Friedman Taught The Humaneness Of The Free Market
While I waited for my daughter to finish her class at hebrew School, I mentioned the death of Milton Friedman to 2 other waiting parents. Both recognized the name and his occupation-economics.
I said that besides the assumed cold subject of economics, I thought Friedman’s contribution was as great in allowing us to recognize the prosperity that flows from freedom. I then told them about how floored I was upon reading Friedman’s criticism of the famous JFK bromide “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Friedman found that the statement failed in both sections as it relates to liberty. In essence, we are not vassals of the state to do its bidding. As well, we should not expect much from the state. I think Katrina showed us what dependence upon government is worth.
I then brought up the benefits we gain from the self-interest of the baker. We never have to worry about how or if the bread will make it to the bakery. We just know it will be there.
The woman was aghast that in a waiting room of a temple I would show such esteem for self-interest and the profit motive. She felt what I had said was not supportive of a supposed Torahic decree towards charity.
I responded that the Torah looks to ethical actions. Where, I asked, was the voluntary giving in a government forcing me through taxation to support some cause the politician found beneficial to the community. From my view, I would like to decide whether I contribute towards a bridge to some uninhabited Alaskan island rather than be forced to by a politician’s fiat.
What I also should have stated was, getting back to the baker, would she prefer to buy her daily bread from a profit-seeking baker or a government-run bakery. No doubt the breads may be as good (though even that is questionable) but which business is most likely to always be open early enough for the breakfast customers. Which business is more likely to be open at 6:00 A.M.? Which one may not always be open by 8:00 A.M.? Which business will be cleaner and have better inventory? The one with the owner who wants to please his customers and make lots of money or the one that cares not about what the revenue and profits are?
That is what I think about as I consider the economic process. And Milton Friedman taught me directly through his writings or through the writings of the generations of students (such as Thomas Sowell). Economics is not solely numbers. And the correct policy, such as having the lowest taxes so that money remains in the hands of those bakers, and clothiers and dentists and insurance agents and developers and Big Oil executives means more people are employed, fed, clothed and housed than through government’s or charity’s good graces.
Friedman showed me that the proper free market approach to trade and personal relations is the most humane. And it is more fun to learn these concepts knowing that it is the fairest system to bring about such goodness. Thank you Milton Friedman.