the __ in my opinion there is only one way to ease the pains of curing inflation and that way is not available. That way is to make it credible to the American people that you are really going to follow the policy you say you’re going to follow. Unfortunately I don’t see any way we can do that.
(Several people talking at once.)
EMMINGER: Professor Friedman, that’s exactly the point which I wanted to illustrate by our own experience. We also had to squeeze out inflation and there was a painful time of one-and-a-half years, but after that we had a continuous lowering of the inflation rate with a slow upward movement in the economy since 1975. Year by year inflation went down and we had a moderate growth rate which has led us now to full employment.
FRIEDMAN: That’s what __
EMMINGER: So you can shorten this period by just this credibility and by a consensus you must have, also with the trade unions, with the whole population that they acknowledge that policy and also play their part in it. Then the pains will be much less.
SPRINKEL: You see in our case, expectations are that inflation’s going to get worse because it always has. This means we must disappoint in a very painful way those expectations and it’s likely to take longer, at least the first time around. Now our real problem has not been that we haven’t tried. We have tried and brought inflation down. Our real problem was, we didn’t stick to it. And then you have it all to do over.
BROWN: Well I would __ I would concede that psychology plays a great, perhaps even the major part, but I do believe that if you have private savings stimulated by your tax system, rather than discouraged by your tax system, you can finance some of that public debt by private savings rather than by inflation and the result will be to ease to some degree the paint of that heavy unemployment that you seem to suggest is the only way to deal with the problem.
FRIEDMAN: The talk is fine, but the problem is that it’s used to evade the key issue: How do you make it credible to the public that you are really going to stick to a policy? Four times we’ve tried it and four times we’ve stopped before we’ve run the course.
(Several people talking at once.)
MCKENZIE: There we leave the matter for tonight, and next week’s concluding program in this series is not to be missed.
(Applause)
From Harper Library, goodbye.
 

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The Most Disturbing Takeaway from Biden’s Budget Plan

There are many things to dislike about President Biden’s budget plan to expand the burden of government.

There will be ample opportunity to write about these issues in the coming weeks. For today, however, let’s identify and highlight the biggest problem.

Simply stated, Biden wants to permanently and significantly increase the burden of government spending. Here’s a chart, based on data from Table S.1 of the President’s budget, augmented by data from Table 1.3 of the Budget’s Historical Tables.

The budget had reached $4 trillion before the pandemic. It then skyrocketed for coronavirus-related spending.

But now that the emergency is receding, Biden is not going to let the burden of government fall back to prior levels. Instead, he’s proposing a $6 trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

And that’s just the starting point. He wants spending to then climb rapidly – at almost twice the rate of inflation – up to $8 trillion by 2031.

By the way, this horrifying data doesn’t tell the entire story.

Biden’s budget doesn’t include some of his new spending giveaways. Brian Riedl addressed this fiscal gimmickry in a column for today’s New York Post.

…this budget does not even include additional spending and debt proposals that are coming later. …They account only for the recently-enacted “stimulus,” a massive discretionary spending hike, and the trillions in (creatively-defined)“infrastructure” spending proposed by the President over the past two months. However, during last fall’s campaign, Biden also proposed trillions in new spending for health care, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, climate change, college aid, and other priorities. The White House has signaled that these new spending initiatives are still in the pipeline. Including these forthcoming proposals, the President would push spending and deficits far above any levels that have ever been sustained.

And don’t forget all this spending, both proposed and in the pipeline, is in addition to all the entitlement spending that is going to burden the economy over the next several decades.

Here’s one final point to underscore and emphasize the radical nature of Biden’s budget.

I’ve taken the previous chart and added a trendline showing what spending would be if Biden has simply followed the trajectory based on the actual spending levels of every President from Carter to Trump.

In other words, we’re looking at trillions of dollars of additional money being diverted from the productive sector of the economy and being put under the control of politicians and bureaucrats.

That does not bode well for American prosperity. Even the Congressional Budget Office recognizes this means lower living standards for our nation.

The bottom line is that if you adopt European-style fiscal policy, you get anemic European-style levels of income.

Are Tax Increases Popular?

Tax increases are bad fiscal policy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are politically unpopular.

Indeed, many voices in the establishment press are citing favorable polling data in hopes of creating an aura on inevitably for President Biden’s proposed tax hikes.

That’s a very worrisome prospect. If Biden succeeds, the United States could wind up toppling Canada for the dubious honor of having the world’s highest tax burden on saving and investment.

That would be bad news for American workers.

But are Biden’s media cheerleaders correct? Are tax increases popular?

According to a new scholarly working paper from the Federal Reserve (authored by Andrew C. Chang, Linda R. Cohen, Amihai Glazer, and Urbashee Paul), the answer is no.

At least if we judge politicians by what they do in election years. Here’s part of the study’s abstract.

