This week, we honor the life and works of Milton Friedman, culminating with a reception on Friday evening. If you’re not familiar with Friedman, you might start with a biographical summary provided by the Hoover Institution. He wrote scholarly articles and books, distilled economic thinking for a mass audience in magazine columns and a mini-series on TV, advised politicians, and spoke out about the need for parental choice in education. Oh yes, and he was bestowed a Nobel Prize in economics as well.

Of Friedman’s many scholarly endeavors, Capitalism and Freedom, written along with his wife Rose, and published in 1962, has been the most important to me.

In the introduction, that reminds us that government is necessary and dangerous.

Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom.

The first chapter argues that political and economic freedom are linked: History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for economic freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.

In the second chapter, Friedman explains the role that government can serve in a free society: These then are the basic roles of government in a free society: to provide a means whereby we can modify the rules, to mediate differences among us on the meaning of rules, and to enforce compliance with the rules on the part of those few who would otherwise not play the game. 

The rest of the book surveys the benefits and costs of government in specific parts of the economy, making recommendations along the way.

These chapters include:

  • 3: The control of money
  • 4: International financial and trade agreements
  • 5: Fiscal policy
  • 6: Education
  • 7: Discrimination
  • 8: Monopoly and the social responsibility of business and labor
  • 9: Occupational licensure
  • 10: Income distribution
  • 11: Social welfare
  • 12: The alleviation of poverty

Though Capitalism and Freedom was published by an academic press (the University of Chicago), it’s a very readable book.

Come to our event; you may win a free copy for yourself!