Phil Donohue: When you see around the globe the maldistribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries, when you see so few haves and so many have-nots, when you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism? And whether greed is a good idea to run on?

Milton Friedman: 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 fella that's greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The greatest 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 that you are 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 worst off, it's exactly in the kind of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, 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 a free enterprise system.

Phil Donohue: Seems to reward not virtue as much as the ability to manipulate the system.

Milton Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the Communist commissar rewards virtue? You think a Hitler rewards virtue? Do you think... American presidents reward virtue? Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of political clout? Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? You know I think you are taking a lot of things for granted. And just tell me where in the world you find these angels that are going to organize society for us? Well, I don't even trust you to do that.
by:
Milton Friedman
(1912-2006) Nobel Prize-winning economist, economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan, "ultimate guru of the free-market system"
Source:
Phil Donohue interviews Milton Friedman, Feb. 11, 1979
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Reader comments about this quote:
Excellent. I particularly like, "Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest?" and "And just tell me where in the world you find these angels that are going to organize society for us? " Well said.
 -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Phil Donohue came armed to this interview with little more than vacuous liberal platitudes. Friedman handed him his hollow talking points on a platter. I miss Mr. Friedman!
     -- Deb, NJ     
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    Marxists speak of wealth as if it has always existed and humanity only came along and discovered it. All wealth comes from the sweat of men. Mr. Donohue should be more concerned with the maldistribution of hard working people.
     -- Justin, Elkland     
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    Friedman was always able to breakdown the liberal argument and explain the benefits of markets in an easy to understand logic. That was his true genius.
     -- J Allen, Arlington, Va     
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    As Western civilization moved from feudalism/serfdom to capitalisim and then to state capitalism a more equal distribution of weath and a strong "middle class" ensued. History is full of examples of excess wealth and abhorrent poverty. Friedman and his hatchet man Reagan are the quilty party's in the current state of American affairs where corporations are awash in cash (due to the laying off of employees) the Federal Government is broke to a a lax and insufficient tax regimine, and conservatives cry out for the the broke, debt ridden Federal Government to create jobs. Bottom line Fredman was shallow and Reagan was the worst.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Economics was founded by moral philosophers and there is a link between money and morality. Read "Income Distribution to Great to Ignore" in Business Daily. Google and get an education.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Both men take questionable positions here, though Friedman's analysis is the more flawed of the two. Einstein's Theory of Relativity may have indeed been formulated without government direction. Regardless, the tangible results of Einstein's brainstorming, H-bombs and commercial nuclear power plants, are in fact the direct result of formal, central government intervention AND forced redirection of limited financial resources. Precisely the same thing can be said of Ford's horseless carriage. Without continuing government subsidies and tax breaks to oil producers and the DIRECT governmental subsidy to automakers in the manner of road building, automobiles as the personal transportation we enjoy today would not, could not have happened. Furthermore, NASA a 100% federal entity, has, through pure research aimed at circumventing the rigors of space, added countless essential products to our daily lives and an infinitude of actual wealth to the total economy. This is wealth measurable via geometric progression and is far beyond the total cost of the space program. These are at-hand facts free marketeers invariably fail to acknowledge. In this case/quote Friedman is no exception. Failing to acknowledge positive governmental contributions, especially going so far as to dismiss the possibility of them, strikes me as a fatal error. So does Friedman's blithe dismissal of virtue His argument would seem to place universal human fallibility into a singularly governmental arena.
     -- Mann, Kalamazoo     
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    Waffler your tripe cant hold a candle the words of Milton Friedman !! People do what is best for them. It is a fact. Here's another one for you, a free market system of government will benefit more people in more ways than any other.
     -- John Pettitt, va     
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    Waffler, I'm not sure if you're just ignorant or stupid.
     -- Jim K, Phoenix, AZ     
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    Leftists believe in socialism, in spite of it's failures, and distrust free enterprise, in spite of it's successes.
     -- John, Denver     
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    Good stuff Mann, real good stuff. Can anyone respond to the issue of American Corporations that are awash in cash, a government that is broke, and a public that asks government to create jobs? Why is it not the free market and rich corporations that should create the jobs? Why is the Tea Party types asking Obama to create jobs if they are conservative free marketers? How much of this hypocrisy can we really take?
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Freedman's thesis is that wealth is created by individuals, motivated by self-interest, in a political environment where the free exchange of ideas and goods, and not "virtuous redistribution", is allowed to exist. He reminds Donohue that the the cause of human suffering is the command economy where the exercise of coercion under the pretense of "social justice" inhibits and prevents wealth creation.
     -- Scott Lloyd, Providence     
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    heavy, our freedom is at stake, and the writer writes immortally.
     -- anon, anon     
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    Mann from Kalamazoo, you seem to assert that the roads followed the automobile. The building of roads is one of the few activities promulgated for the federal government to perform in our Constitution.

