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The world of the paperback the University of Chicago invites you to join us for this series of 15 minute programs dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and the review of significant paper bound books. Each weekly program will bring to the microphone a different author authority or educator with his particular viewpoint towards the topic for discussion. The book selected for today's discussion is capitalism and freedom. Our guest is the author of this book Milton Friedman. Mr. Friedman is the Paul Snowden Russell distinguished service professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Here is your discussion host from the University of Chicago Robert C. Albrecht. Mr. Greene when you open your book community auction with the quotation from President Kennedy's inaugural Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. Why is it that neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government. It is worthy of the ideals of free man and a free society because the first half
is ask not what your country can do for you. Expresses a paternalistic view that expresses a view that the citizen is the warden and the government or the country. When Kennedy used the word country he is really speaking of government and we interpret it this way. So the first half expresses a view of the government as the father figure and the citizen as the warden. Now the second have to ask what you can do for your country expresses a view that there exists a government or an entity which is more than the sum of the people who compose it. From my point of view the country is a collection of the people who are in it. The question is what do we want to do for ourselves not what do we want to do for some mystical entity called the government. That's the veil which in its most extreme an important form was a view for example of the Nazis or its a view of the communists who regard the proletariat as something more than the individual citizens who are part of the proletariat.
Well there's the is the government to be the servant of the individual. The government is neither the servant nor the master. The government is one of the ways we cooperate and operate. If we were to say as a family to be the servant of the individual I think we would agree that. That didn't quite express what we had in mind the family is a way in which a group of us cooperate together for some common objectives and similarly the government is an extension of ourselves as an interim and through which we choose to do things or we choose to not to do other things. We have begun this discussion as you've begun your book with something that looks like a political statement rather than an economic team or a statement about economics. These two things are certainly related. Your title of your book shows is capitalism and freedom. Can one see terms such as capitalism or socialism as a purely economic term. I think not. I think there are purely economic questions one can ask about
capitalism and socialism. One can ask the question how does a capitalist system work how does a socialist system work. But that's a that's to view it from a purely technical point of view. If you view it from a broader social point of view the important point the point of the book is devoted to is that the form of economic organization has a very important effect on what is politically possible. But it's not possible to separate life into two watertight tight compartments one politics and one economics. And to say you can choose as you want from the compartment of politics and as you want from the compartment of economics and put them together in particular the thing I was trying to get across with the title is that in my opinion a free society is possible from politically free society is possible if and only if the economic organization is primarily capitalist. In other words one cannot have a free society under socialism.
I think not. The only difficulty with that is that one has to be careful of not going completely to a wholly black or wholly white picture. Every society is to some extent mixed. Every society has a socialist element in the sense that there are things that we choose to do through government. Every society has a private element. But there are other things that we choose to do privately. The proposition I would make is that it is impossible to have a society which is predominantly socialist where the government or governmental officials are the main instruments of organizing economic activity it's impossible to have such a society which is also free. There is no example on record of any such combination and I think there are good logical philosophical reasons why it should be impossible. But is it the case that capitalism is characterized in by by competition free competition but capitalism is of course as your
question brings out is a word which needs to be further defined. The point I emphasized is that a free society must be capitalist. I never would say that every capitalist society is free. A capitalist society may be an unfair a society if the capitalism is not a competitive capitalism but in fact in from a certain general point of view every society is capitalist and the distinguishing characteristic of what we really mean by capitalism is the point you emphasize that it be an open society in the economic world competitive in the sense that individuals will wish to engage in a new activity to start new enterprises. Are free to do so. That they do not have to get a permit from the state. They don't have to fit into a privileged previously designated plane and so on. Well does this mean then that Mark Foley is not a feature of the capitalism
that you find desirable. Monopoly is certainly not a feature of the capitalism that is desirable however. However in discussing monopoly. One must ask the question of where did the monopoly come from. And the interesting fact is that most actual monopoly in our society comes from the protecting hand of the government. In fact I often say what seems paradoxical. The reason I am in favor of a competitive capitalism is because it's the only kind of a system in which the capitalists don't have too much power. If you take a what's called a socialist country take a country like Russia which at the moment is the extreme form who has the power. The people who control the capital the governmental officials who are in control of the machines of the factories who tell people where they work and what they do there in that sense they're a capitalist. In a society in which the government plays a large role even if it isn't completely
socialist as it does in some areas of our own society the capitalist tends to have too much power this is where the monopoly comes from. Where do we have areas of monopoly in our country where we have for example in the railroad industry as a result of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Again the tariff is a major source of monopoly power. It's government help for the capitalist. So the reason you want to have competitive capitalism and a minimum of government intervention is to have a situation in which one capitalist. Can effectively check the power of another capitalist. Why do we have problems of monopoly in banking. Because nobody is free to set up a bank unless he can get a permit from the government. If bankers use their position to exploit the public the most effective defense is a possibility of other people setting up banks. But if they have to go to the government to get a permit this may be prevented and often is. Curiously the in the position you describe is in some ways similar to that.
