Milton Friedman Quotations

Milton Friedman

A society that puts equality...ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.

Economists may not know much. But we know one thing very well: how to produce surpluses and shortages. Do you want a surplus? Have the government legislate a minimum price that is above the price that would other wise prevail ... Do you want a shortage? Have the government legislate a maximum price that is below the price that would otherwise prevail.

Governments never learn. Only people learn.

If a government were put in charge of the Sahara Desert, within five years, they'd have a shortage of sand.

If an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.

Look at this lead pencil. There is not a single person in the world who could make this pencil. Remarkable statement? Not at all. The wood comes from a tree cut down in the state of Washington, cut with a saw made of steel. To make that steel it took iron ore. This black center, which we call lead, is really graphite, and comes from some mines in South America. The eraser, a bit of rubber, comes from Malaya, where rubber isn't even native. It was imported from South America by businessmen. This brass ferrule, I haven't the slightest idea where it comes from, or the yellow paint it is coated with, or the glue that holds it all together. Literally thousands of people co-operated to make this pencil, people who don't speak the same language, who practice different religions, who might hate one another if they ever met. When you buy this pencil, you are, in effect, trading a few minutes of your time for a few seconds of the time of all those thousands of people.

Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor wider, nowhere are the rich richer and the poor poorer, that in those societies that do not permit the free market to operate.

Recipients of Social Security and welfare payments are to free to buy food at church bazaars and even to contribute to the collection plate from their government subsidies, with no First Amendment question being asked.

The error of supposing that the behavior of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. It explains why they so often feel that the fault lies in the man, not the "system"; that the way to solve problems is to "turn the rascals out" and put well-meaning people in charge. It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray.

The family, rather than the individual, has always been and remains today the basic building block of society, though its hold has clearly been weakening -- one of the most unfortunate consequences of the growth of government paternalism.

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.

The real objections of most critics of advertising is not that advertising manipulates tastes but that the public at large has meretricious tastes -- that is, tastes that do not agree with the critics'.

The repeated failure of well-intentioned programs is not an accident. It is not simply the result of mistakes of execution. The failure is deeply rooted in the use of bad means to achieve good objectives.

The success of the United States is often attributed to its generous natural resources and wide opens spaces. They certainly played a part -- but then, if they were crucial, what explains the success of nineteenth-century Great Britain and Japan or twentieth-century Hong Kong?

The widespread enthusiasm for reducing government taxes and other impositions is not matched by a comparable enthusiasm for eliminating government programs -- except programs that benefit other people.

What does it mean to say that government might have a responsibility? Government can't have a responsibility any more than the business can. The only entities which can have responsibilities are people.

Workers paying taxes today can derive no assurance from trust funds that they will receive benefits when they retire. Any assurance derives solely from the willingness of future taxpayers to impose taxes on themselves to pay for benefits that present taxpayers are promising themselves.