    Look for "post roads" to enable the delivery of mail in Article I, Section VIII. Every road we have is used by the Post Office.

    Hardly a government subsidy to automakers!


     -- seaweed, Brentwood     
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    Waffler, what universe are you living in? Tea Party people don't want Obama to create jobs. They know that most jobs are created by business, especially small business, and that excessive taxes, wild government spending, and over-regulation kills jobs.
     -- John, Denver     
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    The US economy needs Mr. Friedman, not Obama's big goverment and wild spending. Look at how Communist governments collapsed , because of socialised , government- run enterprises which strangled efficient productivity and people's motivation .
     -- Tyson, Austin     
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     -- Johann Hollar, Saint Paul, MN      
    Clearly Mr. Donahue came armed with the wrong agenda and asked the wrong questions. There is nothing wrong with the free enterprise system if it is truly free and the playing field is level. Capitalism is the best system if all are allowed to participate in it equally. What we have now is neither of these. Bravo Waffler and Mann.
     -- L. Hanson, Edmonton, Canada     
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    Back in college, one of my professors grew up in the USSR. He said that he could remember when he was a kid, that the government which devoted most of its laborors to the military, didn't permit the manufacturing of enough windsheld wipers or side-view mirrors for all the cars that were sold. His father was one of the lucky few that happened to get wipers and mirrors. And everytime they stopped somewhere they had to take off the wipers and mirrors and carry them wherever they went, because if they left them, they would get stolen. That's the type of thing that happens under socialism. The government decides to devote the labor of the nation to something other than what the citizens want or need. Capitalism, on the other hand, allows the people to supply themselves with whatever they demand. People are free to make whatever they can sell and the competition between companies causes each of them to improve the product. If we allow the government to drive supply, rather that allowing demand to drive supply, we're gonna end up demanding things that aren't supplied and supplying things that aren't demanded. And the tea parties don't want the government to create jobs, they want the government to get the hell out of the way so we can create jobs!
     -- Damon, America     
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    Damon can you respond to my post about the fact that corporations, at least according to the news, are flush with cash (partly I assume due to laying off labor) but on the other hand governments have little or zero excess cash, but yet the public wants government to create policies that will put money in the hands of corporations so that they will create jobs. What the corporations will probably do is pay large dividends which will accrue to the richest among us and we will go out and buy Bentley's which we will enjoy driving and showing off through the slums of America. Can you dig or explain this? scenario.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler , Mann, and Hanson seem to be a bit confused. That's business as usual for these types. Friedman nailed a liberal in this interview. Donohue is one of those share the wealth people and I wonder how much of his millions he shared with the poor around the globe. Liberals are always ready to be altruistic with someone else's money.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
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     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA, US      
    As always Friedman is a clear as a bell and couldn't be more correct. And as always Waffler and his ilk gloss over the "fact" that what we have is economic fascism...not free enterprise as Friedman prescribes it. When Government and Business are intertwined, free enterprise is anything but "free". The lefties blame free entrprise all the time for their own lack of talent, motivation and innovation, but fail to see that the very system of control that they advocate will take down their betters who do create wealth.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Mann, your Marxist generated half truths, substantiveless assertions, misdirection innuendoes, and misguided allegations are drawn on false flag promulgations, and false dichotomies (by the way, you forgot Walmart). By way of brief example: your H-bombs were being developed by Germany and Japan in time of war (a whole other government subject there) and most all free enterprises, either being shut down or highly controlled were incapable of such development. The government directed said brain power and other limited resources to such development for self preservation (not of a constitutional representative republic but rather, the ever expanding socialism of the statist theocracy). Waffler, yes, I can respond to the issues you've mentioned. Most