Tag: Happy Birthday Milton Friedman (Page 1 of 2)

Friedman’s Ideas Are Our Most Potent Tool in the Struggle Against Seductive ‘Zombie Socialism’

Milton Friedman reminds us that nothing promotes social justice more than a free society.

Freedom promotes equality, because productivity knows no creed or color.

Freedom promotes justice, because choice creates order without violence.

Freedom promotes truth, because error is waste.

Truth, justice and equality.  This is the reality of a free society.  These are also the empty promises of the statist left.  Promises that are sweetly offered but never delivered by the advocates of big government.

If you’re reading this note, I suspect you agree with every word so far written.

But here’s the challenge: why is a free society not seen by more as a just society?  Why does the zombie ideology of socialism shamble on?

Friedman offers one clear answer: the left always hopes to be judged by their intentions, and never their results.  We live in the real world, they live in a fantasy, but oh so lovely a fantasy.  Humans are hard wired for optimism, and the inability for the statist left to deliver on their promises in the past is a niggling detail compared to the great rhetoric of hope and change.

Arrogance is another explanation.  The leaders of academia and the state have supreme confidence in their own abilities.  The possibility that elites lack the capacity to make things better is very difficult to believe.  Especially if you’re an elite.  We also depend on elites to evaluate public policy.  See a problem?

Self-interest is also present.  Where government intervenes it alters the economy, and some people, always win as a result.  Even the perfectly reasonable exercise of state power — e.g. buying a jet fighter – can be reduced to who do we buy that jet from.  Of course, we’re well past the reasonable exercise of state power and back to an age of crony capitalism.  Oft forgotten is the primary role played by government in the excesses of the so called robber barons of the late 1800’s.  Yesterday it was railroads and gifts of public lands, today it’s Solyndras and gifts of public credit.

Finally, the statist left offers the bargain of the pirate captain to his crew, “join together and we can live an easier life, if you help me steal what we want from the more productive members of society! Argh!”  While much of the lefts arguments are fallacies, this realpolitik analysis is true. The left embodies a form of public greed, where personal financial interest drives a large voting bloc.

Our challenge as classical liberals is to defend freedom.  Bastiat rebutted their claims in the 1800’s.  Friedman and the Austrians rebutted their claims in the 1900’s. You and I are obliged to rebut their claims in the 2000’s.  Our descendants will no doubt have this responsibility in the 2100’s.

Milton Friedman’s joyful and spirited defense of freedom has inspired many, myself included.

Milton Friedman’s Birthday and Charter Schools in Washington State

Today is the 101st anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birth. People across the country are celebrating the great economist and his contributions to education reform in America.

Milton Friedman was a Nobel Prize winner whose research showed that the freedom to choose, through millions of daily decisions made by free individuals in an open market, delivers prosperity to the larger society. His book Free to Choose showed the free market can solve problems where other policy approaches have failed. He was described by The Economist magazine as “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century….possibly all of it.”

Education reformers across the nation also celebrate the good work of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which Milton and Rose Friedman founded to advocate for expanding school choice options for parents and children. Because of the Friedman’s good work, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to allow parents the power to decide how best to educate their own children.

In March of 2012, a Friedman Foundation poll showed Washington voters want charter schools and other alternatives to regular public schools. Soon after, charter school proponents successfully placed Initiative 1240 on the 2012 November ballot.

Voters passed Initiative 1240, making Washington state the 42nd state in the nation to allow children to attend charter schools.

Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman!  The legacy of your sound economic research and your concern for others continue to benefit the children and parents of Washington state and of the nation.


[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Milton Friedman’s Gift to the Environment

Honoring his birthday two years ago, I told a story about Friedman’s insight on the responsible use of resources. It is a story that may be more Friedman-esque than actually having come from Milton Friedman himself. It is a story that is even more relevant today and a lesson that is worth repeating.

Traveling in Asia, Friedman was shown a canal project being built by the government and noted that workers were using shovels instead of machinery. It was explained that this was a jobs program and that using shovels allowed the creation of more jobs.

toddmyers-friedman-graphic“If you really want to create jobs,” Friedman replied, “then by all means give these men spoons, not shovels.”

