Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
is another book I regret waiting so long to read. As I read it I felt that same way Mr. Jeffrey Tucker did when reading Against Intellectual Monopoly, “I’ve felt that sense of intellectual stimulation that comes along rarely in life — that sense that makes you want to grab anyone off the street and tell that person what this book says.”
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement is in many ways an intellectual follow-up to the wonderful Capitalism and Freedom, and a wrap-up to the eponymous (and brilliant) TV serious of the late 1970s. Friedman himself describes the more recent Free To Choose as less abstract and more concrete than Capitalism and Freedom. Less theory, more practicality. While not necessary I would recommend reading them in the proper order. As an aside, can you believe that the TV series was originally broadcast on PBS?!?
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman: a little over 300 pages, originally published in 1980, reprinted in 1990. This is a classic book that should be in every family’s library, imho. It’s not a technical book and contain only a couple charts, easily understandable by nearly anyone, except maybe Naomi Klein. $15 in paperback.
Dr. Friedman’s ideas may seem quaint, idealist, or even radical to some. However, his ideas are sensible, sound, and at least as relevant now as in decades prior. I can think of no bigger 20th century proponent of liberty and prosperity for all than the wonderful Dr. Milton Friedman. We are lucky to have lived during his time. I think that to be against Milton Friedman’s ideals one must either be hostile to the ideals liberty and prosperity or (much) more likely, ignorant of them.
The chapters are titled:
Chapter 01 – The Power of the Market
Chapter 02 – The Tyranny of Controls
Chapter 03 – Anatomy of Crisis
Chapter 04 – Cradle to Grave
Chapter 05 – Created Equal
Chapter 06 – What’s Wrong with Our Schools?
Chapter 07 – Who Protects the Consumer?
Chapter 08 – Who Protects the Worker
Chapter 09 – The Cure for Inflation
Chapter 10 – The Tide is Turning
Quote that starts the book:
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
— Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 479 (1928)
Some specific notes and thoughts about the book.
1. Friedman explains/describes the power of markets, and uses Leanord Reid’s ‘I, Pencil’ as an example.
2. The importance of prices and the three roles they play
3. Corporations aren’t real, they are merely contractual constructs [note that this is the root of the problem, I think w/ the corporate income tax]
4. Discussion of ‘market failures’ and 3rd party effects
5. pp 65-66, Comparison of the market and political processes
6. The chapter ‘Cradle to Grave’ is phenomenal and the criticisms of Social Security and socialized medicine are sharp sharp.
7. Equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome, pp. 134-136
8. p. 141, Exactly what equality is referred to?
9. p. 146, Be quite clear, capitalism does not ‘exploit’ the poor, it helps the poor more than anyone else.
10. Why don’t we have vouchers for primary and secondary school similar to how the GI Bill has worked for college education since WWII? My guess? No NEA at the college level?
11. A wonderful description of the problems with government/public education and some ideas that if they wouldn’t fix the problems, would improve them a great deal.
12. pp. 178-181 do a wonderful job of explaining the mistake of believing that education is a public good and must be paid for via taxes and provided by the government. THis is on of my fav. sections of the book.
13. p. 184 How about equity financing of higher education?
14. p. 191 A look at the costs of regulation, see the size of the Federal Register
15. p. 192. Govt. vs. markets; which products/services please us the most? Displease us the most?
16. p. 197 A brilliant dissection of the problems associated w/ the laws that give unions special privileges. Also note the myriad problems w/ the ICC, railroads, and trucking industries. Note that unions are exempt from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act!
17. The chapter on inflation gives a good historical treatment of the subject.
18. Should we strive to eradicate pollution, or merely reduce it?
Unions, education, healthcare, price controls (rent control, minimum wages, etc.), government, markets, inflation, the FDA, Social Security, auto safety, reducing pollution, Great Depression, human liberty. Dr. Friedman touches on these topics and many more.
In summary, Dr. Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose is a classic and readable book that is a timeless classic. He describes the common (and seemingly always current) economic problems and provides clear, well thought-out solutions. Milton Friedman makes it clear that liberty, sound economics, and prosperity aren’t at all mutually-exclusive. On the contrarary: they all work best when used together.
I think this book would be appropriate for readers 16 years and up. There’s nothing in it objectionable to any age, provided one does not find prosperity and liberty objectionable.