We use new annual data on gasoline taxes and corporate income taxes from U.S.states to analyze whether politicians avoid tax increases in election years. These data contain 3 useful attributes: (1) when state politicians enact tax laws, (2) when state politicians implement tax laws on consumers and firms, and (3) the size of tax changes.Using a pre-analysis research plan that includes regressions of tax rate changes and tax enactment years on time-to-gubernatorial election year indicators, we find that elections decrease the probability of politicians enacting increases in taxes and reduce the size of implemented tax changes relative to non-election years. We find some evidence that politicians are most likely to enact tax increases right after an election. These election effects are stronger for gasoline taxes than for corporate income taxes and depend on no other political, demographic, or macroeconomic conditions.

For wonkier readers, Figure 7 has some of the major results of their statistical analysis. I’ve highlighted (in red) the most important conclusion of the research.

For regular readers, the main takeaway is that politicians almost always want more tax revenue. That’s what gives them the ability to distribute goodies and buy votes.

But notwithstanding their never-ending hunger to grab more money, they are very likely to reject tax increases in election years. They even reject higher corporate taxes, which are supposed to be popular (at least according to some in the establishment media).

Yet if tax increases were politically popular, we should see the opposite result.

I’ll close with the somewhat depressing observation that these results do not imply that voters want libertarian policy. It’s probably more accurate to say that people want goodies from the government, but they don’t want to pay for them. Politicians simply respond to those preferences (which brings to mind Garett Jones’ hypothesis that we have too much democracy).

Which is how Greece became a basket case. Which is why Italy is in the process of becoming a basket case. And it’s why the United States may not be that far behind (with states such as Illinois serving as early-warning signs).

P.S. The above-cited research should be a reminder of why a no-tax-hike pledge is important. Voters seem to be on the right side on the big-picture question of “Should taxes be higher?”, but if they think tax increases are going to happen, it’s quite likely that they will support the most economically damaging types of class-warfare levies.

Bob Chitester, RIP


Bob Chitester was managing a small public television station in Erie, PA, when he got the big idea to persuade Nobel laureate Milton Friedman to write and narrate a 10‐​part series on free markets for PBS. As unlikely as that prospect was, Bob made it happen. “Free to Choose” was broadcast on PBS beginning in January of 1980, and it made quite a splash just as Reagan and Thatcher were also starting to change the way people thought about markets and government. Milton and Rose Friedman wrote a book to accompany the series. But television helped take Friedman’s ideas from the pages of books to millions more people, and in the process Chitester made Friedman a bigger celebrity and a bigger influence than a mere Nobel Prize could accomplish.

Bob went on to create Free to Choose Media and produce hundreds of video products for public television, other networks, the internet, and home viewing. They included The Real Adam Smith, a two‐​hour series that gives particular attention to Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments; the Stossel in the Classroom series, which put John Stossel’s television reports into high school classrooms; and A More or Less Perfect Union, a three‐​part series with Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg.

He made Cato senior fellow Johan Norberg a familiar face on public television with documentaries such as “Free & Equal,” an update of “Free to Choose”; “Sweden: Lessons for America?”; “India Awakes”; and “Work and Happiness: The Human Cost of Welfare.”

We at Cato were especially grateful that when our colleague Andrew Coulson died much too young before finishing his television project “School Inc.,” Bob and his Free to Choose team picked it up, finished the production, and got it on hundreds of public television stations in 2017.

For more than 40 years Bob Chitester focused like a laser to get free‐​market ideas on television in high‐​quality presentations. All of us who believe in the power of markets to liberate people are incredibly grateful and, frankly, astounded at his success in this.

Bob lost his seven‐​year battle with cancer this weekend. But his video projects can all be found on the web, and his Free to Choose team will continue his work with new documentaries and online programs.

Bob Chitester Discusses Milton Friedman and ‘Free to Choose’

Published on Jul 30, 2012 by

“There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people.”

That is how former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman. But it is not for his technical work in monetary economics that Friedman is best known. Like mathematician Jacob Bronowski and astronomer Carl Sagan, Friedman had a gift for communicating complex ideas to a general audience.

It was this gift that brought him to the attention of filmmaker Bob Chitester. At Chitester’s urging, Friedman agreed to make a 10 part documentary series explaining the power of economic freedom. It was called “Free to Choose,” and became one of the most watched documentaries in history.

The series not only reached audiences in liberal democracies, but was smuggled behind the iron curtain where it played, in secret, to large audiences. Reflecting on its impact, Czech president Vaclav Klaus has said: “For us, who lived in the communist world, Milton Friedman was the greatest champion of freedom, of limited and unobtrusive government and of free markets. Because of him I became a true believer in the unrestricted market economy.”

July 31st, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth. To commemorate that occasion, we’d like to share an interview with “Free to Choose” producer Bob Chitester. Like this interview, the entire series can now be viewed on-line at no cost at http://www.freetochoose.tv/, thanks to the incredible technological progress brought about by the economic freedom that Milton Friedman celebrated.

Produced by Andrew Coulson, Caleb O. Brown, Austin Bragg, and Lou Richards, with help from the Free to Choose Network

_______________

Celebrating Milton Friedman

by Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew Coulson directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and is the author of Market Education: The Unknown History.

Added to cato.org on July 31, 2012

This article appeared in Cato.org on July 31, 20

For us, who lived in the communist world, Milton Friedman was the greatest champion of freedom, of limited and unobtrusive government and of free markets. Because of him I became a true believer in the unrestricted market economy.