of your referenced American Corporations that are awash in cash (GE, GM, Microsoft, the military industrial complex, the big banks, etc.) are hand in glove (the fascist hand in the socialist glove) with that unconstitutional statist theocracy that you are calling a broke government. The public that asks government to create jobs are ignorant socialists and otherwise statist theocracy patrons spurred on by said statist theocracy's control freaks, including education (using that term very loosely) government's 4th branch (the media industrial complex) propaganda, etc. The individually sovereign minded, lovers of liberty, the free at heart, the responsible, and those who understand natural law, justice and unalienable rights are not asking the depraved tyrants of your so called government for jobs. The free market is not creating jobs because there is no free market, the free market has been governed and taxed out of business. I don't know of any Tea Party types that are asking Mr. Obamunist Goodwrench the assassin to create jobs (I suppose there are enough liberal / progressive planted agent provocateurs in your referenced movement so that you might propagate such an inquiry) so I'm unable to address that question. The only Tea Party types I'm aware of just want to be left alone so the free market can re-create itself. As to your, "How much of this hypocrisy can we really take?", since you (the Waffler), Mann, L Hanson, and A from Reston types are the propagating patrons of the hypocrisy, you would be best to answer that yourself.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Mann, where have you been, what a great comment and accurate too. I agree with your thinking. The US history of Capitalism was tempered with socialist ideals so for Friedman to be so arrogant to think that it was just capitalism is lacking in the knowledge that capitalism had a great partner and it was called Liberalism. Friedman's whole argument is flawed simply by the fact he is immutable. Furthermore, It was Reagen that got us into the mess we are today - he was a terrible President and his trickle-down was trick-up. Capitalism without it's nemesis would be the worst kind of pyramid scam of all time. It would lead to the same situation Friedman is denouncing. I would suggest Mr Friedman talk with Sir Kenneth Clark before making these assumptions. Mike, can't you do better than that? getting personal, just stay on the subject and that goes for all you other name callers.
     -- RBESRQ     
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    RBE...Capitalism's "great partner" has given us the results we see today. A growing welfare state and an imploding currency exasperated by rapacious taxation...no wonder our industry has gone overseas...they can't afford the Liberals anymore. Freidman wasn't "arrogant" so much as realistic...and we all know reality is the bane of all liberal (socialist) thinking.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Mike as usaual has his head in the sand. Ms Angle among many others including those who are against raising taxes on "small businessnes" say they are against it because business will spend their tax savings on boosting the economy. Right now as we speak the word around town is that corporations have made good profits in the last ten months or so, stocks are up, economy is brighter today, but why are not these money cows spending on jobs and creativity. Maybe the only thing that will happen is more mergers and acquistions, consolidations but that will probably result in more layoffs, more money in the pockets of the top 2% etcetera, More Bentley's, Rolls Royces etcetera driving through the slums of America. When the entire countryside is a 90% gated community housing 10% of the people and the remaining 10% of the real estate is housing 90% of the people in slums the likes of Mike may even wake up.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    I can't seem to figure out how people could trust a government bureaucracy to provide them with the fruit their labor deserves. Are our elected officials of such selfless integrity, and compassion for those less fortunate that they wouldn't fill their own pockets and leave your plate empty? I am willing to bet that none of the socialists commenting here, trust or like even a small portion of the officials in Washington. If we were to suddenly convert to socialism, would that change? Would the greedy stay home and quietly accept what they are given? Would the clever and cunning no longer be able to manipulate the system and take a seat of power? Would men and women of higher principles and purer agendas suddenly fill the halls of Congress? No. Politicians run this country under capitalism and politicians would run this country under socialism. That means that under socialism, the same people that you and I wouldn't trust with a rubber band would ultimately be filling in the numbers on your paycheck.
     -- Damon, America     
