Saturday, February 07, 2009

Why I want to consume "Free to Choose: A Personal Statement"

by Milton Friedman

Being a liberal, I don’t expect to enjoy reading Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.” But I think it’s a good idea to see what the other side has to say. I read the Introduction this morning while at the laundromat, and already found it irritating:
  • He starts out quoting Adam Smith, but doesn’t bring up the tragedy of the commons.
  • He marvels at the agricultural productivity of the US, and about how the US is “the largest single exporter of food in the world” without considering the eventual penalty we might pay for this overproduction and exactly what was done to get to this state (admittedly the book was written in 1980).
  • “The millions of immigrants from all over the world were free to work for themselves, as independent farmers or businessmen, or to work for others, at terms mutually agreed.” Now it sounds like we’re really living on a different planet.

I like his idea that “government’s role is to serve as an umpire to prevent individuals from coercing one another,” but I suspect that we have different ideas of what that means. Anyway, I’ll continue wading through this, with a stiff upper lip.

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