Milton Friedman on Principles & Values

Libertarian Economist


There is no such thing as a free lunch

One of my heroes, the economist Milton Friedman, used to have a saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." What he meant is that nothing is free; someone, somewhere, always pays. Despite utopian marketing promises, government health care is not exempt from Friedman's dictum. Far from it. It will raise costs, and someone, somewhere, will pay. By creating a new health-care entitlement while doing nothing to restrain health-care costs, let alone the needless overuse of medical facilities, Democratic health reform will inevitably lead to rationing of care and higher costs. There is no "free" health care just like there is no free lunch. Someone always pays. The American people understand without having to be told that this "someone" is them.
Source: Young Guns, by Reps. Ryan, Cantor & McCarthy, p.103 , Sep 14, 2010

Individual choice is the essence of freedom

"Political leaders in capitalist countries who cheer the collapse of socialism in other countries continue to favor socialist solutions in their own. They know the words, but they have not learned the tune." --Milton and Rose Friedman, published in the best seller "Free to Choose" in 1980.

An individual making his own choices based on his own values, according to Friedman, was the essence of freedom.

Friedman also argued that the free operation of the economy provides a backstop to the centralization of power in the government sector. When economic and social decisions are made in the private sector and wealth is held by individuals, the size and scope of government power is restricted.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.225-226 , Jul 4, 2009

Concentrated power threatens individual freedom

A classical liberal is fundamentally fearful of concentrated power. His objective is to preserve the maximum degree of one man's freedom that is compatible with not interfering with other men's freedom. This objective requires that power be dispersed. He is suspicious of assigning to government any functions that can be performed through the market, both because this substitutes coercion for voluntary co-operation, and because, by giving government an increased role, it threatens freedom in other areas.
Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p. 39 , Nov 15, 1962

Socialist economics are incompatible with democracy

The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather, "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How long can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein, that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect?
Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p. 2-3 , Nov 15, 1962

Free men use gov't to serve people; not to serve country

President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our ties that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them
Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p. 1-2 , Nov 15, 1962

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Page last updated: Apr 30, 2021