Friedman Milton Quotes

We've searched our database for all the quotes and captions related to Friedman Milton. Here they are! All 100 of them:

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
Pierre Dos Utt (Tanstaafl: A Plan for a New Economic World Order)
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.
Milton Friedman
One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
Milton Friedman
Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.
Milton Friedman
Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
Milton Friedman
The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.
Milton Friedman
I am favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.
Milton Friedman
Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.
Milton Friedman
Governments never learn. Only people learn.
Milton Friedman
See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That's literally true.
Milton Friedman
The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both
Milton Friedman
Society doesn't have values. People have values.
Milton Friedman
Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government-- in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.
Milton Friedman
Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.
Milton Friedman
Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
Milton Friedman
Now here's somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he's caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it's absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That's the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons
Milton Friedman
The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.
Milton Friedman
He moves fastest who moves alone.
Milton Friedman
A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it ... gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
Milton Friedman
Well first of all, tell me: Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.
Milton Friedman
Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice & private initiative -- the building blocks of success throughout our society.
Milton Friedman
There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud
Milton Friedman
I think that nothing is so important for freedom as recognizing in the law each individual’s natural right to property, and giving individuals a sense that they own something that they’re responsible for, that they have control over, and that they can dispose of.
Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman’s misfortune is that his economic policies have been tried.
John Kenneth Galbraith
Even the most ardent environmentalist doesn't really want to stop pollution. If he thinks about it, and doesn't just talk about it, he wants to have the right amount of pollution. We can't really afford to eliminate it - not without abandoning all the benefits of technology that we not only enjoy but on which we depend.
Milton Friedman (There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch)
Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
Milton Friedman
We do not influence the course of events by persuading people that we are right when we make what they regard as radical proposals. Rather, we exert influence by keeping options available when something has to be done at a time of crisis.
Milton Friedman
I am a libertarian with a small 'l' and a Republican with a capital 'R'. And I am a Republican with a capital 'R' on grounds of expediency, not on principle.
Milton Friedman
The key insight of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is misleadingly simple: if an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.
Milton Friedman
I’m in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.
Milton Friedman
I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.
Milton Friedman
I think that the Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government.
Milton Friedman
The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
Milton Friedman
When unions get higher wages for their members by restricting entry into an occupation, those higher wages are at the expense of other workers who find their opportunities reduced. When government pays its employees higher wages, those higher wages are at the expense of the taxpayer. But when workers get higher wages and better working conditions through the free market, when they get raises by firm competing with one another for the best workers, by workers competing with one another for the best jobs, those higher wages are at nobody's expense. They can only come from higher productivity, greater capital investment, more widely diffused skills. The whole pie is bigger - there's more for the worker, but there's also more for the employer, the investor, the consumer, and even the tax collector. That's the way the free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people. That's the secret of the enormous improvements in the conditions of the working person over the past two centuries.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
Anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting.
Milton Friedman
This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.
Milton Friedman
For example, the supporters of tariffs treat it as self-evident that the creation of jobs is a desirable end, in and of itself, regardless of what the persons employed do. That is clearly wrong. If all we want are jobs, we can create any number--for example, have people dig holes and then fill them up again, or perform other useless tasks. Work is sometimes its own reward. Mostly, however, it is the price we pay to get the things we want. Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs--jobs that will mean more goods and services to consume.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
There is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products the effect of which will be to harm themselves
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
.'Deserves' is an impossible thing to decide. No one deserves anything. Thank God we don't get what we deserve.
Milton Friedman
A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.
Milton Friedman
Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? . . . And just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us.
Milton Friedman
The unions might be good for the people who are in the unions but it doesn't do a thing for the people who are unemployed. Because the union keeps down the number of jobs, it doesn't do a thing for them.
Milton Friedman
In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshiped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it's jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels. [Reply to the government bureaucrat of one Asian country who told him that, reason why there were workers with shovels instead of modern tractors and earth movers at a worksite of a new canal, was that: "You don't understand. This is a jobs program."]
Milton Friedman
Inflation is taxation without representation.
Milton Friedman
With respect to teachers' salaries .... Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority.
