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Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

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In this classic discussion about economics, freedom, and the relationship between the two, Milton and Rose Friedman explain how our freedom has been eroded and our affluence undermined through the explosion of laws, regulations, agencies, and spending in Washington. Also they carefully examine how good intentions often produce deplorable results when government steps in as a middleman. The Friedmans also provide remedies for those economic ills-energetically informing us about what we should do in order to expand our freedom and promote prosperity.

Powerful and persuasive, here is the important analysis of what has gone wrong in America in the past and what is necessary for our economic health to flourish.

356 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

Milton Friedman

193 books1,378 followers
Milton Friedman was an American Nobel Laureate economist and public intellectual. He made major contributions to the fields of economics and statistics. In 1976, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy. He was an advocate of economic freedom.

According to The Economist, Friedman "was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century...possibly of all of it". Former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan stated, "There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people."

Source: Wikipedia

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 507 reviews
Profile Image for David Dort.
45 reviews16 followers
January 22, 2011
Written in 1979, one of the libertarian economist(s) Friedmans' most accessible works, the clear-written and thought-provoking work does not require the reader to agree with Mr. Friedman's assertions to enjoy it. Rather, it requires the reader to ferociously wrack their brain for a counter argument or alternative solution to their assertions that governmental controls over economic freedoms (by regulation, price and wage controls, nationalization of industries, printing money, adding programs, bowing to special interests, etc). simply never accomplishes what it sets out to do. In the end, sometimes I found myself thinking, "yes, Mr. Friedman, but we simply couldn't do that in 2011. Either it's not going to work resulting in too much human suffering and/or there's no political will." To which, I find myself asking the more disturbing question: why not? if both left and right agree that more economic freedoms are good, then why isn't it a possibility in this age to give the people those freedoms?
Profile Image for Jeremy.
77 reviews29 followers
September 25, 2023
2023 EDIT:
14 years and two advanced degrees in the social sciences later, my opinion of Friedman's arguments is much less starry-eyed. While I still agree that Friedman and other libertarians do important work in identifying dangers of strong states (Beware! The Leviathan has teeth!), as well as the efficiency of prices as a way of exchanging credible information, I have become more convinced that much of our social world is composed of negative externalities and collective action problems. In other words, that it is common that we have conditions under which pure market configurations will not lead to optimal outcomes. Self/collectively-imposed constraints like norms or externally-imposed constraints like regulations can lead to outcomes that are better than selfishness.

I really enjoyed this book, and it confirmed some of my fears that I am really a libertarian at heart.

The basic premise is that people should be free to make their own choices whenever possible, and that government's role is to protect us from each other, and not to protect us from ourselves.

The Friedmans argue from a pragmatic standpoint more than from a philosophical standpoint. Generally, government does a poor job with what it touches. We have this idea in our head that government is a sort of nanny, necessary to protect us from the bad decisions that we might make. The Friedmans argue that not only does the market perform this function already, but that the government does a poor job at it.

Because government "protection agencies" are all brakes and no gas, they often create terrible inefficiencies. One of the examples that I found compelling was of the Food and Drug Administration. It takes over a year to get most drugs approved. In that time, there are many people who die of the diseases that those drugs cure, but who are unable to take them. For some of these people, the risk of side effects is worth it, and they would be happy to take their chances. In a market system, people would be allowed to take those chances. In some cases, many times more people die of curable diseases than side effects could ever hurt or kill. Because the FDA will never get in trouble for examining a drug "too thoroughly", but will make headlines if a drug that they approve has dangerous side effects, they err heavily on the side of not approving drugs.

As long as government made sure that information about the drugs flowed freely, and wasn't censored by the drug companies, people would soon find out about side effects and effectiveness, without the FDA.

There are a number of examples like this, where markets do a fine job of conveying information, and government agencies provide unneeded inefficiencies.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
473 reviews202 followers
December 25, 2020
Very good book, but not great. Excellent companion to the TV series of the same name that exposed Milton and free market ideas (mostly) to many, many people.

I read this shortly after the TV series came out in 1980.