It is a sign of the power of Friedman’s ideas that stories such as this become attributed to him even if it is unclear whether the words truly came from his mouth. The concept that wealth comes from using resources wisely – whether those resources are people or natural resources – is one he embraced.

Sadly, it is a simple lesson that is still unlearned by many who believe we should crate “green” jobs by lavishing subsidies on wind and solar power. Advocates of types of energy often brag about the fact that they require more labor and resources to create energy than natural gas or other types of energy.

For example, the Seattle Times’ own “business” columnist Jon Talton once wrote that government spending on “green” jobs “produced more ‘job hours’ than tax cuts or traditional infrastructure spending.” Just as moving from shovels to spoons would have created more “job hours” for canal diggers, Talton believes we should move to renewable energy using the same logic.

This is what passes for “business” journalism these days.

Talton, however, is not the only person claiming to be an environmentalist while advocating policies that do more with less. He is not the only person claiming to be concerned about scarce resources and then actually encouraging waste to achieve a “green” future.

Last year the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts released a graphic demonstrating that spending on solar energy created three times as many jobs dollar-for-dollar. They called this “The Truth About Job Creation.” It is a rule of political rhetoric that if something purports to be “The Truth,” it isn’t.

The Institute released a graphic (which I’ve modified slightly), showing the amount of job creation in a number of economic sectors related to energy creation and conservation. In their telling, natural gas is the worst, because it generates large amounts of energy while creating few jobs. Solar, on the other hand, requires more jobs to create the same amount of energy.

I decided they were simply not ambitious enough. Why settle for 14 jobs per million dollars invested when we could put people on bicycle generators and employ 1,610 jobs? People could pedal for eight hours a day, lose weight and generate electricity.

If this seems absurd, it is. Yet, if the goal is to create “job hours” or “job creation,” bicycle generators are the best option. Judging policies based on these types of claims, however, is not merely anti-prosperity, it is anti-environment.

Concern for the environment is, at its core, a desire to do more with less and a concern about scarce resources. Left-wing environmentalists, however, too often promote policies that do less with more and waste resources. They ignore the lost opportunities to put people and resources to work doing other great things for the environment. To make use of prosperity and discretionary income to promote clean air, healthy forests and wildlife protection.

Unfortunately, the left probably won’t learn the lessons of Milton Friedman and resource use. It is ironic that on his birthday, it is Milton Friedman who has given a gift to us and those who truly care about the environment.


Happy Birthday to Milton Friedman, Champion of Freedom

In the Genesis account God speaks the world into existence-the first recorded proof of the fact that “ideas have consequences.” In mankind’s steady advance since, many ideas have been spoken into existence but rarely with such beneficial effect.

Legendary economist Milton Friedman was one of the exceptions. His lifelong effort to champion human freedom through economics has inspired increased prosperity and freedom for hundreds of millions of people from Chile to China, Estonia to the Czech Republic, from England to the United States.

My first exposure to Friedman was at community college. I had just withdrawn from Western Washington University because I was convinced that while the scholarship I had offered me free attendance, I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. Time and again I was hearing of the sins of capitalism, free markets and tradition, but had no grounding that would enlighten me as to where to look to combat these falsehoods. So I decided to enroll at Hillsdale College. It was the only conservative college I knew of, and information about their events suggested engaged, lively debate and world-class speakers. But I couldn’t go there until the fall, so I took some courses from the local community college and met Milton Friedman for the first time.

I didn’t meet him personally of course. It was an online course (one of the first) in economics and the course material was Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series. I was enthralled. I wondered, “Why don’t more people listen to this guy?”

I still wonder the same thing.

Wednesday, July 31st would have been Milton’s 101st birthday. Raise a glass remember, then share his work with a friend!


[Originally posted at MyNorthwest.com]

University Professors Can Try to Hide Friedman, But Truth is Hard to Put a Lid On

Unfortunately, I was not exposed to Milton Friedman when I was a Political Science student at the University of Washington in the 1980s. It wasn’t until a few years later when a  friend (who worked at a free market think tank) loaned me a couple of Friedman’s books that I became a follower of his teachings.

