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Milton Friedman

Economist, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science (1976), founding member and former president of the Mont Pelerin Society, author of Capitalism and Freedom (1962), Free to Choose (1980) and other works

Books by Milton Friedman
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Capitalism & Freedom
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Free to Choose:A Personal Statement
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Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History
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The Libertarian Reader
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Government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington. [Because] if I do not like what my local community does, I can move to another local community... [and] if I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. [But] if I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.

1962 - from Capitalism and Freedom
It is tempting to believe that social evils arise from the activities of evil men and that if only good men (like ourselves, naturally) wielded power, all would be well... To understand why it is that "good" men in positions of power will produce evil, while ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbours will produce good, requires analysis and thought, subordinating the emotions to the rational faculty.

Aug. 15, 1994 - from a column in the International Herald Tribune, quoted in The Quotable Conservative by Bill Adler
If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.

Most economic fallacies derive ... from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.

1973 - from Economic Freedom and Representative Government
The problem has been widely recognized. Yet, despite numerous efforts to reform government-run schools, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, the most comprehensive and reliable measures of educational attainment, show no significant improvement in performance in any age category or subject area from the early 1980s to the present. The fault is not with the teachers, it is not with the children, it is not with the parents, it is with the monopoly character of the market for educational services.

May 1996 - from "The Low Quality of Government Education", published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Education Choice
It would be highly desirable if Europe could have a common money, a single unified money, just as it's desirable for the United States that we have a single unified currency. But in order for that to be possible or desirable, you have to have a unified currency over an area in which people and goods move relatively freely, and in which there is enough homogeneity of interest so that severe political strains are not raised by divergent developments in different parts of the area.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
There is only one place inflation is made in Canada, and that's in Ottawa.

Fundamentally, there are only two ways of coordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion--the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary cooperation of individuals--the technique of the marketplace.

The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955. There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children. The reason is partly the deterioration of our central cities, partly the increased centralization of public schools--as evidenced by the decline in the number of school districts from 55,000 in 1955 to 15,000 in 1992. Along with centralization has come--as both cause and effect--the growing strength of teachers' unions. Whatever the reason, the fact of deterioration of elementary and secondary schools is not disputable.

Jun. 23, 1995 - from "Public Schools: Make Them Private", published in Cato Briefing Papers by the Cato Institute
[Monetary policy in Europe] ... a system under which the political and currency boundaries do not match is bound to prove unstable.

Dec. 11, 2000 - from a debate with Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell, published in the National Post
The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

[Monetary policy] There is widespread agreement that a global move to pegged-rate regimes would be a bad idea. Every currency crisis has been connected with pegged rates. ... By contrast, no country with a flexible rate has ever experienced a foreign exchange crisis, though there may well be an interenational crisis, as in Japan.

Dec. 11, 2000 - from a debate with Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell, published in the National Post
... a reduction in taxes would have the same stimulative effect as an increase in spending, yet it would avoid the long-term adverse effect of increasing the role of government in the economy.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Inflation is one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.

The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.

There is a distressing similarity to attempts [to establish school voucher programs] made over three decades and from coast to coast. In each case, a dedicated group of citizens makes a well-thought through proposal. It initially garners widespread public support. The educational establishment -- administrators and teachers’ unions -- then launches an attack that is notable for its mendacity but is backed by much larger financial resources than the proponents can command and succeeds in killing the proposal.

May 1996 - from a letter introducing the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Education Choice
The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good reasons.

from Free to Choose
Nobody will tell me that the people of this country really favor paying two or three times the world price for sugar. Nobody will tell me that the people of this country believe it is desirable to spend money to provide water to farmers at less than cost in order to enable them to produce crops which the government buys up in part at more than the world price and then has to dispose as surpluses. You cannot explain those activities of government, and there are hundreds more ... They reflect a system in which concentrated vested interests have been able to obtain great power and impose costs on a diffused consumer interest.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
The most unresolved problem of the day is precisely the problem that concerned the founders of this nation: how to limit the scope and power of government. Tyranny, restrictions on human freedom, come primarily from governmental institutions that we ourselves set up.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
My philosophy is clearly libertarian. However, libertarian is not a self-defining term. There are many varieties of libertarians. There's a zero-government libertarian, an anarchist. There's a limited-government libertarianism. They share a lot in terms of their fundamental values. If you trace them to their ultimate roots, they are different. It doesn't matter in practice, because we both want to work in the same direction.

