Archive for the ‘Milton Friedman’ Category

Sincerity is overrated

September 4, 2007

“Sincerity is a much overrated virtue.  We are all capable of persuading ourselves that what is good for us is good for the country [or our family, our spouse, our company, etc.]”  Despite our sincerity, it may in fact not be good for the country, or our family, our spouse, our company, etc.

Free to Choose by Milton Friedman

Example of Limited Government

July 27, 2007

 As of 1997 …

In today’s world big government seems pervasive.  We may well ask whether there exist any contemporary examples of societies that rely primarily on voluntary exchange through the market and in which government is limited.

Perhaps the best example is Hong Kong.  It is less than 400 square miles in size with a population of roughly 4.5 million people.  The density of population is almost unbelievable — 14 times as many people per square mile as Japan, 185 times as many as in the United States.  Yet they enjoy one of the highest standards of living in all of Asia — second only to Japan and perhaps Singapore.

Hong Kong has no tariffs or other restraints on international trade.  It has no government direction of economic activity, no minimum wage laws, no fixing of prices.  The residents are free to buy from whom they want, sell to whom they want, to invest however they want, to hire whom they want, to work for whom they want.

The role of government is limited.  It enforces law and order, provides a means for formulating the rules of conduct, adjudicates disputes, facilitates transportation and communication, and supervises the issuance of currency.

Government spending remains the lowest in the world as a fraction of the income of the people.  As a result, low taxes preserve incentives.  Businessmen reap the benefits of their success but also bear the costs of their mistakes.

— Free to Choose by  Milton Friedman

Television versus the Printed Page

July 19, 2007

“Television is dramatic. It appeals to the emotions. It captures your attention. However, the printed page is a more effective instrument for both education and persuasion. The authors of a book can explore issues deeply – without being limited by the ticking clock. The reader can stop and think, turn the pages back without being diverted by the emotional appeal of the scenes moving relentlessly across his television screen.”

– Free to Choose by Milton Friedman

Complex Structures Created through Voluntary Exchange

July 9, 2007

The economy is the product of the voluntary exchange of goods and services.

A language is the product of the voluntary exchange of ideas and information.

A scientific discipline is the product of the voluntary exchange of ideas and empirical data.

A musical style is the product of the voluntary exchange of notes and sounds and ideas.

The economy, languages, scientific disciplines, musical styles, social conventions and values, and culture are complex structures that all developed in the same way, through voluntary exchange, spontaneous cooperation, trail and error, acceptance and rejection.

These examples suggest the wide scope and fundamental nature of “voluntary exchange”.

— extracted from Free to Choose by Milton Friedman

Misunderstanding “self-interest”

July 7, 2007

Narrow preoccupation with the economic market has led to a narrow interpretation of self-interest as myopic selfishness, as exclusive concern with immediate material rewards.

That is a great mistake.

Self-interest is not myopic selfishness. It is whatever it is that interests the participants, whatever they value, whatever goals they pursue.  The scientist seeking to advance the frontiers of his discipline, the missionary seeking to convert infidels to the true faith, the philanthropist seeking to bring comfort to the needy — all are pursuing their interests, as they see them, as they judge them by their own values.

— Free to Choose by Milton Friedman