Milton Friedman
The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the "rule of the game" and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.
Milton Friedman
Believers in aristocracy and socialism share a faith in centralized rule, in rule by command rather than by voluntary cooperation.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
I say thank God for government waste. If government is doing bad things, it's only the waste that prevents the harm from being greater.
Milton Friedman
Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances.
Milton Friedman
ان الشخص الوحيد الذي يمكنه اقناعك حقاً هو نفسك,عليك ان تدير الامور في رأسك اثناء استرخائك,ثم عليك ان تدرس الاراء الكثيرة المخالفة,دع الافكار تختمر في ذهنك,وبعد مدة طويلة حول تفضيلاتك إلى قناعات
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
When we try to understand something, more often than not, we kill it, and now I can feel the dangers of this encroaching on me: cynicism, bitterness, and infinite sadness...It's impossible to live if you're too aware, too thoughtful. Take nature for example: everything that lives happily and too a ripe old age is not very intelligent. Tortoises live for centuries, water's immortal, and Milton Friedman's still alive.
Martin Page (How I Became Stupid)
Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.
Milton Friedman
Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless.
Milton Friedman
Not all 'schooling' is 'education,' and not all 'education' is 'schooling'.
Milton Friedman
Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.
Milton Friedman (Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History)
With some notable exceptions, businessmen favor free enterprise in general but are opposed to it when it comes to themselves.
Milton Friedman
The power to do good is also the power to do harm; those who control the power today may not tomorrow; and, more important, what one man regards as good, another may regard as harm.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
There is still a tendency to regard any existing government intervention as desirable, to attribute all evils to the market, and to evaluate new proposals for government control in their ideal form, as they might work if run by able, disinterested men free from the pressure of special interest groups.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
We economists don't know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can't sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you'll have a tomato shortage. It's the same with oil or gas.
Milton Friedman
The smaller the unit of government and the more restricted the functions assigned government, the less likely it is that its actions will reflect special interests rather than the general interest.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
This points to a nagging and important question about free-market ideologues: Are they ‘true believers’, driven by ideology and faith that free markets will cure underdevelopment, as is often asserted, or do the ideas and theories frequently serve as an elaborate rationale to allow people to act on unfettered greed while still invoking an altruistic motive?
Naomi Klein
Lo que importa no es la inflación per se, sino la inflación no anticipada
Milton Friedman
The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.
Milton Friedman
Silence was pleased.
Milton Friedman
. . . there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.
Milton Friedman
A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
The appeal to the intellectually insecure is also more important than it might seem. Because economics touches so much of life, everyone wants to have an opinion. Yet the kind of economics covered in the textbooks is a technical subject that many people find hard to follow. How reassuring, then, to be told that it is all irrelevant -- that all you really need to know are a few simple ideas! Quite a few supply-siders have created for themselves a wonderful alternative intellectual history in which John Maynard Keynes was a fraud, Paul Samuelson and even Milton Friedman are fools, and the true line of deep economic thought runs from Adam Smith through obscure turn-of-the-century Austrians straight to them.
Paul Krugman
Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.
Milton Friedman
It was in 1982 that Milton Friedman wrote the highly influential passage that best summarizes the shock doctrine. " Only a crisis-actual or percieved-produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism)
Keynes was a great economist. In every discipline, progress comes from people who make hypotheses, most of which turn out to be wrong, but all of which ultimately point to the right answer. Now Keynes, in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,set forth a hypothesis which was a beautiful one, and it really altered the shape of economics. But it turned out that it was a wrong hypothesis. That doesn't mean that he wasn't a great man!
Milton Friedman
Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking.
Milton Friedman
All learning is ultimately self-learning.
Milton Friedman
History only suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
The family, rather than the individual, has always been and remains today the basic building block of our society, though its hold has clearly been weakening—one of the most unfortunate consequences of the growth of government paternalism.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
The true test of any scholar's work is not what his contemporaries say, but what happens to his work in the next 25 or 50 years. And the thing that I will really be proud of is if some of the work I have done is still cited in the text books long after I am gone.