I recommend reading Ludwig von Mises or Murray Rothbard to compare and contrast the Chicagoan/monetarist/positivist Friedman vs. the Austrian/more consistently free market ideas.

Key issue differences:
- money, banking, business cycles, Great Depression
- best alternative policy to government ("public") school monopoly
- methodology for economic theory (but this is not covered in this book)
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
December 28, 2020
Milton Friedman, who died in 2006, may be spinning in his grave.

The Nobel prize winning economist published this work, with his wife Rose, in 1980 and describes in great detail his advocacy of free market principles and his criticism for government interventionist policies. This work may have been a direct rebuttal to the work of John Kenneth Galbraith.

Friedman organized his work into chapters that dealt with an overview of market principles, government controls, consumers, workers and inflation. He warned, in 1980, of ever-increasing encroachments on free trade and of ever growing federal bureaucracy. The exponential growth of the federal government since this was published is contrary to the cautions he espoused in Free to Choose.

While this can be dry in some sections, one good thing about economics books is that they are fundamentally practical and about everyday life. Everyone has to eat, so prices for food and commodities are something with which we can all relate. Likewise, discussions of real estate costs, the prices of clothes and consumer goods, as well as protections for workers’ wages are all practical and approachable.

Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,390 reviews582 followers
September 18, 2018
Beyond my ability to encompass all this book contains. First published in 1979 and within vast stores of data, information and prediction for paths of freedom, money, inflation, employment levels, workers' protections etc. - as elemental now in 2018 and more true than ever.

Freedom is highly tied not to just the monetary outcomes but also to individuals having autonomy over their own choices and directions (not only in the work sense or buying sense either). The more control from above and the more "group think"- the less freedom and the greater "sharing" of the poverty and finite goods. It's been demonstrated 100's of times within the real world applications of socialism. In our USA welfare ghettos' misery enablements it is absolutely true.

100's of quotes that are foundation base for any endeavor that accelerates human progress and applications to innovation, those especially are nearly on every page and the "why" of all that in numbers.

Only one quote - the ending conclusion in length- it is never more true than in the present:

"The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good purposes.
Fortunately, we are waking up. We are again recognizing the dangers of an overgoverned society, coming to understand that good objectives can be perverted by bad means, that reliance on the freedom of people to control their own lives in accordance with their own values is the surest way to achieve the full potential of a great society.
Fortunately, also, we are a people still free to choose which way we will go- whether to continue along the road we have been following to ever bigger government, or to call a halt and change direction."
Profile Image for Jey.
262 reviews
June 29, 2009
It can be disconcerting to find that you have finished a book but can't really explain what it was about much. That is how I feel about Free to Choose. Yes, this is an economics book, so I can say that it is about economics. I can tell you that the main point here seemed to be that the free market is good, but America is (was, it was written in 1980) at a turning point and will soon have to make a decision about which economic policy it should adopt. I actually read the whole book, cover to cover, I took notes, made an index, I wrote in the margins and asked questions. And yet I find that I am not really clear about what was presented here. This book reminded me of Tocqueville's Democracy in America in the way that it seemed to cover just about every topic you can name. Unlike Tocqueville, however, I didn't get what was said about these topics in relation to economics. I guess this is what mentors are for, huh?
10 reviews
May 25, 2009
Common sense. This book makes a clear, rational case for the free market. Friedman dedicates a chapter to each of the major issues facing our country, including education, energy, taxes, and the environmental movement (the book was written in 1979 but the arguments on both sides of the issues still resonate today). Similar to Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand, or Thomas Dilorenzo, Friedman champions the individual over the group, arguing that when people have the opportunity to choose for themselves, society benefits. This book helps to define the issue from both sides, uses ample historic and international supporting examples, identifies where government is clearly overstepping and hurting both the individual and society, and provides actionable solutions to the major challenges. I highly recommend this book to anyone, including those who have read it before.
Profile Image for Aaron.
52 reviews1 follower
February 8, 2017
Wow! It took me a month to read this book!!! I suppose it does take longer to read a book for learning and (not) enjoyment reasons. Funny thing is, I actually enjoyed reading this book too! There are even occasional bits of humor that sneak up on you. (This is illustrated by a reference to Cognac during an explanation on historical forms of currency). Literally, every page of this book had a quote you’d want to slap on Facebook. It was that good. There were things I’d thought about for a long time yet could never put the pieces together. The authors weave it together effortlessly and in a way that made me understand. I learned a lot that served to change my perspective on politicians. Instead of being willing participants in schemes designed to wreck our freedoms, they are nothing more than cogs in an unstoppable machine, the power to which was turned on a century ago.
Profile Image for Adam.
Author 10 books6 followers
October 24, 2013
While some of his arguments could be stronger, this book is important because there aren't enough books that make those arguments—that free markets and capitalism have value.

