Friedman on Donahue

November 1st, 2009

By Brianna Aubin

milton_friedmanI was browsing the net earlier today and found this clip from an interview Phil Donahue conducted with Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman in 1979.  It proved to be so interesting that I eventually went to YouTube and watched the entire interview.  Why was it so interesting?  Well, it turns out that despite the fact that the interview took place 30 years ago, a lot of Friedman’s economic advice is still applicable to today.  A partial transcript is below:

On corporate bailouts:

The government has been helping to kill Chrysler, but it should not help to save Chrysler, of course not…. This is a profit-and-loss system, and the loss part is even more important than the profit because it helps get rid of badly managed, poorly operated companies.

On large corporations and government regulations:

One of the major reasons you have multinationals and large companies now is precisely because of the role which government plays… the most effective anti-trust measure you could take in this country would be complete free trade.

One of the major reasons… why multinationals are able to occupy the position they are is because government regulations favor multinationals; almost all government regulation favors big companies over little companies.

On the nature of corporations versus government:

General motors cannot get a dollar out of your pocket unless you voluntarily pay it over.  The government can, and that’s the fundamental difference.

On the relationship between rising prices and government spending:

The single most important step you can take to lower inflation is to cut down on government spending.

The reason why medical costs have been rising so rapidly in the country is again, I sing the same old tune but it happens to be true, because whereas some 15 or 20 years ago government spending on medical care accounted for something like 10%-20% of total medical care spending, mostly for public health and veterans, today it amounts to something like 40% or more of the spending and that’s what’s been driving these prices up.

And finally, Friedman’s defense of capitalism:

Well first of all, tell me: Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed?  You think Russia doesn’t run on greed?  You think China doesn’t run on greed?  What is greed?  Of course, none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy.  The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.  The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus.  Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat.  Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way.  In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that.  So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system. (emphasis in original)

For anyone interested in watching the whole interview, which I strongly urge all who read this article to do, the links are listed below:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

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Categories: Economics, History, Politics | Comments (6) | Home

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6 Responses to “Friedman on Donahue”

  1. Brian |

    I’ve seen those before. They should put Friedman’s (and von Mises) picture on future lawful money (as opposed to legal tender) should it ever be minted again (which I doubt).

    The best part about those is the way he so politely demonstrates what an idiot Donahue actually is.

  2. larry |

    It’s almost as if Friedman was talking about the Obama administration isn’t it. He was correct on every point.
    I will concede that Bush didn’t help matters.

  3. Brianna |


    Bush was bad. Obama is worse. Anyone who thinks Bush was a fiscal conservative is lying to themselves; anyone who thinks Obama and Bernanke going to save them from the damage done by Bush and Greenspan is delusional.

  4. doris |

    You have to admit, Brianna, Obama has done nothing at all, yet how could he be even remotely conceived as worse than Bush? What I see is him wanting to do things and getting nothing done at all. If Obama isn’t gonna save us from what Bush did to us, who will? Are you saying that we will just go under? Maybe I am delusional, but I have hope that they will help us out of this mess, if not, do we have to wait 3 years for hope? That is a sad scenario, don’t you think? It never hurts to have faith and hope, without which there is no life.

  5. Brian Bagent |

    Doris, the problem is that the solutions Obama wants to implement will make a bad problem even worse. He wants to expand the scope of government even further than Bush did, and the scope of government is largely the problem.

    A congress and executive with the power to tax and regulate that now exists has created corporate welfare as well as individual welfare. Republicans hate the latter, democrats hate the former, and libertarians hate them both. Ending the federal government’s power to do these things by repealing the 16th amendment, ending the Federal Reserve’s charter, and returning to lawful money is the only rational course.

    Both corporate and individual welfare must necessarily exist together or not at all. Trying to end one without the other is wishful thinking because the extent of either will rise or fall with congressional and presidential changes in party affiliation. One might as well wish for the sky to be green or for water to not be wet.

  6. Neville Sarkari |

    What I loved most in that interview is that Friedman actually mentions that Sears better watch out or Kmart might buy it one day!!! And that exact thing actually happened 25+ years later!!! WOW! What genius!


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