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