MILTON FRIEDMAN SPEAKS … As the one-year anniversary of economist Milton Friedman's death approaches, Tom Armstrong at the Armchair Economist (blog.financeandeconomicscenter.com) points us toward a short video from 1979 wherein Friedman delivers a sound thumping to talk show host Phil Donahue. In the video, Mr. Friedman meditates on greed and virtue. Donahue asks: "When you see around the globe the mal-distribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in undeveloped countries … 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?"
Friedman responds, "What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy; it's only the other fellow who's greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. … In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you're talking about … they have had capitalism and largely free trade. … 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."
Later, when asked by Mr. Donahue whether capitalism rewards virtue, Friedman says, "Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? … Just tell me where in the world you're going to find these angels who are going to organize society for us? I don't even trust you to do that!"
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… AND SPEAKS AGAIN The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently published a previously unreleased interview with Friedman conducted in October 2005 by the then-president and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Richard Fisher (dallasfed.org/news/friedman.cfm). During the hour-long conversation, the late Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist covers a wide range of topics, including the Chinese economy, the Federal Reserve, free trade, government spending, and education reform. The video is viewable in short pieces, separated by subject. On the topic of globalization, Friedman says, "… It's a curious situation. You read the newspapers and you think the world is going to hell. You think the economy is doing badly. And yet, the truth is that we have never in our history had as productive an economy as we do now."
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ECONOMICS OF DRUGS Russell Nelson at Angry Economist (angry-economist.russnelson.com) muses on the war on drugs: "Attempting to put all the drug dealers in jail is simply not possible. There is a demand for their job function, so the only effect of jailing somebody who has taken on that job is to create a job opening at a higher pay rate."
He continues, "The War on Drugs is a War on Economics. You can ignore economics if you want. You can even fight economics. But economics is going to win every time."