I honestly believe that today’s academia is afraid to teach Friedman to our country’s future leaders. It is too logical and makes too much sense, but most importantly, it runs counter to the prevailing government mindset that feeds the greed of our current liberal leadership.

As Friedman says in the forward of “Capitalism and Freedom,” the pendulum swings back and forth when it comes to prevailing political and economic theories. I hope we are not far away from a time when Friedman’s theories are at the forefront of discussions in our public discourse. It is very much needed.

Happy Birthday Milton Friedman!
James R.D. Keough

On Education, Friedman Had it Right

The virtue of customized services has become embedded in American values. Our coffee drink has 87,000 choices. Banking is so personalized that  the notion of “bankers hours” is an antique concept, thanks to online banking and mobile apps. Our phone plans fit exactly the needs of each customer.

Only in education have we clung stubbornly to the monopoly model. Like some gray factory in an Eastern Bloc country last century, schools continue to operate as designed by government without the flexibility to adapt.

FreedomFoundation_03Whenever any deficiency is noted, we add to the monolith some symbolic program or requirement that lets policymakers sleep a little better. Unfortunately, the complexity of the various needs students have is much greater than any amount of tinkering with the monopoly could credibly address.

Special Education needs, cultural diversity needs, targeted skills training needs, non-English speaker needs, study skill needs, social and emotional coaching needs, health needs, discipline needs and proficiency level differences among students are all much more pronounced than ever in history.

So tinkerers keep adding processes to the monopoly until nobody is served well. The funding system has reflected this growing complexity by trying to define the one size that fits all.

It won’t work, and it is ridiculously complex to try.

We appreciate options with coffee, banking and communication services. We even trust creative customization with much more important services like food, healthcare, and housing.

Parents and children should also have the ability to choose from among competing providers offering customized services to meet families’ needs. Expanding options is in students’ interest because the chance of finding the “right fit” for each student’s unique needs is greater.

Nobel laureate and economist Milton Friedman had it right in 1955. Recognizing that society benefits from an educated population, he noted:

“A stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens”

But he also realized:

 “. . . governments have in the main financed education by paying directly the costs of running educational institutions . . .. Governments could require a minimum level of education which they could finance by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services.”

Expanding the options for families is also in the public interest because customization is more efficient; education services are a better fit; and parents are engaged in education decision-making in a more meaningful way.

As Milton Friedman noted more than fifty years ago:

“The result of these measures would be a sizable reduction in the direct activities of government, yet a great widening in the educational opportunities open to our children. They would bring a healthy increase in the variety of educational institutions available and in competition among them. Private initiative and enterprise would quicken the pace of progress in this area as it has in so many others. Government would serve its proper function of improving the operation of the invisible hand without substituting the dead hand of bureaucracy.”

Let’s bring K-12 education into the 21st century, and make policies that actually recognize what we all instinctively understand: one size does not fit all.


[Reposted from the Freedom Foundation blog]

Reuniting Capitalism and Democracy

Conventional wisdom today has capitalism out and democracy in.

The financial crash supposedly proved markets don’t work, at least not for most of the people. Democracy, on the other hand, is all the rage. From Egypt to Oakland, protesters and pundits insist they are “the 99%,” and that every political and economic policy must be judged by whether it is more or less democratic.

This idea of democracy is obviously about more than just election processes. But while a few ideologues really desire raw majority rule, more Americans seem to favor what is often called a “democratic society,” where individuals are empowered to live their own lives without being manipulated or controlled by others.

Milton Friedman pointed out in many writings and talks that the economic system that best approaches this standard of democracy is capitalism. Every other system involves—in fact, is defined by—allowing one group to control everyone else.

Click on the video to watch Milton Friedman’s comments on capitalism and greed

Today, on what would have been the Nobel laureate’s 101st birthday, it is a fitting time to begin knitting the ideas of capitalism and democracy back together.

The very foundations of American law and prosperity rest on this understanding of capitalism and democracy. To put it another way, before there was Milton Friedman, there was James Madison.