Milton Friedman
These people live in many lands, speak different languages, practice different religions, may even hate one another- yet none of these differences prevented them from cooperating to produce a pencil. How did it happen? Adam Smith gave us the answer two hundred years ago.
Milton Friedman
Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.’ —MILTON FRIEDMAN
Satish Y. Deodhar (IIMA-Day To Day Economics)
The most harm of all is done when power is in the hands of people who are absolutely persuaded of the purity of their instincts-- and the purity of their intentions
Milton Friedman
The role of government just considered is to do something that the market cannot do for itself, namely, to determine, arbitrate, and enforce the rules of the game.
Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom)
Thanks to economists, all of us, from the days of Adam Smith and before right down to the present, tariffs are perhaps one tenth of one percent lower than they otherwise would have been. … And because of our efforts, we have earned our salaries ten-thousand fold.
Milton Friedman
Only people have incomes and they derive them through the market from the resources they own, whether these be in the form of corporate stock, or of bonds, or of land, or of their personal capacity.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
Although these examples only scratch the surface, they illustrate the fundamental proposition that freedom is one whole, that anything that reduces freedom in one part of our lives is likely to affect freedom in the other parts.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing.
Milton Friedman
A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Though a by-product of freedom, greater equality is not an accident. A free society releases the energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives. It prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others. It does not prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other able, ambitious people. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
By this point in history—after the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and in the midst of layers of ecological crises—free market fundamentalists should, by all rights, be exiled to a similarly irrelevant status, left to fondle their copies of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in obscurity. They are saved from this ignominious fate only because their ideas about corporate liberation, no matter how demonstrably at war with reality, remain so profitable to the world’s billionaires that they are kept fed and clothed in think tanks by the likes of Charles and David Koch, owners of the diversified dirty energy giant Koch Industries, and ExxonMobil.
Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate)
There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income. [In a Fox News interview in May 2004]
Milton Friedman
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” —Justice Louis Brandeis,
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
Social responsibility is a fundamentally subversive doctrine" in a free society, and have said that in such a society, "there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.
Milton Friedman (The Ethics of Competition and Other Essays)
Self-interest is not myopic selfishness. It is whatever it is that interests the participants, whatever they value, whatever goals they pursue. The scientist seeking to advance the frontiers of his discipline, the missionary seeking to convert infidels to the true faith, the philanthropist seeking to bring comfort to the needy - all are pursuing their interests, as they see them, as they judge them by their own values.
Milton Friedman
Conservatism, in its original sense, has no specific ideological content at all, since everything depends on what one is trying to conserve. In the last days of the Soviet Union, for example, those who were trying to preserve the existing Communist regime were rightly referred to as “conservatives,” though what they were trying to conserve had nothing in common with what was advocated by Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek or William F. Buckley.
Thomas Sowell (Intellectuals and Society)
None of this means that government does not have a very real function. Indeed, the tragedy is that because government is doing so many things it ought not to be doing, it performs the functions it ought to be performing badly. The basic functions of government are to defend the nation against foreign enemies, to prevent coercion of some individuals by others within the country, to provide a means of deciding on our rules, and to adjudicate disputes.3
Milton Friedman (Why Government Is the Problem (Essays in Public Policy Book 39))
I have been enormously impressed by the role that pure chance plays in determining our life history. I was reminded of some famous lines of Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both I took the one less travled by, And that has made all the difference. As I recalled my own experience and development, I was impressed by the series of lucky accidents that determined the road I traveled. > From "Lives of the Laureates" pg.67
Milton Friedman
I mean, to talk about "corporate greed" is like talking about "military weapons" or something like that―there just is no other possibility. A corporation is something that is trying to maximize power and profit: that's what it is. There is no "phenomenon" of corporate greed, and we shouldn't mislead people into thinking there is. It's like talking about "robber's greed" or something like that―it's not a meaningful thing, it's misleading. A corporation's purpose is to maximize profit and market share and return to investors, and all that kind of stuff, and if its officers don't pursue that goal, for one thing they are legally liable for not pursuing it. There I agree with Milton Friedman [right-wing economist] and those guys: if you're a C.E.O., you must do that―otherwise you're in dereliction of duty, in fact dereliction of duty. And besides that, if you don't do it, you'll get kicked out by the shareholders or the Board of Directors, and you won't be there very long anyway.