Those are the words of Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Both Friedman’s writings and his landmark 1980 documentary series “Free to Choose”were smuggled into totalitarian communist states, inspiring a generation of future scholars, activists, and politicians.

July 31st, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth. To commemorate that occasion, the Cato Institute has put together a video interview with Bob Chitester, producer of “Free to Choose,” recounting how it came to be, its impact, and what it was like working with Milton Friedman.

Aside from those who lived under communism, there is another group for whom Friedman was and is a colossal figure: advocates of educational freedom. At a time when state-run schooling had been the norm for nearly a century, and had long ceased to be questioned by America’s elites, Friedman offered a modest observation: there was no good reason for the government of a free society to actually run schools and many good reasons for it not to do so.

He made this case in his essay “On the Role of Government in Education,” first published in 1955. The idea had been floated by others, including Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, but Friedman eloquently and powerfully introduced it to the American policy debate. In so doing, he, more than any other individual, can be credited with giving rise to the modern school choice movement.

Not only did Friedman spark the creation of this movement, he helped to fan the flame of educational freedom, writing popular commentaries and book chapters, speaking with and encouraging activists, founding a leading school choice institution, and dedicating the entire sixth episode of “Free to Choose” to this subject.

I had the good fortune to speak and correspond with Milton occasionally, starting in the late 1990s, and what struck me most about him was his personal integrity. He once told me that he never said anything negative about a person in private that he would not be willing to say openly in that person’s presence. So far as I know, he never violated that principle. And while he staunchly defended his conclusions as long as he remained convinced of their correctness, he would amend them if the weight of evidence shifted.

Indeed the rigorous empiricism that Friedman applied in his scholarly work is generally regarded as one of his most influential contributions to the field of economics—for a long time controversial but eventually the norm, at least in principle. His view, published in the 1953 collection Essays in Positive Economics, was that

the ultimate test of the validity of a theory is… the ability to deduce facts that have not yet been observed, that are capable of being contradicted by observation, and that subsequent observation does not contradict. [p. 300]

Equally wise, though not yet as widely accepted, is the long time horizon against which Friedman measured policy outcomes. Economist and philosopher of science James R. Wible notes that Friedman’s greatest contribution “may be his constant reminder not to forget the long run consequences of short run policies.”

In the 1982 edition of his book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman observed that scholars cannot single-handedly bring about change. Their real role, he wrote, is to “keep the lights on”—to remind us which policies work and which do not, and to show us how to advance our understanding even further. His own unfailing empiricism and concern for the long term remain valuable beacons today, both for advocates of educational freedom and the broader policy community.

_____________

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MILTON FRIEDMAN: “I would rather have government spend one trillion dollars with a deficit of a half a trillion dollars than have government spend two trillion dollars with no deficit.” (article by Dan Mitchell)

The CRFB Fiscal Quiz

I’ve shared all sorts of online quizzes that supposedly can detect things such as whether you’re a pure libertarian.

Or even whether you’re a communist.

Today, courtesy of the folks at the Committee for a Responsible Budget, you can agree or disagree with 24 statements to determine your “budget personality.”

I have some quibbles about some of the wording (for instance, I couldn’t answer “neither” when asked to react to: “The government should spend more money on children than on seniors”).

But I can’t quibble with the results. Given the potential outcomes, I’m glad to be a “Minimalist” who is “in favor of smaller government.”

Though I’m disappointed that I apparently didn’t get a perfect score on “Size of Government.”

And I need to explain why I got a mediocre score on the topic of “Fiscal Responsibility.”

The budget geeks at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) have a well-deserved reputation for rigorous analysis. I regularly cite their numbers and appreciate the work that they do.

That being said, they mistakenly focus on deficits and debt when the real problem is too much government.

I agree with Milton Friedman, who wisely observed that ““I would rather have government spend one trillion dollars with a deficit of a half a trillion dollars than have government spend two trillion dollars with no deficit.”

The folks at CRFB would disagree.

Indeed, they are so fixated on red ink that they would welcome tax increases.

At the risk of understatement, that would be a very bad approach.

The evidence from Europe shows that higher taxes simply lead to higher spending. And more debt.

Indeed, Milton Friedman also commented on this issue, warning that, “History shows that over a long period of time government will spend whatever the tax system raises plus as much more as it can get away with.”

The bottom line is that CRFB not only has the wrong definition of “Fiscal Responsibility,” but they also support policies that would make matters worse – even from their perspective!

EP 4 – From Cradle to Grave [6/7]. Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980)

March 1, 2021

President Biden c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for taking time to have your office try and get a pulse on what is going on out here in the country. I wanted to let you know what I think about the minimum wage increase you have proposed for the whole country and I wanted to quote Milton Friedman who you are familiar with and you made it clear in July that you didn’t care for his views! Let me challenge you to take a closer look at what he had to say!

Four Progressive Minimum Wage Myths Debunked

Democrats are just making things up to advance their job-killing cause.

|

_____________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

Williams with Sowell – Minimum Wage

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell – Reducing Black Unemployment

By WALTER WILLIAMS

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Ronald Reagan with Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 2-5