Madison wrote eloquently in Federalist No. 10 about where property rights come from, why they must be protected, and why government power must be limited and checked to prevent groups of people from harnessing that power to interfere with the property rights of others. (All emphases in the quotes is my own.)

Madison explains that “the rights of property originate [from] the diversity in the faculties of men.”

The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

What Madison is interested in is justice and liberty, which are made possible by the rule of law. His argument is that groups of people (“factions”) will try to use government power to their advantage at the expense of other people and of justice.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. … the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

Madison points out the conflict between the idea of democracy as simply majority rule versus the idea of a democratic society: a government that allows a majority of voters to plunder the few is simply lawless. (This is the version of democracy described as “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.”)

Finally, Madison sketches an argument against reliance on central planning, good intentions, and what Friedrich Hayek will later call “the fatal conceit.”

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

Our constitutional system was designed to protect property rights, first from other individuals and then from government. It was designed to do this not in order to create prosperity—that was a side effect and not well understood until 20th Century economists like Milton Friedman. Rather it was based on the understanding of the connection between democracy and capitalism.

The State Policy Network, working with the Freedom Foundation, recently released a series of essays and study guides to re-explain to Americans the democracy inherent in free markets. To learn more, visit WeThePeopleHQ.org.


[Reposted with permission from the Freedom Foundation Liberty Live blog]

The Plight of the Motor City Would Come as No Shock to Friedman

Since Detroit was already circling the drain when Milton Friedman was alive, he would hardly be surprised by its imminent arrival in bankruptcy court. It is, after all, the ultimate culmination of all the big government evils he warned of all his life.

A fierce critic of the government monopoly on education, he championed school choice as the solution to children stuck in the downward spiral of failing inner city schools. Detroit illustrates the end result of schools run more for the benefit of the employees than the kids. Despite ever increasing sums being spent the graduation rate is atrocious. It’s no wonder one study estimated that 47% of Detroit’s adults are illiterate.

As the auto unions ever-increasing demands drove the Big Three into the ground, Detroit responded by taxing businesses in the area even more. This started a vicious cycle of increasing taxes on business and property, leading to more of the tax base exiting the city, resulting in lower revenues and even higher taxes. Detroit now has the highest property taxes in Michigan, but almost half the property in the city is delinquent in paying them.

The loss of over half its population has left Detroit with a bloated, inefficient public sector. Hundreds of millions poured into the city by the federal and state governments did nothing to reform the city, and only seemed to increase corruption. Struggling to pay the costs of retirement and health care for its retired workers, Detroit does not have enough left to provide adequately for public safety and service workers it employs today.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, much of Detroit still believes in what Dr. Friedman called the “Free Lunch” fallacy: that money spent by the government is somehow created magically out of thin air. A prime example of this is the new proposed hockey rink for the Red Wings team. The hundreds of millions in subsidies for the new building are raised from taxing those in the city, and are funneled to a private corporation that owns the Red Wings. There is no added productivity, just money taken by the government from the people and redistributed; money that could have been spent more productively if left in their hands in the first place.

Friedman’s ‘Pencil Story’ and the Second Amendment

Friedman’s “pencil story” eloquently outlines the amazing concept of freedom. In the pencil story you have a right to engage in (or refuse) a monetary transaction with another party. The concept of freedom can be applied to many real life situations. As with other freedoms, you do have the right to defend yourself, and you do have the right to defend others.

Guns are nothing new. The gun pre-dates the Television, Cars, Airplanes, Telephones, Computers, the Internet, Electric Power, Space Travel, the Lightbulb, the Cotton Gin, the Steam Engine, the Printing Press, and probably countless other inventions. It is a story that dates back to China, the birthplace of gunpowder. The invention made its way into the Middle East, Europe, and Africa via the ancient Silk Road.

An Austrian plastics expert named Gaston Glock had the most influence on the modern gun in recent memory. His concepts in light firearm design led a trend that made personal defense easy and more convenient for people of different physical strength and ability levels to defend themselves.

