“Hell Hath No Fury Like a Bureaucrat Scorned”: Celebrating Milton Friedman, Conservative Icon and Father of Economic Freedom

Friedman conservative economy freedomMilton Friedman was an American economist and statistician best known for his strong advocacy of free-market capitalism. A rare thinker who possessed both academic intellect and common sense, Friedman was the main proponent of the monetarist school of economics and later went on to become an economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan.

Friedman is remembered among Conservatives today for his opposition to Keynesian economics. During a time when most economists believed that inflammatory government policies could reduce unemployment, Friedman dissented, asserting that “fine tuning” the economy would only make the problem of “stagflation”—high inflation combined with unemployment and stagnant demand in a country’s economy, even worse. Friedman frequently spoke about how there is a close and stable association between inflation and the money supply, and that inflation could be avoided with proper regulation of the monetary base’s growth rate.

Although Friedman considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word—someone who believes in the liberty of the individual, free of government intrusions—he is regarded by many today as a Conservative icon. Rather than pushing policymakers to conserve and expand the welfare state, Friedman proposed changes in policy and institutions ranging from public schools to the Federal Reserve. Friedman believed that an unfettered capitalist economy would produce ultimate prosperity and that it was crucial to cease government intervention in currency markets.

Friedman was also a leader of the Chicago School of Economics and made the University of Chicago the country’s leading center for conservative economics.

In the 1960’s during rising waves of communism and socialism, Friedman wrote about the dangers of these collectivist ideologies, warning Americans of “the submission of the individual to the state”. In 1962, he published Capitalism and Freedom, his most famous work, as a response to the growing scope of the US federal government under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

July  31st, 2017 would have been Milton Friedman’s 105th birthday. Although he passed away in 2006, Friedman’s ideas are still relevant today, and looking to his body of work can provide us with much-needed economic insight. Here are three of the biggest lessons we can take from Friedman’s work:

  1. Judge policies by their results, not their intentions.

Milton Friedman’s solutions were always practical and grounded in reality. Friedman famously opposed raising the minimum wage—not out of contempt for the poor, but because he felt it actually harmed young, less-educated, low-skilled workers. Friedman’s approach to economic “fixes” shows a valuable lesson: we should be judging the success of a policy by the outcome rather than the intent behind it.

  1. Welfare is failing the poor.

Friedman pointed out how much welfare spending was lost to the “leaky bucket” phenomenon, in which social spending gets absorbed by the government providing it rather than its intended recipients. “Suppose I divide the total amount of money spent on these programs by the number of people labeled poor. If that money were really going to the poor, they’d be among the rich”.

  1. Big government is the problem.

Although liberal pundits often argue that the government is spending too little, the reality is that the government spends too much—this being the root of many economic issues in the country. “The major social problems of the United States—deteriorating education, lawlessness and crime, homelessness, the collapse of family values, the crisis in medical care—have been produced by the well-intended actions of government”, Friedman once wrote, adding “Instead of Lincoln’s government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, we now have a government of the people, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats”.

One of the greatest economists of our generation, AMAC remembers and celebrates Milton Friedman and all he has contributed to policy, monetarist theory, and the conservative economic principles that America was built upon.

 “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.”

-Milton Friedman

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Brian L Garrison
4 years ago

I read Capitalism and Freedom and watched some of Milton’s clips on “Donahue.” Also gave that book to my son who’s studying econ at Harvard. Hope he’s reading it!

4 years ago

Yes…I joined AMAC for that very reason….an answer…and a good one…to AARP…the progressive left….even Progressive Insurance is owned by leftist George Soros…
Our country was based on freedom and economics is part of that freedom.

T & J
4 years ago

My wife and I have become extremely alarmed by the actions of the government of the past 8 years. We are searching for groups and organizations to join so that our actions can have an impact. AMAC appears to be one, but I would like to see others’ suggestions.

4 years ago

1 2 3 All great points
Especially like number 2 about welfare funds flowing through the leaky government bucket
With the poor staying poor thereby justifying the continuing existence of the various programs

That’s our taxpayer $ being wasted.
Yet the Progressive Dem Left wants more tax $ plus raising the debt ceiling
Did any of them take math in school Or
Is this the consequence of Common Core Indoctrination New Math Curriculum

Dan Zuverink
4 years ago

I wonder what our national debt was back when he was listened to. I know that 20 trillion dollars is not right Shame on today’s government,I guess that would be me and you. I believe that all new spending laws should be evaluated by the projected plus or minus added or subtracted from the NATIONAL DEBT. SOMEBODY in Congress or one of the other branches of GOVERNMENT, please do SOMETHING! DZ

Pete from St Pete
4 years ago

Friedman set the standard for economic conservatism with his mantra of “free to choose”. He wanted to be able to make his own choices without government interference. This is in direct contravention to the philosophy of such current political leaders as Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jerry Brown, Bill Deblazio, etc. etc. who want to have the government dictate personal choices and conduct to each of us.

4 years ago

The politicians etc. listed above are in total deliberate violation of the
Friedman quote above about who spends one’s money most carefully
Warren, Sanders, Brown etc think so highly of themselves
That they not only have the wisdom but should also have the right and access to spend everyone else’s money.

Haven’t all of them done well for themselves
Didn’t they manage to get themselves up into the top 10 percent
Do you think they take every possible deduction on their tax returns.
Without exaggeration ?
Do you think any of them approach giving 10 percent of Gross income to church or charity

4 years ago

I’ll never understand how Friedman’s ideas can be ignored/written off by policymakers. I imagine it’s because his ideas threaten the powerbase. of these individuals.

Brian L Garrison
4 years ago
Reply to  Dennis

Oh come on Dennis. You know understand how this is so. Friedman was a lover of individual liberty, limited government, and government of, by, and for “the folks” (O’Reilly used to say). Policymaker and politicians are by nature power-hungry, greedy, weak-minded, fascistic snakes. They HATE all the things Milton and we the folks love.

4 years ago

I remember reading a book by Tom Friedman (don’t know if he is related) -The World is Flat – outlining the exporting of tech jobs, etc., he said something like this: The future for America will be to have a restaurant on every corner and we will just be selling food to each other. Look around – proof is in the pudding!! Or on the scale.

G. Grant
4 years ago

Great read!

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