Yesterday was Milton Friedman’s birthday – something celebrated around the country on Friday as organizations in approximately 43 states (and 5 other countries) held MF Day events. In that spirit, here is Friedman in Playboy discussing the conundrum of what to do in the area of welfare given what the state has already done (I was going to find and link to the entire interview but I am not sure my employer would believe me that I was honestly looking for one of the articles! It can, though, be found in his book Bright Promises, Dismal Performance: An Economist’s Protest):
If we were starting with a clean slate – if we had no government welfare programs, no Social Security, etc. – I’m not sure I would be in favor of a negative income tax. But, unfortunately, we don’t have a tabula rasa. Instead we have this extraordinary mess of welfare arrangements, and the problem is: how do you get out of them? You can’t simply abolish them, because when we enacted these programs, we assumed an obligation to those who are now being helped by them. In fact, we have induced people to come under the protection of these programs. (Playboy Interview 1973)
Wondering if any of our readers went to one of the celebrations. Is so, anything interesting to report?
Friedman is not my favorite libertarian thinker. But he was certainly an important libertarian voice and a great economist. Wouldn’t it be nice to have him around right now to comment on the financial crisis and the government’s foolish fiscal policies? Does anyone today come close as a spokesperson for free markets?