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Free to Choose

This is part of a series on Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.” 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. Milton Friedman Free to Choose Friedman begins the book by writing that there have been two miracles in the United States: one political and one economic. Coincidently, both miracles were the consequences of two written documents form 1776. The first, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, explained how it could be that two parties could both achieve their objectives through cooperation in the marketplace. However, the only way for that to be done is if the cooperation is voluntary. This cooperation is also done out of the individuals self-interest (not necessarily greed). We all work so that we can pay our bills and make a good life for our children and ourselves. This is the building block of an economy. The second document was Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence from British rule. Jefferson’s words marked the first time in history that a nation was formed based upon the belief that men have inalienable, God-given rights. Among those rights are the rights to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. Friedman notes that there is a strong correlation between economic and political freedom. This is one-two punch of freedom allowed for a huge growth in wealth during the 19th century.  In the late 18th century, “it took nineteen out of twenty workers to feed” the 3 million inhabitants of the country and yet today “it takes fewer than one out of twenty” to feed 330 million. What is the cause of this miracle? It’s obvious that there was no central government planning in agriculture (that first happened in the 1930s under the progressive Franklin Delano Roosevelt). The true cause of this change was “private initiative operating in a free market open to all” in the form of the industrial revolution. Smith and Jefferson both believed that the role of government was to be a referee in the marketplace and not a player. Yet that view began to change over the course of time and people thought that perhaps government could help those that are less fortunate, if only government organization were in the right hands. This explains why the federal government has grown massively over the past 80 years. How much longer are we willing to let the government grow to create a massive entitlement state? “Adam Smith’s invisible hand has been powerful enough to overcome the deadening effects of the invisible hand that operates in the political sphere,” but for how much longer? As each day goes on, we move closer and closer to the point of no return. Politicians keep spending other people’s money on themselves, their buddies in the special interests, and perpetual “temporary” programs. Our debt keeps increasing, states are going bankrupt, and soon enough the entitlement game will be over. We should stop it before it’s too late.