EppsNet Archive: Milton Friedman

A Shortage of Sand

13 Aug 2015 /

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.

— Milton Friedman

There Are Four Ways You Can Spend Money

10 Aug 2015 /
English: Portrait of Milton Friedman

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

— Milton Friedman

Are There Any Intelligent People Currently Living?

4 Aug 2014 /

I was at LA Fitness this morning . . . one of the TVs was showing an interview with Jameis Winston on ESPN. Winston is borderline retarded but thinks he’s articulate — a deadly combination.

He’s a very talented athlete. Just show clips of his athletic accomplishments. They’re impressive and fun to watch. Why would anyone want to talk to him or listen to him talk? The interviewer is paid to endure it, I get that, but why foist it on the viewing public? Maybe it’s the train wreck element. It was very painful to watch and yet I couldn’t look away!

Rarely is one person gifted in multiple ways. Some people are great athletes, some people are intelligent and interesting . . . the overlap between the two groups is very small.

Venn diagram: Athletic / Intelligent

Listening to Jameis Winston talk is like watching Milton Friedman take batting practice or Albert Einstein work on his five-step drop.

(I know the Milton Friedman and Albert Einstein references are dated but I’m having trouble thinking of anyone who’s a) highly intelligent; b) well known to the general public; and c) currently alive.)


Well, there are fewer limits on what you can promise than on what you can deliver. — Milton Friedman


Thomas Jefferson on “You Didn’t Build That”

8 Sep 2012 /
Thomas Jefferson

Almost everything appertaining to the circumstances of a nation, has been absorbed and confounded under the general and mysterious word government. Though it avoids taking to its account the errors it commits, and the mischiefs it occasions, it fails not to arrogate to itself whatever has the appearance of prosperity. It robs industry of its honours, by pedantically making itself the cause of its effects; and purloins from the general character of man, the merits that appertain to him as a social being.

— Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1792)

My fellow Americans —

You see how my friend Tom Paine, 220 years ago, perfectly anticipated — and rejected — your President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote.

Oh yes, we were aware of the “progressive” philosophy — that everything good comes from government — even then and we wanted no part of it.

By the way, I notice that liberals are now calling themselves “progressives.”

That’s good. The word “liberal” has lost its true meaning. Classical liberalism was based on “liberty” — from kings, churches and aristocracies.

Did you know that the great economist Milton Friedman did not call himself a conservative or a libertarian? He called himself a liberal, in the original sense of that word.

Progressives don’t believe in liberty. They believe in government as the new church and politicians as the new aristocracy.


Milton Friedman Would Be 100 Years Old Today

31 Jul 2012 /
English: Portrait of Milton Friedman

What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be decided through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color-the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit.

It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated – a system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.

— Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

The Art of the Possible

12 Feb 2009 /

The role of the economist in discussions of public policy seems to me to be to prescribe what should be done in light of what can be done, politics aside, and not to predict what is “politically feasible” and then to recommend it.

— Milton Friedman

Take out the references to economics and public policy and you can probably apply the “what should be done in light of what can be done” approach in your own work. It’s the art of the possible . . .