Many people look at equality and fairness as one of two things: as an outcome, or as a process. Both equality of outcome and equality of process cannot be simultaneously achieved. That is an unrealizable and utopian vision. Equality of outcome and equality of process are in fact mutually exclusive—something few people realize. To achieve an equal outcome one must intervene and impose a limitation on the few that succeed to run a business, and to profit from it. A limitation on process. A limitation on freedom. At the same time, equality of process guarantees that equality of outcome cannot be realized—some will always be more successful than others in a free market.

I think that this simple idea is important to recognize. For this, I have tremendous respect for Milton Friedman and his work. Milton favors equality of process over equality of outcome for society, and he lays out his reasoning for this. Equality of process is (as much as it can be realized) what we call free market capitalism—a system of economics that emphasizes the freedom to own and operate a business over an equal distribution of wealth.

Whether you agree with him or not, I think that he makes a logical presentation, though more substantive evidence of his ideas would have been welcome.

I think that this is an important book to read. I don't think that you can argue about free market capitalism until you've read it.
Profile Image for Amber.
2,020 reviews
December 12, 2014
A bit dry but an absolute necessity for understanding Libertarian thought and recommendations. A little out of date as well, though a lot of the concepts have been either been seriously considered on a national level or are still being discussed today. While I don't agree with everything the Friedman's posit, I do understand how their belief in the market model leads them to believe in the power of the "rational" individual (if such a thing exists) over the ever growing behemoth that is the national government.
I would definitely recommend this for anyone as the arguments are clearly, lucidly laid out for you to agree or disagree with.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,030 reviews1,165 followers
December 4, 2014
This book was assigned for Capitalism, Democracy, Socialism taught at Loyola University Chicago during the first semester of 1981/82 by David Schweickart. It infuriated me at the time, appearing to be an intellectually dishonest apologetic for the existing class divisions in the United States. I was more impressed by the author during a subsequent reading of his Capitalism and Freedom.
Profile Image for Troy.
300 reviews139 followers
January 20, 2009
Well written bit of social theory/propaganda written by a great economist, but a shitty social thinker. Then again, I despise the man's social theories, and I despise this book more than almost any other.
Profile Image for Jake Pointer.
53 reviews
August 30, 2020
Free to Choose is a book with an argument, an argument against the government interfering in almost all economic activities in society. The key idea given is that when the government steps in to try and control the economy in various ways, both economic freedom and human freedom are impeded upon. The market, as they (the authors) say, is like language, it evolves naturally. Nobody ever forces words into existence, they come into being as needed and leave when they are not; the same should occur with the marketplace. To support this hypothesis ten chapters are given with each chapter being an essay covering a different area in society that the government has felt the need to intrude upon. These cover a very large range of topics such as schools, imports and exports, inflation (and where it comes from), consumer protection (which was especially interesting) welfare systems and so on.
There are a few aspects of this book which I particularly enjoyed. The first is the title, it sums up in three words the principal consideration, that people should be 'free to choose' how they live their lives without institutions getting too involved. In this regard, civilisation is like a game. The government should act as an umpire, it makes the rules of society (laws) and enforces them (police) but does not interfere with the players (citizens). It is also needed to protect the players from external threats (security). The second point which I very much like, is that while the book clearly has a very precise agenda, at no point did I feel the Friedmans were telling me what to think, they were leaving me to be 'free to choose' whether I agreed or not. This is reflected by the very first words of the book, written on the insert of the front cover, that this book 'will anger some and delight others, but all who read it will be stimulated to think more deeply about the issues that face us in the 1980s'. This actually leads to the first negative, that many of the issues discussed are pre-1980. When they use the word 'recent', that now means over forty years ago. But this is not the fault of the book, it was written in 1979. However, the Friedmans are aware that they are putting forward arguments meant to last. They cite Adam Smith on numerous occasions who wrote the Wealth of Nations in 1776, over 200 years before Free to Choose, and how Smith's theories are as relevant today as ever; such as the invisible hand and so on. It is quite clear that the Friedmans are putting forward theories that they believe are universal, not specific to the 1980s.
