Discussion Questions for Milton Friedman and Rose Director Friedman, "Free to Choose"
There are, I think two important things you should note when you start reading Friedman and Director Friedman's "Free to Choose". The first is that it was a book that was written 30 years ago. The second is that the Friedmans believed that they were fighting against the tide of history. They thought--in 1980--that liberty and prosperity were in retreat worldwide, and had been in retreat for at least fifty years.
This strikes us--this strikes me at least--as profoundly odd. When you ask me what "freedom" means, I tend to go back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four freedoms:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom from want
- Freedom from fear
When I think of major impingements on freedom, I don't think of the things that the Friedmans point to in 1980 as evidence that freedom is in retreat. I see 1980 as coming at the end of the fastest and most complete 50-yeear expansion of freedom, democracy, and prosperity the world had ever seen.
Try to figure out why the Friedmans do see these things they see as evidence that freedom is "in retreat" or under threat.
- Why have Milton Friedman and Rose Director Friedman written this book?
- What do they hope will happen after people read the book?
- Who do the Friedmans think are the real founders of America?
- What is the "road to serfdom"? Why do the Friedmans think in 1980 that America is on the road to serfdom?
- What is the "new class" that the Friedmans see growing? What kind of a threat is it to freedom?
The power of the market
- What are the large-scale ways that societies can organize production, exchange, and distribution?
- How should PED be organized if we want to maximize prosperity?
- How should PED be organized if we want to maximize freedom?
- How many people need to cooperate to make--efficiently make--a pencil?
- How do all the people making the pencil know that I want one?
- Why does Milton Friedman hate Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford so much?
- Karl Marx said that the most important thing to know about a market economy is that it is a powerful, subtle, and clever mechanism for transferring value from the working class that creates to the rich that consume it. Why would the Friedmans disagree?
- What do the Friedmans think the government should do?
The tyranny of controls
- Why aren't tariffs a way to make a country rich?
- What are the valid arguments that th Friedmans see for tariffs?
- Apple Computer and Toyota Motors do not allocate goods and services within their organizations with the market system--they use internal corporate central planning. How do the Friedmans explain the fact that large successful corporations are large islands of command-and-control central planning within the market system, and yet are well?
- Why do the Friedmans think that we "intellectuals"--especially here in Berkeley--like communism?
The anatomy of crisis
- Why is it very, very important for the Friedmans that they prove that the Great Depression was the result of the failure of a government agency--the Federal Reserve--and not the failure of the market system?
- What do the Friedmans say is the proper monetary framework for a well-functioning market economy? Would Ron Paul agree?
- What links do the Friedmans see between the coming of the Great Depression and the triumph of what they call "left-wing economics" after World War II?
Cradle to grave
- What is Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal"?
- What did the Great Depression convince the public of?
- What did World War II--especially the victories of the Russian Red Army against the Nazis on the eastern front--convince the public of?
- Why don't the lessons of World War II generalize to peacetime economies?
- How do the Friedmans think a country's welfare and social insurance systems should be run?
- What do they think are the biggest things wrong with the U.S.'s welfare and social insurance systems as they stood in 1980?
- The Friedmans predict in 1980 that the next decade or so will see the admitted failure of and dismantling of social democracy in Britain and Sweden. Were they right? Why?
- What is the difference between "equality of opportunity" and "equality of result"?
- Which should we care most about?
- How good is capitalism at generating equality of opportunity?
- How good is capitalism at generating equality of result?
What's wrong with our schools?
- What do the Friedmans think is wrong with the public schools?
- What do the Friedmans think is wrong with the public colleges?
- How do they want to try to make K-12 education better?
- How do they want to try to make public colleges better?
Who protects the consumer?
- Are consumers really helped or hurt by agencies like the Food and Drug Administration?
- Who really protects the consumer?
Who protects the worker?
- Are workers really helped or hurt by unions?
- Who really protects the worker?
The cure for inflation
- Why is inflation a bad thing?
- Why is trying too hard to maintain full employment a bad thing?
- What is the right way to run a market economy to avoid inflation? Would Ron Paul agree?
- What is the right way to run a market economy to avoid unnecessary high unemployment? Would Ron Paul agree?
The tide is turning
- What is the "special interest state"?
- Why do the Friedmans think that Fabian Socialism and New Deal Liberalism are unstable--that countries cannot remain there but will instead slide down the road to serfdom?
- Why do the Friedmans think that they will in the long run succeed in constructing whawt I would call a libertarian utopia?