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Book Review: Free to Choose

Kurt Jaros is walking us through Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.” Below are the links to each of his pieces. Free to Choose: Introduction
This Christmas I asked for and received “Free to Choose” by Milton and Rose Friedman. I’ve been a big fan of Milton for a while now, be it reading some articles online or watching YouTube videos of him. My goal over the next several weeks is to write a post for each of the chapters to summarize his points and present something I’ve learned. There are ten in all, but this one will include the introduction.
Chapter 1: The Power of the Market
Friedman begins the chapter by explaining the difference between a command and a voluntary economy. Like a military, there is a chain of commands that take place. Yet the general cannot be entirely accountable for everything that a private does. That is why “commands must be supplemented by voluntary cooperation,” which is a more fundamental technique of coordinating activities. Friedman argues that there is no society that operates entirely on the command method or the voluntary method. Even in the Soviet Union there were moonlighters who would take extra pay to fix a household problem same day than for the homeowner to wait months for the government.
Chapter 1: The Power of the Market (part two)
Some people think the free market is full of greedy men who respond to monetary stimuli. But this isn’t the essence of a market (despite some types of those men acting within the free market). Rather, self-interest is “whatever it is that interests the participants, whatever they value, whatever goals they pursue.” This is why an economy is very much like any industry: science, linguistics, theology, etc. In each industry there is the attempt to build and grow the knowledge within the field, so that the bad ideas will dissolve over time and the good ideas succeed and live on.
Chapter 2: The Tyranny of Controls
In the second chapter, Friedman writes on the role of government as it relates to trade. He makes a strong case for free trade, and specifically focuses on international trade. However, the same principles ought to be applied to domestic trade.
Chapter 2: The Tyranny of Controls (part two)
Economic arrangements are attached to political arrangements among countries. “International free trade fosters harmonious relations among nations that differ in culture and institutions,” just as the same thing happens domestically at a smaller scale. Cooperation among the countries is the rule, and both sides end up happy if they believe they benefit. Otherwise the trade would not take place.
Chapter 3: The Anatomy of Crisis
In my previous post, I shared Milton Friedman’s thoughts on why international trade is bad for an economy. This is part six of the series on “Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. Often times in our political discussions with friends and colleagues we want to play the role of doctor and figure out what the source of pain is. We can both agree on what the symptoms are, but we may have different answers for the cause. In the third chapter of his book, Friedman’s diagnosis of the source of economic crisis is government. Surprised?
Chapter 4: Cradle to Grave
In my previous post, I summarized Friedman’s beliefs about the Federal Reserve, its proper role, and how its failure is what leads us to economic problems (not capitalism). In his following chapter, “Cradle to Grave,” Friedman explains how the welfare state began to take off during the FDR administration. FDR’s first election “marked a major change in both the public’s perception of the role of government and the actual role assigned to government.” This is clearly seen in the amount of national income spent by the government (national, state and local).
Chapter 4: Cradle to Grave (part two)
In my previous post I began to discuss the shift of public perception about the role of government in America from one that merely protects the individuals to one that also provides for the individuals. Although he does not use the term, Friedman considers Social Security to be a Ponzi scheme. He writes that if Social Security were a private company “that engaged in such labeling and advertising would doubtless be severely castigated by the Federal Trade Commission.”
Chapter 5: Created Equal
In the fifth chapter of his book “Free to Choose,” Milton Friedman discusses the three different ways that humans are considered to be equal. Yes, for those that have been faithfully following along, we are only in the fifth chapter. Friedman has three categories for human equality: equality before God, equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. He thinks the first is the Founders’ use, the second is compatible with liberty, and the third is socialism.