Noam Chomsky (Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky)
In the past century a myth has grown up that free market capitalism—equality of opportunity as we have interpreted that term—increases such inequalities, that it is a system under which the rich exploit the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wherever the free market has been permitted to operate, wherever anything approaching equality of opportunity has existed, the ordinary man has been able to attain levels of living never dreamed of before. Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor wider, nowhere are the rich richer and the poor poorer, than in those societies that do not permit the free market to operate. That is true of feudal societies like medieval Europe, India before independence, and much of modern South America, where inherited status determines position. It is equally true of centrally planned societies, like Russia or China or India since independence, where access to government determines position. It is true even where central planning was introduced, as in all three of these countries, in the name of equality.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
Many thinkers have tried to “naturalize” consumerism in that way, including most social Darwinists, Austrian School economists (Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard), Chicago School economists (George Stigler, Milton Friedman, Gary Becker), Darwinian libertarians, globalization advocates, management gurus, and marketers. Their model (which I call the Wrong Conservative Model, because I think it’s wrong, and because it’s usually advocated by political conservatives) is: human nature + free markets = consumerist capitalism
Geoffrey Miller (Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior)
Sometime during the 1960s, the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman was consulting with the government of a developing Asian nation. Friedman was taken to a large-scale public works project, where he was surprised to see large numbers of workers wielding shovels, but very few bulldozers, tractors, or other heavy earth-moving equipment. When asked about this, the government official in charge explained that the project was intended as a “jobs program.” Friedman’s caustic reply has become famous: “So then, why not give the workers spoons instead of shovels?” Friedman
Martin Ford (The Rise of the Robots: FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year)
The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] illustrates what might be called the natural history of government intervention. A real or fancied evil leads to demands to do something about it. A political coalition forms consisting of sincere, high-minded reformers and equally sincere interested parties. The incompatible objectives of the members of the coalition (e.g., low prices to consumers and high prices to producers) are glossed over by fine rhetoric about “the public interest,” “fair competition,” and the like. The coalition succeeds in getting Congress (or a state legislature) to pass a law. The preamble to the law pays lip service to the rhetoric and the body of the law grants power to government officials to “do something.” The high-minded reformers experience a glow of triumph and turn their attention to new causes. The interested parties go to work to make sure that the power is used for their benefit. They generally succeed. Success breeds its problems, which are met by broadening the scope of intervention. Bureaucracy takes its toll so that even the initial special interests no longer benefit. In the end the effects are precisely the opposite of the objectives of the reformers and generally do not even achieve the objectives of the special interests. Yet the activity is so firmly established and so many vested interests are connected with it that repeal of the initial legislation is nearly inconceivable. Instead, new government legislation is called for to cope with the problems produced by the earlier legislation and a new cycle begins.
Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)
The great irony, then, is that the nation’s most famous modern conservative economist became the father of Big Government, chronic deficits, and national fiscal bankruptcy. It was Friedman who first urged the removal of the Bretton Woods gold standard restraints on central bank money printing, and then added insult to injury by giving conservative sanction to perpetual open market purchases of government debt by the Fed. Friedman’s monetarism thereby institutionalized a régime which allowed politicians to chronically spend without taxing. Likewise, it was the free market professor of the Chicago school who also blessed the fundamental Keynesian proposition that Washington must continuously manage and stimulate the national economy. To be sure, Friedman’s “freshwater” proposition, in Paul Krugman’s famous paradigm, was far more modest than the vast “fine-tuning” pretensions of his “salt-water” rivals. The saltwater Keynesians of the 1960s proposed to stimulate the economy until the last billion dollars of potential GDP was realized; that is, they would achieve prosperity by causing the state to do anything that was needed through a multiplicity of fiscal interventions. By contrast, the freshwater Keynesian, Milton Friedman, thought that capitalism could take care of itself as long as it had precisely the right quantity of money at all times; that is, Friedman would attain prosperity by causing the state to do the one thing that was needed through the single spigot of M1 growth.
David A. Stockman (The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America)