Set out by for example e s ts A-students for in democratic society. They too seem to oppose. Various sorts of concentrated power. But where then do you differ from such a group. Their objectives and my objectives are the same we both believe I think in freedom for the individual and the maximum opportunity of individuals to develop their own capacities and express their own values. The difference between us I believe is in what they know that isn't so. It has to do with the means that they want to use to achieve their objectives. They have what seems to me the very curious idea that all governmental interventions today. Or most of my shouldn't say all of overstating their position that most government or metal interventions today have inhibited freedom have provided. Positions of power for vested interests. And yet somehow they have the feeling that if we go father in that same direction we can
somehow reverse the results. Now my belief is very different. It is that the only effective way to promote a greater degree of individual ASM and individual freedom is to lessen the intervention by the government to get the government out of doing things which it is now doing. This is applies over a wide range of things. One of the simplest for example which I think brings out the essential principle and also brings out the extent to which people don't even think about these things but taken for granted one of the simplest as a post office. Why should it be illegal for private individuals to go into the business of carrying mail for profit. It is if you go into the history of it you'll find that it goes back to the Pony Express because it competed so effectively with the government. But looking at the situation now. What is one of the major sources of restriction on freedom of speech in communication. Postal censorship. And yet interestingly enough we find that organizations like the SD Yes the ACLU and American Civil Liberties Union.
They ought to be one of their major planks ought to eliminate the government monopoly in the post office. And yet we don't find them doing so. The tragedy in my opinion is that having recognized the extent to which government can itself be a source of restrictions on freedom the wrong lesson has drawn the lesson that is drawn is. We must make government operate better. We must therefore have more still more government. Only this time will be in control of it instead of them. And this is where it seems to me the tragedy is the tragedy is not that bad people are driving us down the road too. The talent area has a more lack of freedom. The tragedy is at the very best people in the society in many ways are people whose intentions are the best are driving us down a road which will lead to a conclusion that they will be the first to object. Well is the US government in a certain sense the antithesis of individual ism and
freedom. It need not be the point here and I had a very good point because we've been talking and I've been talking as if government was a monolithic but government isn't government is whatever we choose to do through the instruments of the state and some part of that is absolutely essential for the preservation of liberty. We cannot have liberty or freedom unless people are protected from having other people hit them over the head. The first and primary thing we must do through government is to maintain peace order stability. Inviolability of person and property. Now I may say we're not doing that very well and it's not an accident that we're doing that less well as government extends its scope in other areas. There's something like a limitation on what any individual can do or what any institution can do. If we're going to use government for other things it's likely to do this first function less well.
It seems ironic that the value of freedom is almost is virtually never opposed. The only question often seems to be how this can how this down you can best be achieved. Is it always simply a difference between means and ends do you think partly of course. The word freedom is is one that has about as many meanings as people who speak it. And one man's freedom can sometimes be another man's tyranny. What you're referring to I think is a much more general tendency. It's a kind of a depreciation of the level of discourse discourse in general often turns into a discussion of broad general motives of objectives. Partly this is because it's so much easier to question another man's motives often than it is to meet his argument. It's an easy thing to say he's a bad man who wants to do bad things. So we have the situation in which everybody professes to be the true friend of freedom and the other man
is an enemy of freedom whereas in fact we mean different things by freedom. If we sat down and thought through what we mad there would be some of us who would be off the reservation others of us who would be on it. Those of us who were on it and meant to same thing by freedom would then find that our major differences were about the means that were appropriate to achieve it. The guest for today's discussion of his book Capitalism and Freedom was Milton Friedman the Paul Snowden Russell distinguished service professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Your host for the world of the paperback is Robert C. Albrecht assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago next week. Philip Kurland professor of law at the University of Chicago will discuss the book the public and its government. The world of the paperback is produced for a national educational radio by the University of Chicago in cooperation with W A I T.
World of the Paperback
Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom"
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University of Chicago
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Milton Friedman discussing his own "Capitalism and Freedom."
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This series is dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and of the publication of significant paperbound books.
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Talk Show
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Guest: Friedman, Milton, 1912-2006
Host: Albrecht, Robert C.
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-23-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:25
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Chicago: “World of the Paperback; Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom",” 1966-07-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
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APA: World of the Paperback; Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from