Friday, May 6, 2011
Five Second ... Friedman Quotations
The case for free enterprise, for competition, is that it's the only system that will keep the capitalists from having too much power. ... The virtue of free enterprise capitalism is that it sets one businessman against another and it's a most effective device for control.
I start ... from a belief in individual freedom and that derives fundamentally from a belief in the limitations of our knowledge, from a belief ... that nobody can be sure that what he believes is right, is really right.... I'm an imperfect human being who cannot be certain of anything....
It is fortunate that the capitalist society is more productive, because if it were not it would never be tolerated. The bias against it is so great that ... it's got to have a five-to-one advantage in order to survive.
Every intellectual believes in freedom for himself, but he's opposed to freedom for others. ... He thinks ... there ought to be a central planning board that will establish social priorities.... The businessmen are just the opposite -- every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that's a different question. He's always a the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing.
We talk about ourselves as a free enterprise society. Yet in terms of the fundamental question of who owns the means of production in the corporate sector we are 48 percent scholastic because the corporate tax is 48 percent.
Part of freedom ... is the freedom to be a fool.
Many people complain about government waste, but I welcome it ... for two reasons. In the first place, efficiency is not a desirable thing if somebody is doing a bad thing. ... In the second place, waste brings home to the public at large the fact that government is not an efficient instrument for achieving its objectives. One of the great causes for hope is a growing disillusionment... with the idea that government is the all-wise, all-powerful big brother who can solve every problem that comes along.
On Monetary Policy
I do believe that every individual should be free to own, buy, and sell gold. If under those circumstances a private gold standard emerged, fine - although I make a scientific prediction that it's very unlikely. But I think those people who say they believe in a gold standard are fundamentally being very anti-libertarian because what they mean by a gold standard is a governmentally fixed price for gold.
I do not think you or I can say what the right savings rate is or should be. There's nothing wrong with a person, family, or country saying, "We have high enough income. We don't need more. We're going to spend it all." We can have a perfectly prosperous and active economy along those lines. I don't think it's helpful to ask, "Is the rate right or wrong?" Instead we should ask, "Have we adopted policies that reduce incentives to save?"
On Public Goods
[Recent research had changed his mind about the necessity of publicly provided, compulsory schooling:] ... In the absence of compulsory schooling there would nonetheless be a very high degree of literacy -- that self-interest would be sufficient to ... satisfy the social need for a literate society.
The role we play as intellectuals is not to persuade anybody but to keep options open and to provide alternative policies that can be adopted when people decide they have to make a change.
Throughout my career, I spent most of my time on technical economics... If you really want to engage in policy activity, don't make that your vocation. Make it your avocation. Get a job. Get a secure base of income. Otherwise you're going to get corrupted and destroyed.... One of the most important things in my career is that I always had a major vocation which was not policy.
[My source: Doherty]