Economy & Budget

What Friedman Would Say About The Bailout

In 1972 I was invited to a gathering of conservative eagles at the Philadelphia Society in Indianapolis. This was a heady setting for a mere college student. Speakers included conservative heavyweights M. Stanton Evans and Erik von Kuehneldt­-Leddihn. Emmett Tyrrell was there resplendent in a tuxedo in the middle of the day, reminding attendees by his sartorial splendor that it was maybe okay for conservatives to be quirky.

The star of the show, however, was Milton Friedman, the economist who four years later would receive the Nobel Prize for his brilliant life long exegesis of monetarist economics.

When Friedman walked into the meeting room, William Dennis, my conservative history professor and son of Congressman David Dennis, softly said in a reverential tone, “Look, there is the great man.”

Before Friedman died at the age of 94 in 2006, Friedman did to Keynesianism what Henry Ford did to horse-drawn carriages. The bailout mania in D.C. these days indicates some people still don’t get it. Friedman didn’t trust government anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Friedman wrote of himself, “I served as an unofficial adviser to Ronald Reagan during his candidacy for the presidency in 1980, and as a member of the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Board during his presidency. In 1988, President Reagan awarded me the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in the same year I was awarded the National Medal of Science.” Reagan took Friedman economics to Washington and expanded both the economy and freedom.

As a counterpoint to all the babble in Washington calling for the government to bail out the Big Three automakers and God knows what else, here are some gems from Milton Friedman’s treasure trove of quotations, some of which Reagan used to great effect, which “the great man” had facts to back up:

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.”

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

“The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”

“Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.”

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

“Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.”

“The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that’s why it’s so essential to preserving individual freedom. History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.”

“Columbus did not seek a new route to the Indies in response to a majority directive.”

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman’s wisdom should be echoing through the halls of Congress this very minute, shouted into microphones in formal hearings if necessary, as a rebuke and reminder to those who would put us on the road to serfdom.

Milton Friedman is not alive to sound the alarm, but the truths he identified are. Let freedom ring.


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