Milton Friedman on the "Great Virtue" of Free Markets, Iraq, & More


Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this interview with Milton Friedman in New Perspectives Quarterly. Snippets:

The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically….

The big issue is whether the United States will succeed in its venture of reshaping the Middle East. It is not clear to me that using military force is the way to do it. We should not have gone into Iraq. But we have. At the moment, the most pressing issue, therefore, is to make sure that effort is completed in a satisfactory way….

At the end of World War II, government spending was 15-20 percent of national income. Then it went up dramatically so that by 1980 it hit 40 percent largely because of programs ranging from Medicare to environmental regulation to Social Security. From 1980 until 2005, it has remained static. We haven't beaten the tendency or rolled it back. We've just stopped the growth.

Whole thing here.

Reason recently interviewed the 93-year-old Friedman on the 50th anniversary of his creation of the idea of school vouchers. That's online here. And he participated in our rollicking debate about the social responsiblity of business here.

NEXT: Attn, DC Reasonoids: Ron Bailey vs. the Precautionary Principle, Feb. 14

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  1. The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically….

    I was talked to an expert on ethnic violence in Kosovo once. She said that the great multi-racial success story in Kosovo is organized crime, specifically drug running and prostitution. If there is money to be made, it is amazing how seemingly intractible hatreds can be set aside.

  2. I just finished reading the new Friedman interview. It is amazing, every time I read one of his interviews I feel better. He has a kind of knowledgable optimism that is soothing, at least for a libertarian!

  3. All the good that Uncle Milton has done will forever be overshadowed by his being the father of payroll withholding taxes.

    His worst idea was implimented almost instantly, and we still await school vouchers.

  4. Love that Friedman. I met him at a Cato/Forbes ASAP conference back in 1998. He’s really short, but still impressive 🙂 That was a great conference, with Friedman and son, Larry “I’m Only Satan Some of the Time” Ellison, Virginia Postrel, Ed Crane, Greg Benford, David Brin, Eric Drexler, and a few other well-known folk around these parts (including Harry Browne, now that I think about it). It was nice being with relatively reasonable libertarians in a large group.

  5. NoStar, before you get too critical, I think Friedman had no idea that what he was doing during WWII would become permanent. Here’s what he had to say about the whole mess:

    Today Friedman bemoans the effect of that wartime decision. “We gave next to no consideration to any longer-run consequences,” he recalled in his 1998 memoirs, Two Lucky People. “It never occurred to me at the time that I was helping to develop machinery that would make possible a government that I would come to criticize severely as too large, too intrusive, too destructive of freedom.”
  6. Tax withholding? Well, many of us did dumb stuff when we were young. I remember how one night I got really drunk, and when I woke up, everyone was congratulating me on having invented disco.

  7. Milton, our lives are enriched and most probably freer thanks to yours.

  8. Friedman rocks. But his son influenced me more. (His is not the most organized Web site in the world, though.)

  9. When school vouchers are implimented, I will consider his sin atoned for.

    But other than that, I remain a fan.

  10. Stevo, I had to look twice at David Friedman’s web site before I’d believe it was his. He’s, like, published books and stuff. I also noted absolutely no mention of dear Dad. Must be hard to be the son of a Nobel laureate.

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