Apr 20, 2012

Top 10 quotes from Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom

I recently finished listening to the audio book of Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom.Friedman was indeed a great economist whose articulation skills and influence indeed provided a major contribution in reviving classical liberalism in the Western world and introducing it to the Eastern world. Although, I have found many libertarians quite critical of Friedman's for his support for government actions in some context such as education and monetary policies, I think, had it not been for him, free market economics would not have received as much recognition as it did since 1980s. In this book also he has made compelling arguments in favor of liberty and free markets. He has with enough arguments and reason (for the logical minds that is) made a very compelling case for free markets, limited government and capitalism. In my view, the most appreciable aspect of the book is the way he has simplified economic arguments and made them understandable and interesting for a layman.

As Friedman was very well-known as one of the smartest and quickest debater, I have presented here the top 10 quotes (in my view and not in any particular order) from his book Capitalism and Freedom:

  • "To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served."
  • "Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
  • "Humility is the distinguishing virtue of the believer in freedom; arrogance, of the paternalist."
  • "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."
  • "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it."
  • "The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the "rule of the game" and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on."
  • "Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp."
  • “There is still a tendency to regard any existing government intervention as desirable, to attribute all evils to the market, and to evaluate new proposals for government control in their ideal form, as they might work if run by able, disinterested men free from the pressure of special interest groups.” 
  • "The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government."
  • "Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power."