Another tone of the book which I picked up on is that the Friedmans place great faith in humanity, and the capabilities of humans to order their societies well when left undisturbed. They make, for instance, the argument that charitable organisations are rarely, if ever, the products of governments. They note the 19th century where there is a tendency to believe this period was run by ruthless capitalists with no room for demonstrations of philanthropy, but it was at this time that many of the oldest charitable organisations were founded such as The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the YMCA, the Salvation Army and so on, established purely in the name of helping others. They cite several case studies where normal individuals have attempted to better themselves and society through free enterprise and due to government interference have been unable to do so. The story near the end of the book where Pat Brennan opens a rival postal business to compete with the government-run Post Office and was taken to court and shut down stuck in my mind.
There are a few small problems with the book, but this isn't really the authors' fault. As this is a book for masses the Friedmans have written it in such a way that everyone can get to grips with what they are discussing. I have no background in economics at all apart from watching some YouTube videos and I understood almost everything, probably 85% of the topics considered. Having said that, at some points I feel that the concepts and topics they write about can only be simplified so far and can be tricky to get your head around. The first chapter (not the introduction) I remember being particularly difficult, for instance, when they talk about exchange rates. This book does demand your attention and you will need to focus when reading it otherwise you'll get lost.
What makes this book especially interesting for me is when they write about topics and express opinions which I think, by and large, most people would be strongly against. There's definitely a knee-jerk style reaction to some of the claims they make. For example, the Friedmans make no illusions that they are pro-capitalists which I think many people would instantly disagree with. However, two points they make addressing this, first they make no claim that capitalism is perfect, it is simply the best of the systems so far available. The second is, what is the alternative? The difference between a capitalist society and others is that it distributes freedom to individuals more fairly than any other; which is not the same as saying it makes life fair for everyone. Societies where all the power is concentrated amongst a select group of individuals such as royal families, aristocrats and dictatorships are the societies with not only the least freedom but also the most tyranny. I have to admit I think this is a very difficult point to argue with. I think the majority of people would rather not live in communist, feudal, aristocratic or imperial societies. They address other issues too like the welfare state, minimum wage laws, consumer protection agencies and so on, all of which at first make you start sweating and wanting to pull at the collar of your shirt. I'm not going to discuss these in detail as that is the book's job, but needless to say, they offer arguments against these and that essentially, whilst these programs were done with the best of intentions, they have largely failed; to measure these issues in terms of how well-intended they were is a mistake. All contentious and yet highly thought-provoking.
Overall, I have to give this book five stars. That is not to say that I agreed with everything they said (or even understood everything they said!) but it certainly stimulated me to think about topics which I have rarely, if ever, given any thought to and that was ultimately the aim of the book. You might end up throwing this book out the window but regardless it is definitely worth a read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alvaro Berrios.
87 reviews7 followers
December 27, 2012
Although this book was written in 1979, it is still one of the best books anyone can read and the information is still completely relevant to what is going on today in our country. If you hate big government you will love it as it will support many of your beliefs. If you love big government you should read it regardless because many of your pre-held ideas can be dispelled as what is often blamed on the free market is, in reality, the fault of misleading big government policies.