But there are those who will always attempt to limit as many types of freedoms as possible. Whether it be the size of your soda, car, or your gun, these limitations all suffer the same flawed logic. Either not understanding, or refusing to accept self-defense and self-determination as a right, they’ve made proposals to deal with their own flawed world view. Gun control in the U.S. is has an ugly history, one that’s deeply seeded in racism, xenophobia, and class warfare. A fact anti-gun politicians and lobbyists purposefully avoid mentioning.

Gun ‘buy backs’ appear to be a growing ‘gun control’ trend administrated and lauded by big city technocratic mayors like New York’s Michael Bloomberg, and Seattle’s Mike McGinn. A modern gun ‘buy back’ usually implies that guns are not fit for the likes of free individuals. The concept of the modern gun buyback is indeed quite presumptuous on its face. How can a government ‘buy back’ something it never even owned to begin with?

The concept of gun ‘buy backs’ are actually nothing new. Haile Selassie, (AKA  Ras Tafari) ran perhaps one of the most clever gun buybacks on record. Upon returning from a banquet in his honor with Selassie, the war lord Dejazmach Balcha found his army deserted after selling off all their guns and weaponry to Sellasie’s rival army. After a successful ‘buy back,’ Selassie enjoyed a long reign as the Emperor of Ethiopia.

Second Amendment freedoms are just as relevant now, as they were at the time our republic was formed. Make no mistake; the America we all love and even sometimes take for granted is free because we’re armed. For those that still seek refuge from freedom, countries that enjoy the most gun control often also enjoy the highest violent crime, murder, and suicide rates—let alone other serious side effects of gun control—government crimes against humanity, and civil unrest.

Multiple studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of people per-year defend themselves with a gun in the U.S. alone. As a free people, we do have the right to defend ourselves and each other as individuals. Crime has consistently dropped with the introduction of concealed carry laws. Youth homicides are actually at a 30 year low. The areas with the highest amount of gun control now have the dubious distinction as victim disarmament zones, and subsequently often suffer under a high violent crime rate. Mass public killings almost always take place in so called ‘gun free zones,’ an inconvenient fact anti-freedomists and hoplophobes have no answer for.

Like Friedman’s pencil, a gun may have a price in the market just as it has in times long ago on the Silk Road; however, freedom and the right of self-defense are priceless. As Colion Noir put it, “Take away the ability to protect ourselves in a world where evil does everything it can to deprive us of life, and you take away our right to life.”

Milton Friedman is Needed Now More Than Ever

Sadly, despite real life proving Dr. Friedman’s economic theories every day, it appears that America has done an about face and is marching in the opposite direction. Listening to Milton Friedman patiently and clearly explain on YouTube how more government equals less freedom and prosperity, how government spending is never free, and how free markets and decentralized control will always produce the best results, it is hard to imagine why the US would choose the path leading towards North Korea and not the one towards Switzerland.

The last few years have seen amazing examples of well intentioned policies that achieve the exact opposite of their intent. The Affordable Care Act was sold as a way to ensure affordable access to health insurance, yet has only caused health insurance costs to spike and driven millions out of coverage. The Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to curb the excesses of large financial institutions and prevent a recurrence of “too-big-too-fail” bailouts; but has only burdened smaller banks with more burdensome regulation while the big banks grow larger. And with the next financial crisis right around the corner, it is suspected that we will soon see that “too-big-to-fail” was not eliminated but actually codified into law.

After complaining in the 2008 elections about how the unrestrained spending of President Bush led to the financial crisis, the Democrats promptly took office and started a deficit spending spree that continues to this day. The government has wracked up an unprecedented series of trillion dollar deficits the name of stimulating the economy and improving the lot of the poor and middle class. Instead, the economy has still not recovered from the recession in 2009, and median income is still down. If Milton Friedman were here, he would remind us that there is no “free lunch”, that when the government spends money it is not increasing wealth it is simply redistributing it; and when the government spends money it does not have, it is committing to taxing us that much more in the future or through the “invisible tax” of inflation.

If only Milton Friedman were here today, and if only the American public would listen….

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