By: Wayne Brown

Milton Friedman died on November 16, 2006, at the age of 94. Over the course of his life he was an economist, a statistician, author, and teacher. Friedman lectured at the University of Chicago for over three decades. His research in economics, statistics, and consumer related behaviors earned him a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. His research in terms of employment, consumerism, and economic factors made him one of the most popular economist among his peers, respected and recognized for the quality and consistency of his work. Friedman also served as an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan over the course of Reagan’s term in office. His works include books, papers, magazine articles and columns, television appearances, as well as some work in video formats. He was also popular on the speaker circuit over the years.

Friedman left us with a cornucopia of advice in his quotes on various matters which is the subject line of this writing…the quotes of Milton Freeman and their implications to modern day life in the United States of America. Below are just a few of his better quotes and the considerations that they relate to in our world of today.

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” In making this statement, Friedman recognized that equality on a broad scale could not be legislated or decreed by a government entity for all or any group of people. This is especially true when that attempt to create equality takes away the freedoms of the people who are to benefit from it. Conversely, Friedman recognized that by society placing emphasis and priority on its freedoms, the ability of the person to choose their own path, equality quickly became a subset. In other words there was a certain momentum or synergy given off in the practice of freedom on which equality fed. Our current president, his administration, and far too many in the Congress subscribe to the “legislation of equality” in our society today which can only make one wonder what happens to our freedoms in the process?

“One of the greatest mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” Friedman did not care what the “intent” might have been if the effect was not accomplished. We see this today with multiple policies and programs such as the Stimulus Package, which consumed more than $880 billion dollars in taxpayer revenues but accomplished little of nothing in terms of stimulating the mainstream economy. The same holds true for job creation and unemployment reduction. Yes, those who would offer these solutions may have compassion and their intent was to help…but the effect was lost and the price was high.

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business…to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” There are far too many in our society today that want to condemn the business sector in the name of making a profit. Those businesses which have not played by the rules, though they have been caught in most instances and have paid the price, have left a black mark on the eye of the private sector. It is not the aim, purpose, or mission of private sector business to sustain the welfare of the public other than in the interest of having a potential population from which to draw a viable workforce. Businesses that do play by the rules and do make a profit normally grow and expand in the marketplace creating more opportunity for the masses. This potentially raises the possibility for jobs and reduces both unemployment and under-employment in the process.

Even the most ardent environmentalist doesn’t really want to stop pollution. If he thinks about it, and doesn’t just talk about it, he wants to have the ‘right’ amount of pollution. We can’t really afford to eliminate it…not without abandoning all the benefits of technology that we not only enjoy but on which we depend.” Since Obama took office, the budget of the EPA has increased by more than 125% lending credence to the fact that the dogs have been turned loose on the private sector. In the current state of stagnation that we find our economy in, it is common to find businesses that have no idea what to expect in terms of environmental regulations and how they will affect the functionality and the survivability of the business. The current approach to the environment is a highly destabilizing factor in the private sector side of the economy and it is ironically driven by the government which claims that it is attempting to pull that economy out of the doldrums.

“Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve freedom, it is an instrument through which we exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.” In other words, accumulated enough power in one central place and those who would do evil things with it will show up. We are certainly in that process as a country at the present with the current administration attempting on a regular basis to circumvent the Constitution and exercise governing powers that it does not have over the people in the name of “doing what is right!” Remember, it is not the intent that matters; it is the outcome or results only that matter in the end.

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it…gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” Those in our society who want the government to control everything and be the provider of all our needs have no concern for the loss or their liberty and freedoms as long as their securities or their “perception of security” is salved in the process. In following such a road, the government expands exponentially as does the associated costs while the elements of freedom and liberty become the price tag. The government “elects” to be the provider of healthcare rather than acting as the referee in the free market in which it exists. The government “elects” to police the environment embracing rules and regulations which place the environment first and the sustainment of way of life secondary in the priority with little regard for the basis of the reasoning or outcome of the action downstream and again imposing on liberty and freedom in the process.

“We economists don’t know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly, you’ll have a tomato shortage. It is the same with oil and gas.” This quote speaks to the important of making a reasonable profit for the business sector and the convenience to the consumer in that possibility. For years, people have stood in lines at stores in communist countries and suffered the effects of government induced shortages. The difference is those people never knew anything else. The people of America have known and benefited in terms of availability and convenience in the free-market system. Whether one recognizes it or not, when the government begins to regulate beyond a rational level, shortages occur, freedoms are squeezed. That loss of freedom may see only an inconvenience of sorts as it applies to tomatoes but apply it to other areas and watch the measure move from inconvenience to threat.

