Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (Anglais) Broché – 26 novembre 1990
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Friedman sets out a strong case that when people are left to pursue their own interests, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts, and the commonwealth benefits more than when central planners try to orchestrate economies. That should be obvious now that nations like China and Vietnam, while retaining political repression, have given wide scope to free markets and thereby lifted millions out of poverty. Contrast that with Cuba or Venezuela, where central economic planning prevails, and the people are largely destitute.
The book's argument is often attacked as an appeal to "greed," which is unfortunate as "self-interest" is not necessarily greed. I think mostly of one of my leftist friends in this regard who assails capitalism and whatnot, but who, due to his comfortable job in a government bureau, is able to pursue an acting and singing career after hours. Is he not, there, pursuing his self interest? And doesn't the larger public benefit from his ability to deploy his talents? I along with many have enjoyed many of his performances, and will continue to. It's just Friedman's thesis at work: we all benefit when everyone seeks his own interest.
The book is often attacked as being anarchistic (or something like that) -- that is, that "limited government" or "less regulation" means "no government or "no regulation." Quite to the contrary, Friedman argues for a very clear and specific role for government in regulating natural monopolies, enforcing contracts, and taking many other actions to make sure that markets function openly. He clearly embraces regulation with the stipulation that when employed the benefits exceed the costs. And there's the rub with many government programs (say, agriculture subsidies): they favor entrenched interests rather than the commonwealth.
His arguments about free trade convince me that it is the best way to help the poor in the world. I've read that the annual subsidy for one cow in Belgium rivals the annual salary of an African subsistence farmer. Take down that trade barrier benefiting the rich Belgian cow owner, and that farmer suddenly has a chance to present his goods on a world market. My point is, if you care about the poor, and if you care about social justice and all that, this might just be a crazy (and, for a change, effective) way to go.
I don't fully agree with some of the book's policy prescriptions regarding environmental, education or monetary policy, but I suggest that Friedman's thoughts, formulated in the 1970s and published first in 1980, are far more likely to be successful than current ideas like "common core" or "quantitative easing."
Overall, this is a thought-provoking read no matter what your political stripe is. Check it out.
* Social Welfare and Social Security
* Racism and Equality under the law
* Consumer Protection
* Labor and Employer Relations
Recognizing the challenges that are faced in the political landscape, the approaches they suggest are largely compromises from the theoretical hard line stance, and many of them - such as school vouchers - were actually adopted in the 80's and 90's. One of the most interesting elements of the book is the Friedmans' analysis of the 1928 US Socialist Party platform, and the fact that most of that platform was in place by 1979.
As noted, the book is easy to read for an economics text, and is designed so that the lay person can read and understand the contents. A great read, and important work.
If you like this book you should consider checking out the "Freedom to Choose" series Milton Friedman did back in the 70's. Full episodes (of which there are 10) can be found on youtube by searching freedom to choose. The debates that take place in the second half of each episode are fantastic. I wish we could bring back that type of debate back to today but that seems neigh impossible.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in economics.