Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eight Bon Mots from Milton Friedman

 Allen S. Sanderson has a nice tribute marking the 100th anniversary of Milton Friedman's birth in "Remembering Milton," which appears in the Second Quarter 2012 issue of the Milken Institute Review. (Available on-line, but free registration required.) The article offers a number of nice reminisces from Friedman's colleagues and students (two groups that often overlap).
Along with Friedman's status as one of the handful of most prominent economists of the 20th century, he also had a nearly wicked rhetorical ability to turn a phrase. Here are a few of Friedman's one-liners collected by Sanderson:
Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.

History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.

The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.

With some notable exceptions, businessmen favor free enterprise in general but are opposed to it when it comes to themselves.

The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country.

The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating.

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

Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.