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” Friedman’s point here is that far too many people assume that the government has the expertise to manage any entity effectively and efficiently which is simply not true. Government understands nothing, people do. On that basis, governments do not really ever learn anything which disciplines its actions so as the politicians and bureaucrats turn over with time, government simply slides right back to the starting point poised to make the same mistakes over and over as new people come in and begin to pull the levers without having the proper knowledge. Soon, the sand is gone and we do not know what happened to it…thus, we have to impose restrictions thereby eroding freedoms in some futile attempt at finding a solution for a problem that we do not understand in the first place. Here again, the element of “intent” comes into to play. Whoever lost the sand might have intended to grow a garden…yet they failed miserably and we neither have a garden or a desert, simply a shortage of sand to measure our results in the end.

“There is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.” One only need to look at the on-going extension of unemployment benefits under this Congress and this administration to see that “temporary” has no true definition in the halls of the federal government. To establish something on a temporary basis in government is to create and sustain it just long enough for someone to build an empire around it then attempt to breathe permanent life into it on the basis of “intent”. “It is only a temporary program and our intent is to do good! What difference does it make that we cannot afford it…our intentions are admirable!” Have you seen anyone moving out of “temporary government anything lately”?

“We (the USA) have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work.” In terms of the Obama Administration, this short, simple statement speaks volumes. Hardly a day goes by that Obama is not ranting on “taxing the rich” so that we can pay for the “necessary social programs” and so that we can think up “more necessary social programs” on which to spend money so that our economic position is never improved but the burden on on-going social programs grow with each passing year. When was the last time you hear this president say, “We need to raise taxes so that we can pay off our debts and improve our financial stability in America.” That statement has no meaning in the rationale of this administration because there is nothing in it that “buys any votes in the process”. Our country currently has a federal government that drains more than $600 billion out of our revenue streams in operating costs, add another $600 billion to sustain our military, and, once ObamaCare is up and running, implemented by the federal government (with or without the States support), we can count on another $600 billion dollars annually in red ink required to sustain healthcare premium reductions. Just those three items consume $1.8 trillion annually with mentioning the first social program, of which there are many, some of which are overlapping and redundant. Yet, we still have a federal government teeming with people who want to do more in these areas…because it is the right thing to do; because their “intent” to help; because they are convinced that it will “eliminate” something…yet it never does and we continue to subsidize a growing element of our population to a level which eventually enslaves those people to the government that is holding out the helping hand.

Those are only a few of the truths spoke by Friedman. His words ring like caution flags in our world today as we watch an out of control government grow larger and larger justified on the basis of greater and greater subsidies to more and more sectors of our population. As we watch those who have taken charge and who desire to make the government the “know-all, cure-all, fix-all” Wizard of Oz who claims to be able to send Dorothy and Toto back home to Kansas on the backs of the taxpayers of America. This is not free market economics; this is not freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; this is a parasite which has crawled deeply into the bowels of the American system and is working furiously to destroy all evidence that such a country ever existed. At this juncture, all the parasites need is just four more years come November and the job will be done.

As a statistician and economist, Milton Friedman had no axe to grind in favor of a dominant political agenda. Friedman was not a political entity. Friedman spoke to the truths of the market place determined by the actions of the people who populate it and establish its behavior. It is on that predictability that Friedman lays down a caution of government control and dominance in terms of the economics of a nation. Friedman’s observations will hold true as long as man subscribes to the principles of freedom and liberty and continues to pursue them. When a time comes that this is not the case, then a very large, all-encompassing government will stand before us and tell us what we think, what we like, what we need, and how we will react as well as what we can and cannot have, including that which we earned and is rightly ours. That will be the price that we will have paid to bathe in the waters of perceived security while those establishing this façade steal our garments of liberty and freedom.

Dwell on Friedman’s cautions and remember them when you go to the polls to cast your vote in November.

©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.

31 July 2012

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Comments 24 comments

JBrumett profile image

JBrumett 4 years ago

“There is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program.” I never heard that quote before, but I always mention to people that the government never gives back anything it absorbs. I always relate it to the movie The Blob--where it keeps eating stuff and getting bigger. That's why I wasn't shocked when they kept the health care law. Good read. Thanks

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@JBrumett. Thanks much...Yes, the government is so like the Blob in that consumes all that it touches. That is the very reason that an increase in taxes will never reduce anything such as the deficit or the will only lead to more spending. Friedman had a great talent to be able to break things down into what they were and what they were not. WB

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

The most remarkable talent Milton Friedman possessed was his ability to explain the complexities of intellectual economics to the ordinary person, and then have them walk away understanding what they had just heard.