The inefficiencies of government are endless, and this book does a great job at portraying this. The majority of policies that aim to help the poor, for example, actually end up harming them. This book is extremely eye opening and you can learn more from this book than you can in an college or graduate school course.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
127 reviews2 followers
August 30, 2014
Really a good book, which gives the insight of economy, free market, trade unions, education, bureaucracy, policies etc.,

Also gives us the idea why we require above subjects into consideration.
Profile Image for Clinton.
73 reviews14 followers
October 12, 2011
Free to Choose posits the efficacy of subduing government intervention in a free enterprise market economy by rendering theoretical remedies that would alleviate government failures through more competition and personal freedom; ultimately, it would eliminate gratuitous taxes.
Freidman addresses some of the most problematic issues facing our nation that are unfortunately still prevalent today such as inflation, bad school systems, Social Security, economic equity, and consumer and worker protection. Even though Social Security has good intentions, it is increasingly becoming inefficient and outdated in current law, which will commit our government to insolvency for posterity.
Freidman argues that government regulations thwart actual consumer protection; rather it regulates between competing industries where one industry has an advantage over another. Of the majority, public school systems are an utter failure, and with increasing preponderance of the government, monopolistic tendencies will continue to rise in public schooling where the curriculum is decisively decided by school boards, and the choice of school is non-competitive and thus decreasing the quality. If all levels of schooling are to be fixed, the proposal of school vouchers definitely has merits. Inflation isn’t created by businessmen, consumers, unions, or weather; it is created by a zealous government with big printing presses inflating the money supply and outgrowing the quantity of goods and services. Inflation is a disease that needs to be cured, and it starts with the government.
Throughout the book, Freidman formulates economics into a wildly intriguing subject because he integrates how life would improve with more personal freedom and choice. The evidence of less government interference in the economy is provided with countless material supported by a plethora of examples. Augmenting personal freedom and competition is ideal, but unfettered capitalism is precarious and pernicious. Minimal governmental intervention is necessary through laws and regulations and some social beneficial programs; however, too many laws and regulations stranglehold any type of innovation and investment and thwart competition. Overall, the book really changed my view on how an efficient market economy can be constructive but not by a destructive means.
February 10, 2020
This one is quite similar to his other famous book: Capitalism and Freedom. The main idea behind both of these books is the effectiveness of free market in preventing the concentration of political power. Even the arrangement of the chapters are quite similar in both books. But there are several topics that are not discussed in Capitalism and Freedom, and I think these very topics make the book an outstanding rationalization of free market.
One of their most interesting arguments is the complexity of trade. A central government cannot keep up with the increasing complexity of market and the only machine that can perceive the dynamics of the trade and act correspondingly, is the invisible hand.
They have got the courage to talk about equality which made one of the chapters (Created Equal) my favorite. They distinguish between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. While taking the former as the necessity of liberty, they strongly repudiate the latter.
In most of the chapters, they defend their arguments by discussing the disastrous effects of centralized control by the government in the United States, as well as a few developed countries.
Although his wit made me believe in what he postulates, but there are a few issues (quite important in the 21st century) that he missed to cover. The environmental effects of capitalism and the widespread control of media are two of these issues that came to my mind right after I finished the book.
I think it would be great if an expert revisits the book by presenting data from 30 years ago until now.
Profile Image for David.
12 reviews
September 23, 2012
Even though I am not completely convinced that Mr. Friedman is correct in all of his assertions, I must give this book four stars as work of literature.

First the positives: Milton Friedman once again proves his skill with words and logic in this brilliantly articulated book. It is hard to read through his arguments and not become all but convinced that he is correct in almost every subject. He carefully lays out the often unforeseen chains of events that follow from particular actions of individuals, entities, and government in a manner that is clear and easy to follow.

Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman makes very little attempt to prove his points with hard data. Even when he does, it often lacks context and delves more into anecdotal examples rather than statistically significant correlations or the like. While this works just fine in certain cases, in others it leaves much to be desired and weakens his arguments.