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    Robert, I didn't lower myself to the progressive ideal of character assassination and then not talk about the subject comment. I did however write the how's and why's of my disagreement with Mann while not addressing his being. I rather enjoyed Mann's thought process even if I completely disagreed with his premise and conclusions. I really hope Mann comments again.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    I think Waffler is just about as cluless as any human being can get! Anyone who does not do what he thinks is best for himself and his family is a total loser. "Rugged individualism" is what made this country great. It's you noodle-headed liberals who think that taking risks to, preparing onself through education and hard workl is "Rugged selfishness." To blame corporations for the high unemployment problem is like blaming the dog for the rain. Corporations were not formed to provide jobs for you my friend. The fact that they create jobs is a nice side-effect and a plus for any community who happens to have that corporation in their tax base, but no, they were never meant to provide jobs for the general population. They are meant to make a profit for the shareholders and for those who formed the enterprise. The people who work for the corporations get good value for their labor, or they would find other employhment. The government was not formed to create jobs for you either Waffler. You progressive twats need to wake up and smell the coffee. NOBODY owes you a damn thing, Waffler. You owe it to yourself to either get a job or create one. That's what this country was formed for in the first place. We escaped a system where the King told everyone what to do, where craft guilds held people down and prevented anyone from having jobs unless they belonged (sound familiar to Unions?) and where the King even told you what religion you had to bow down to. It's you clowns, Waffler, who would love to bring this country back to those days where you had no responsibilites and you were told exactly what to do and when. It's you idiots who don't seem to realize that freedom and equality are not part of the same equation because you can never have more of one without having less than the other. GET IT?
     -- Gunny Cee, Durham     
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    I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said "There is is nothing wrong with Christianity, it just hasn't been tried yet. The same applies to what Milton Friedman calls "free trade". Tell free trade to the numerous third world countries that were overthrown by Britain and the USA when they attempted to invoke democracy and free trade and I mean free trade that wasn't bleeding them dry. Friedman talks about Hitler and Stalin as if they were the only alternative. A not so subtle way of using fear tactics. I don't know what the answer is but I am damn sure that Capitalism aint it. If it ends with ism it's probably not good for us.
     -- Jose, Vancouver     
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    Jose you missed the point completely which is too bad because you did make a good observation. Friedman isn't advocating anything on behalf of Hitler et al: Quite the contrary. re read that. But you nailed something important when you pointed to American and British meddling in foreign affairs. That's the Government / Corporate agenda by the way. I doubt the average American on the street would advocate such behaviour. It's also how America earned the enmity of half the planet. The citizens are only now starting to wake up to what their government has been doing...the CIA calls it "Blowback".
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Friedman is a free market economist who does not believe in regulation. In essence he supports a economic system that by definition allows "bigger businesses" to set the rules and drive out smaller competitors. He also believes in and supports outsourcing and off shoring of America's manufacturing, technology and jobs. Another unmentioned fact: absolutely none of the benefits that accrue to America's multinational corporations that outsource go to the United States. However, the United States pays all of the costs: America has lost most of its manufacturing base, most of the better paying manufacturing jobs (including engineers and management level), losing technology to other countries. America does NOT receive any of the taxes on the profits make in other countries due to the 1986 Outsourcing Act. The Democrat Party tried to repeal the act twice...in 1995 and 2010 but failed due to Republican opposition. Friedman's argument is flawed...he's not just talking about greed and capitalism, he neglects to mention how badly flawed and distorted our economic system has become under the Republican ideology.
     -- Trish, Overland Park     
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    I love the two critiques listed in the comments. One avoids critiquing the quote altogether and the other thinks the world needed the H-Bomb!

    Whether you agree with the whole of Friedman's work or not, he's being as honest and true about the situation at hand as possible; people are at the heart of the problem and while capitalism is flawed, it isn't going to take more people looking over shoulders to fix things, because they have their own motives and ambitions.
     -- Josh, Champaign     
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