He is, as you can probably tell, one of my most admired people, and it makes me wonder how someone as smart as Obama still believes in 'social justice'.

Thank you Wayne

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

Obama falls into that trap with folks who believe in Keysian Economic Theory. Friedman acknowledge that Keynes was a fine economist and a good theorists but his conclusions with regard to his information were flawed. Now we have next generation economist espousing the same mistakes. Friedman had it right and as you say, he could explain it using common sense rationale. Thanks, Will. WB

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thank you. Milton Friedman deserves to be remembered and praised. You chose excellent quotes, and interpreted them well. I disagree on a couple of points - I think that almost all businesses, these days, do not play within the rules of the game - deception and other ethical weaknesses are too common. And, historically, the deregulation under Reagan was a crucial initial cause of the current economic crisis. In my view, also the EPA is still under-funded. But our differences in position point out the central point of Friedman's position - the importance of freedom.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@SidKemp...Thanks for those good words, Sid. I do appreciate them and I also appreciate your freedom to expression your opinion and disagreement...and in a gentlemanly fashion I might add. In many faucets, deregulation has proven to be a success builder. One only has to look at the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980 to see that factor. Up until that time, the industry was tired, over-controlled politically, and a handful of fleets owned the commere relegating any one within the industry with the proper authority from every doing much more than hauling agricultural products. With deregulation, the producers came out of the woodworks. Within ten years the top 100 fleets that had controlled industry up to 1980 were and new blood took its place tenfold. Freight rates went down and both the businessman and the consumer benefited by the competition. All regulation really accomplishes is keeping the door closed tightly to the status quo. Certainly there must be indicators in place. Take the airline does not maintain its level of safety due to regulation by the FAA...but more so by the need for a safe record in the consumer's eye, and the need to avoid potential litigation as a result of poor methods. The FAA certainly can play a role in establishing some base to which a standard can be applied or exceeded but it by no means guarantees the consumer anything terms of safety except the suggestion thereof. Trickle down economics would work even if the wealthiest opposed the idea. The truth of the matter is that we have little control over who rides the coattails of our success and how. In essence, we do not care as long as we as individuals continue to succeed at what we do. Corporations and companies that resort to illegal methods are in time exposed as was proven with examples like Enron and WorldCom. Certainly you do not really believe that Solyndra was a legitimate business I hope???? Friedman's read on it all is that the market place let unhampered with eventually out all of that in one way or the other. But when the average citizen pins his fate on the efforts and abilities of an overgrown federal bureacracy to do the job, many of hose factors get side-lined in the process. Any thought process which puts the federal government in as the center piece of our structure as a nation is problematic from the outset. The strength of this nations lies in individual freedom and liberty, the ability to make a buck in the market place for a product having value with the consumer, and the right of States to execute what is best for the people that populates it. When those factors are goes any economic theory which defines true capitalism. WB

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this introduction. I have never heard of Milton Friedman prior to your report.

CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

What a fascinationg man he was.....Reagan relized it, and utlized his theories and advice...this was a very interesting hub, and I really enjoyed it.

btw, Milton would have turned 100 years old two days ago.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Mhatter...I have been aware of him for only a few years. As WillStarr points out, he as the unique ability to explain things in common man fashion and make sense of it. Thanks much! WB

@CMerritt..Yes, I saw that his birthday was on the horizon. His arguments hold a lot of water today when far too many are willing to embrace the flawed conclusions of Keynes. Thanks, Chris. WB

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

He was utterly amazing. You did a great job profiling this amazing human being. Up interesting, useful and awesome. I may have to print this hub so I can keep his words and yours handy.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@breakfastpop....He made some great observations on the practical aspects of our behavior and how it impacts our world. One only has to listen to him speak about these things to realize that he has given these concepts a lot of thought on the practical level....likely justifying the to himself. I think that is the reason that he is so effective in creating an understanding with his explanations. Thanks much, Poppy! WB

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Milton Friedman had two very powerful gifts: a broad understanding of economic theory and a common-sense approach to it. We (our government) could use him now. R.I.P. Thanks, Wayne, for this more than common sense approach to his economic belief system.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@drbj...This hub was driven by my hunger to see something employed that still common sense. Our train is so far off the track of reasonable logic and this administration continues to drive it in the wrong direction....four more years will finish the job, no doubt. Thanks much, Doc! WB

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@drbj...This hub was driven by my hunger to see something employed that still common sense. Our train is so far off the track of reasonable logic and this administration continues to drive it in the wrong direction....four more years will finish the job, no doubt. Thanks much, Doc! WB

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 4 years ago from Arizona

Wayne, don't reckon I'm smart enough to race this track but I am smart enough to hear and determine sense when it hit me.