Jun. 01, 1995 - from an interview published in Reason Magazine
Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.

Oct. 09, 1988 - from an appearance on PBS' "Firing Line"
I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my value 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.

History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.

1962 - from Capitalism and Freedom
Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.

A society that puts equality...ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom.

... there's a bigger market for collectivist ideology than there is for individualist ideology. The thing that really baffles me is that the fraction of intellectuals who are collectivists is, I think, even larger than would be justified by the market.

Dec. 01, 1974 - from an interview published in Reason Magazine
No one can predict in advance the direction that a truly free-market educational system would take. We know from the experience of every other industry how imaginative competitive free enterprise can be, what new products and services can be introduced, how driven it is to satisfy the customers--that is what we need in education.

Jun. 23, 1995 - from "Public Schools: Make Them Private", published in Cato Briefing Papers by the Cato Institute
There's a strong argument to be made that a free society is a fundamentally unstable equilibrium, in the language of the natural sciences. ... There's a great deal of basis for believing that a free society is fundamentally unstable - we may regret this but we've got to face up to the facts. ... How often and for how long have we had free societies? For short periods of time. There was an essentially free society in 5th-century Greece. Was it able to survive? It disappeared. Every other time when there's been a free society, it has tended to disappear.

Dec. 01, 1974 - from an interview published in Reason Magazine
I'm not in favor of no government. You do need a government. But by doing so many things that the government has no business doing, it cannot do those things which it alone can do well. There's no other institution in my opinion that can provide us with protection of our life and liberty. However, the government performs that basic function poorly today, precisely because it is devoting too much of its efforts and spending too much of our income on things which are harmful.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Columbus did not seek a new route to the Indies in response to a majority directive.

We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good reasons. Fortunately, we are waking up. We are again recognizing the dangers of an overgoverned society, coming to understand that good objectives can be perverted by bad means, that reliance on the freedom of people to control their own lives in accordance with their own values is the surest way to achieve the full potential of a great society.

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

We have concluded that the achievement of effective parental choice requires an ongoing effort to inform the public about the issues and possible solutions, an effort that is not episodic, linked to particular legislative or ballot initiatives, but that is educational. It requires also the cooperation of the many groups around the country who are devoted to improving the quality of our schools, whether governmental or private.

May 1996 - from a letter introducing the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Education Choice
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.

from Free to Choose
From the political point of view, increased spending may initially be designed to be temporary but few things become more permanent than temporary spending. ... On a technical level, I believe that there is no persuasive evidence that, given the course of monetary policy and monetary aggregates, federal government deficits have any stimulative effect. They have a stimulative effect only insofar as they are financed by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than would otherwise occur.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
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.

1962 - from Capitalism and Freedom
What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

Every friend of freedom must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence.

Sep. 7, 1989 - from a letter in the Wall Street Journal
When the law contradicts what most people regard as moral and proper, they will break the law - whether the law is enacted in the name of a noble ideal ... or in the naked interest of one group at the expense of another. Only fear of punishment, not a sense of justice and morality, will lead people to obey the law. When people start to break one set of laws, the lack of respect for the law inevitably spreads to all laws, even those that everyone regards as moral and proper - laws against violence, theft, and vandalism.

from Free to Choose
Support for free choice schools has been growing rapidly and cannot be held back indefinitely by the vested interests of the unions and educational bureaucracy. I sense that we are on the verge of a breakthrough in one state or another, which will then sweep like wildfire through the rest of the country.

Feb. 27, 1995 - from his column in the Washington Post Weekly Edition
Abraham Lincoln talked about a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Today, we have a government of the people, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats, including in the bureaucrats the elected members of Congress because that has become a bureaucracy too. And so undoubtedly the most urgent problem today is how to find some mechanism for restructuring our political system so as to limit the extent to which it can control our individual lives.

Jun. 1992 - from an interview published in The Region, a publication of the Woodrow Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis