Friday, March 1, 2013

Where will you find enough angels? - Milton Friedman

I often find myself surfing the net, reading magazines, listening to the radio, and (when drunk) watching television, and wondering about people.
Yeah, people.
I wonder about all the people who think that our government should "do something".  Take charge.  Regulate.  Otherwise, the big corporations will have their way with us.  Businessmen are only in it for the money, you know....
There are actually people, living, breathing humans, people who can feed themselves with a knife and fork, yet believe that governments should own all of the oil companies.  They believe that our government should set all wages and set price margins.  It really is astounding.

Here's a crusty old exchange between Phil Donahue and Milton Friedman.  I've probably watched the YouTube a dozen times, but this guy blessed us with a transcript.

Enjoy.  And just for grins, I followed it with Wikipedia's links to every Federal-level political scandal going all the way back to the founding of the republic.  Politicians and bureaucrats don't become economic eunuchs when they go in and out Obama's door from business to government.  They're just like you and just like me - providing for themselves and their families first, and then their supporters.  Any other considerations are waaaaaay down the line.  

Phil Donahue: When you see around the globe, the mal-distribution of wealth, a desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries. When you see so few “haves” and so many “have-nots.” When you see the greed and the concentration of power. Did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed is a good idea to run on?
Milton Friedman: Well first of all tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on Greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who is greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.
The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way.
In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about – the only cases in recorded history – are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.
If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.
Donahue: But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system…
Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the Communist commissar rewarded virtue? You think a Hitler rewarded virtue? You think – excuse me – if you’ll pardon me – do you think American Presidents reward virtue ?
Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout ?
Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest ? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us ? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that. 

  • 1 Scope and organization of political scandals
  • 2 Federal government scandals

  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the link.

    Did you notice the fallacy of the excluded middle in Freidman's arguments?

    He makes it sound like the choices are between capitalism and communism with nothing in between.