Most excellent post that may well bounce off the atmosphere of this old worlds head when trying to enter, forget re-entry,

voted up large,



Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@50 Caliber....I agree with you, Dusty. Getting folks to see the dangers of the direction that Obama wishes to follow is an almost impossible challenge. He actually has folks believing that we can cure our ills simply by raising taxes on the wealthy...a spit in the ocean considering how much more will be spent in celebration of the increased revenue. Obama cites the Bush tax reductions as costing America 1 trillion dollars over ten years...chickenfeed by Washington standards. On the other hand, his actions over the past 3.5 years have costs the taxpayers over 5 trillion dollars...I'd say that registers much higher on the scale than any Bush tax cut. No tax cut should cost anything after the first fiscal year that it is established. From that point on, it is the government spending at the same pre-tax cut levels that is causing the problem. No amount of taxation and/or spending cuts is going to cure this problem over night. Somewhere along the line the spending has to be put in check and that calls for a balanced budget amendment. Thanks much. WB

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I don't know what caused me to choose this particular hub to read, but I'm glad I did. What an incredibly fascinating and brilliant man. I was glued to every word on all 4 videos. Mr. Friedman has made so much very clear to me that I have questioned and labored over in an effort to have a clearer picture of precisely what" BHO is doing," to us and given the opportunity of 4 more years, will go full force to succeed with his goal.. This frightens me. Perhaps that "fear" is also a big part of the scam?

Excellent hub, Wayne. You teach me so much! Thank you. UP+++

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@fpherj48...So glad you found him. He's much about common sense and his greatest talent is to interpret to the layman the clear common sense of why our economy works the way it does, what it depends on, and how how human interaction can send it totally off course. Too bad Obama didn't follow his teachings instead of the warped socialist theories the abides by. Thanks much! ~WB

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Eli Moore 4 years ago

Friedman's ideas have obliterated our manufacturing base, destroyed the middle class, and empowered the financial sector to rule over us.

All of his theories were built on the ideology of libertarianism.

Libertarianism is only an ideology, because it does not exist in the world, especially not on a global scale.

So, here we are, the libertarian free traders, keeping our tariff rate below 2%, our goods are all made in China where a Communist government enslaves its citizens, covers forests with soot, spreads cancer, and then . . . manipulates its currency before selling to our big, strong, . . . service economy.

Isn't it great having a service economy with a shrinking middle class? No, it's not because of the recession or Obama, it's been happening for many years now: The upper class and the financial sector have been growing fat, while the middle class--the skilled workers--have been dying.

August 22, 2012: The Lost Decade of the Middle Class

Friedman was criticized throughout his whole career because ECOMOMISTS ARE SOCIAL SCIENTISTS and LIBERTARIANISM VIOLATES THE TRENDS OF HUMAN NATURE.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Eli Moore....Sorry, I don't buy it. Friedman was about as close to reaching the common sense of not just economics but also the element of human interaction and response. If anything has killed the skilled worker in America, it has been the unions and technology itself. You want to point out that the capitalist of America have stolen the worker blind when in essence the union has held the manufacturer and provider hostage to the skillset for years continuing to leverage until the back is finally broken. All one has to do is look at Eastern Airlines and others including American to see the union impact. Companies have gutted our system of jobs, we, as Americans have run them off our shores. America is the most expensive market in the world to attempt to produce a product and that cost is driven in great part by labor. Eventually the most skilled individual prices himself out of the market especially when alternatives exist such as the one created by Bill Clinton with NAFTA. Thanks much. ~ WB

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Eli Moore 4 years ago

Unions? What? Not even Walmart employers are unionized in the United States.

Look: Communist government manipulates its currency.

Even Donald Trump speaks out about our tariff rate with China.

Friedman's theory only works in the heads of libertarians who actually believe that everyone in the world is going to act like an individual. But they don't.

Are you really saying that unions are the reason manufacturing left the United States?

Should we all work like the Chinese slaves? Is that how libertarianism works?

