The character of Milton Friedman has been under assault since his passing. Let me summarize for my readers what I believe you should consider before writing off Milton Friedman.
First, understand that Milton Friedman represents a theory of economics that gave rise to the American Revolution and all the wealthy countries of the world, without exception. Those countries which embraced the theories that Milton Friedman believed became rich. Those that didn’t were poor. Without exception, this is true.
A lot of paper has been wasted to try and prove what I just said false. There has been numerous attempts to find even one counter-example to it. None have succeeded. No, not one. Of those that I have seen that come close, they misrepresent the theory.
I invite all who think they have a counter example to present it and to answer the questions I will have about it. I am confident that I can prove it to be an incorrect counter example, and quite possibly, a good example of the point I am trying to make.
What is that theory? That theory is that those who are best able to make decisions are those with the most at stake. That theory says that people should own property and they should be allowed to do what they want with that property. That theory says that they should be allowed to trade freely with their neighbors, nationally and internationally. That theory says that people should keep all of what they create, and share only what they want to share. That theory says that governments are instituted to provide a bare minimum of services, among which social services are not a part. The services that government do provide are there to ensure that property rights are sustained, and that free trade and exchange is made easier. In other words, this is the theory of “free market economics”, or what communists call “capitalism”. (Isn’t it interesting that yet again, a good thing labelled with a bad word causes the bad word to mean a good thing? Think about it.)
Now, since Milton Friedman’s theories are unassailable and infallible, as far as we have seen so far, people are going to attack the man himself. They will do it in one of two ways. Either they will call the man a liar (and thus, you shouldn’t trust anything a liar says because liars can never speak the truth), or they will call the man stupid (and thus, you shouldn’t trust the stupid because they can never be correct.)
But this is absurd logic. Argumentum ad hominem is a type of logical fallacy, meaning that if you use it, you are very likely to make a mistake in your reasoning.
If Milton Friedman were alive today, he wouldn’t want you to judge him or his character. He would instead point you to his theories, or more correctly, the theories of economics that make everyone wealthy and prosperous. He spends great effort to take the most fundamental concepts and boil them into a few simple arguments that the layman can easily understand and appreciate and yet simultaneously confounds the “wisest” of economists who refuse to believe the same.
So don’t let yourself get sidetracked. The argument is not about Milton Friedman. It is about his ideas. And his ideas were the same ideas that President Reagan, Adam Smith (18th century economic philosopher) and our Founding Fathers had. It is the idea that men should be free to do what they wish with the things they own, and that when that happens, great prosperity is the inevitable result. It is the idea that government control is counterproductive in all instances without exception. It is the idea that men were born free and endowed with inalienable rights by God, and that government exists to protect and not infringe upon those rights.