Overall, a very enjoyable read that has influenced my thinking in a number of ways as I continue to search for the truth in economics and politics. Even if hard data is not presented and thus the possibility of his being incorrect is strong, I believe it is important for anyone interested in modern economics and political policy to be familiar with his arguments and I would recommend this book to anyone, if only for that reason.
Profile Image for James Henderson.
2,044 reviews166 followers
January 16, 2015
I bought this book back in the "good old days" when you could purchase a hardcover book for less than ten dollars. Due to the inflationary policies that Milton Friedman warns about, and that he provides a cure for, a comparable book today carries a price tag more than double the price of the book I purchased. It was a good investment.
In the book, Milton Friedman and his wife discuss the principles of the Free Market. It is this discussion, based on the foundation laid earlier in Capitalism and Freedom, that underscores the tyranny of unlimited government. They discuss lessons that we have not learned and taken to heart, for if we had done so we would not be facing the debt crisis of the Twenty-first century. I would only question the author's optimism. He titled the last chapter "The Tide is Turning" and it may have done so, if only slightly, in some Western European countries. But the level of economic control and bureaucratic bullying has only grown worse in the United States over the last thirty years. Fortunately, the principles discussed in Free to Choose are timeless and we can turn or return to them at any time. We only have to choose freedom.
Profile Image for Derek Neighbors.
236 reviews27 followers
December 28, 2015
The say, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." Friedman's 1980 work is able to do just that. Milton won the Noble Memorial Prize in Economics in 1978. Free to Choose highlights free market economics and the forces that destroy them. So much good and relevant data in here that it is hard to believe it was written almost 40 years ago.

The part that rings true is that almost every instance of "free market" being cited as the reason for some decline (think great depression, mortgage crisis, looming student debt) can actually be traced back to government intervention setting the ball in motion for the collapse.

His take on public schooling, welfare, social security, legalizing drugs, the FDA, unions and other topics is well worth the listen regardless of what side of the political spectrum you fall. If you plan on voting for a candidate in the upcoming election it would be worth your time to read this book to have a broader understanding on economics before checking a box at the ballot.
Profile Image for Alex Timberman.
154 reviews11 followers
May 25, 2015
I love the way Milton Friedman argues. He stakes his position and charmingly disposes of opposing views. You can get a sense of his intellect and charm by watching some of his debates on YouTube. This book goes over several issues like welfare, minimum wage, and education where he prescribes the correct policy based on free-market fundamentals – hence the title of the book “Free to Choose.” Some of the issues seem outdated and I would not be surprised to know that even many main stream economists may disagree with him now and that if he were alive, possibly he would even change some of his views – considering the global financial crisis and the following turn of events. The world is a much different place now than from the time he wrote the book but in many ways we are still fighting over the same issues without any progress. Because of the book’s date, I will only give it 4 stars.
August 4, 2015
El nobel de economìa del 76, deja al descubierto que los mercados competitivos generan mayore desarrollo y crecimiento de la economìa de un paìs sin la intervenciòn del estado. Los chicago boys, generaron a travès de los tiempos las medidas fiscales y en algùn momento las monetarias màs rìgidas sobrepasando la dignidad del ser humano, el caso de la dictadura de Pinochet con recomendaciones de los chicago mejorò su economìa pero a costa de quiènes y por què. Llama la atenciòn, el constante llamado a la cooperaciòn voluntaria entre los paìses pero aùn los monetaristas generaron las medidas màs individualistas y de mercado que absorben a un paìs en las èlites econòmicas bajo un seudònimo de "nosotros salvamos las economìas de los subdesarrollados".
Interesante el libro, siendo la obra por excelencia de Friedman.
Profile Image for Martin.
953 reviews15 followers
October 3, 2014
Great book. Lays out a dozen basic macroeconomic truths with data and examples and reasoning so that even the non-economist can understand. Although written in 1980, the chapters on minimum wage, growth of government, and bureaucracy remain dead on.

The book covers much of the same material as Capitalism and Freedom, but here it is better written, more sharply defined, and brought down a notch or two in terms of technical detail, making it easier for the non-economist to enjoy.