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Eli Moore....You are the one citing the erosion of the manufacturing sector in this country. Wal-Mart is a retailer that indirectly affects that area through its vendor contracts. Labor costs certainly play to a great degree in determining whether or not a manufacturer can afford to think of supplying Wal-Mart. Our tariff rates are low in comparison but I see no basis to blame that on liberatarian appears to apply as aptly to one party as the plays to the voters though it may endanger their jobs. I have worked for a global manufacturer for three decades and I can tell you that there is no higher labor costs in the world. Those who would like to have manufacturing bases in the USA shy away because of the labor factor. The rush into Asia is driven greatly by the need to produce products less expensively so they are saleable in the majority of markets globally. Solyndra is down the drain due in part to their ignorance of the Chinese ability to produce the classic solar panel. Assuming that it could not be produced at significantly less expensive, Solyndra opted to use a photo-tube technology with significantly less efficiency that than of the flat plane solar panel. In the end, China wrecked their markets with the flat panels at affordable prices. I certainly would not blame that on the Liberaterians and I do not think it is something the government can fix either without throwing some other area of the economy out of balance. A company's failure to recognize potential competitive threats in the global market are deadly. I am not a proponent of cheap labor or slave labor at all. In every model, the market will bear only so much. Markets like water, find their level as does competition for the employee and his/her skillset. When unions place extreme demands on those skills in terms of wage rates and benefits, employers have to make choices relative to the available margins for such considerations. GM sold its soul to the unions and kept kicking the can down the road. The company has survived on government bail-out and is really no better company today than it was ten years ago in terms of its exposure financially to union labor and lifetime benefits. While we all would love to have lifetime medical coverage with little or no out of pocket, that benefit today is beyond the scope of reality in terms of the sustaining a company financially. Friedman contends that government cannot legislate equality without destroying freedoms in the process. I do not see that point as Liberatarian but rather more of a common sense factor. Equality of is a bi-product of other actions which may include some regulations. The things which took place in the financial sector ultimately were a function of the government "legislating equality" by attempting to situate the home mortgage process such that literally any person could attempt home ownership. In doing so, many practices were abandoned or allowed to run so loose that those within the industry willing to attempt manipulation rose to the surface. Ultimately their efforts and a significant push by those in government to get mortgage institutions to lo0k the other way ended in disaster or near-disaster. Ultimately, that outcome erodes freedoms at all levels and does a dis-service to equality along the way. As Friedman pointed out, processes cannot be judged on intent but must be weighed on outcome. All the good intentions in the world do not necessarily yield the proper result. ~WB

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Eli Moore 4 years ago

All I'm trying to say is that the middle class of America is getting screwed utterly by the corporate lobbyists who have a vested interest in the deal that they get when they can manufacture in China, with workers under the rule of a Communist regime where they not only can they get slave labor, but the Chinese government will also manipulate its currency to make it even cheaper to import.

The statistics show that the only thing happening is a ballooning upper class and a dying middle class.

Our government can act and put up a tariff for the interest of our country, so our own people aren't reduced to the status of third world citizens. But guess what? THEY CAN'T because the people with all the money and all the lobbyists are in the corporate sector and they are getting more powerful from the scam going on with China.

Economists from MIT have shown mathematically that we are indeed loosing jobs to China:

Frankly, like Pat Buchanan, I used to listen to Friedman and get mesmerized by his speaking, his tenacity, and his idealism.

But I agree with Buchanan, who changed his views on Friedman and concluded "look this free trade policy is de-industrializing America."

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Eli Moore....I tend to agree with your perspective on the lobbyist angle. On that basis, both sides of the aisle have sold us out. From a global perspective, I am not convince that we are enough of "one world" to have a singular economy which works in harmony. I don't know that Friedman was necessarily so sure of that either. It seems to me that much of his observations were aimed at our own behaviors, actions, and goals here in America. The politician can sell out to the lobbyist on the basis that it is "good for America" to have the competition and it turns our nation away from isolationism. For me, NAFTA was the turning point on which things shifted in the wrong direction. Prior to that time, we saw foreign auto manufacturers and the like setting up bases of manufacturing within the country to lose their foreign identity. That slowed greatly with the advent of NAFTA and even the big three began a heavy shift of parts and sub-assemblies built in Mexico then assembled in the USA. The trucking industry traffic lane between Laredo and the rust belt in supported by about 1/3 of its traffic being in auto parts. This diminish with the downturn of 2008 but is slowly building momentum again. I believe we have to be selective in our choice such that we force foreign entities to the same hand that we are dealt at their shores while at the same time keeping things competitive enough that we are not held hostage by unions demanding wage levels which drive our own consumer products through the roof and victimize the consumer...rewarding one, robbing the other...there must be a balance there somewhere. I don't have the answers but honest men have a way of finding soon as we find some honest men. Enjoyed the discusson very much, Eli...stop by anytime! Thanks. ~WB

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