My only criticism of the book is that the summing up was almost non-existent. Each chapter has an excellent concluding statement, but there's no bow on the book.
Profile Image for Tom Stamper.
597 reviews28 followers
June 24, 2015
This is such a seminal work on free market economics that you will be surprised to hear examples and stories that you already know in other literature. Friedman's example of how many strangers it takes to make a pencil and how no one person can make it on his own is a classic. His proposal of the negative income tax is also the basis of much later study and theory. If the only thing you took from this book is the government's role in inflation it would be worth your time too. If you had to put a book collection together of a half dozen of the most important economic thinkers it would not be complete without a title from Milton Friedman.
Profile Image for Emily O..
160 reviews3 followers
June 5, 2016
This book taught me quite a bit about economics and how the free market is capable of "working things out" better than any other system. There were some things I disagreed with, but for the most part, I agreed with this book and enjoyed reading it. It was eye-opening, the explanations were comprehensive, and the data was sufficient to convince me. This book embraces the values of freedom and the right to pursue our own destiny that America holds so dear, all the while showing that those values form the basis of societal economic prosperity.
93 reviews5 followers
July 13, 2015
As an incredible communicator, Friedman does a masterful job at not only explaining how free markets work best for the economy, but also provides the critical link in describing how the free market system is the most moral and caring system of all. Choices belong to the individual and should not be usurped by government officials proclaiming to act in the public interest, and Friedman gives example after example of why this is the case.
76 reviews5 followers
October 27, 2013
You can't write a good essay when you are simply wrong about everything. I expected it before to read it and it was even worse than what I expected. Annoying.
379 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2016
So far really getting a lot out of this book. It is very clear and opens up a lot of arguments I have not read.

For example, I thought the images of the government as umpire vs. parent on page 5 was a good debate. I would lean toward umpire, but have to think that the deregulation and problems in the financial industries, drug industries and for profit schools and prisons are an example where the umpire is failing to call foul.

Then in chapter one we jump into the concept of central command/command principle vs. voluntary cooperation. Again, he makes excellent points about how important and better the voluntary cooperation is over the command principle. He says that "no society that has ever achieved prosperity and freedom unless voluntary exchange has not been the dominant principle of organization." This makes sense to me and, indeed, with the simple explanation of Russia's command principle you can see how obvious this seems. But my question is that if there is a greater and greater gulf between the rich and poor; between the very rich and everyone else (if it is true that some 40 families have 75% of the wealth in the world) it is hard to see that we are not swimming back toward something like central command.

From there is goes into the incredible complexity that goes into the making of one regular pencil. I must admit this is one question I have when thinking about Schummaker's book Small Is Beautiful, yes there is much greater satisfaction for the worker if they can make an entire product (all parts, start to finish), but there are a great many things that would never be made at all if this was the case.

From there his conversation about the role of prices and how quickly and efficiently it transfer information.

I am in chapter 2 now about tarrifs, subsidies and free trade. This seems to make sense and ultimately goes back to his earlier chapter on whether Central Command or Voluntary Exchange is a better system of management. I think my main concern/question that keeps arising is what to do about cheap labor in third world countries. It seems that if this entire system went away and everyone decided things on price alone, then all factories would go elsewhere because of lower labor cost ... or perhaps they would change immigration law and just bring people in to work in giant labor camps, etc. He writes "We should concentrate on doing those things we do best, those things where our superiority is the greatest." but I wonder how that works itself out. In my experience most people in the middle to upper class bubble just assume that what we do best is "knowledge work" but that alienates and overlooks giant sections of our society who do not want to be knowledge workers. I know he is going to get into some of this in later chapters, so I will just note this question for now.

I enjoyed his response to the Hamilton argument on infant industry protection through tariffs. He says "The infant industry argument is a smoke screen. The so-called infants never grow up. Once imposed, tariffs are seldom eliminated. Moreover, the argument is seldom used on behalf of true unborn infants that might conceivably be born and survive if given temporary protection. They have not spokesman. It is used to justify tariffs for rather aged infants that can mount political pressure."

Now that I have finished the entire book, I found it really clear and full of strong arguments. I would be curious for an economist to tell me if his predictions have become true and if not, why. We are 40 years later and I feel like a lot of the arguments are still flying around. But he specifically mentioned England and Japan. I would be interested to see if his feelings about them have led to economic difficulty or health.
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