The Good Life, No. 8: Heroes

Rose Friedman was once described as “equal parts velvet and steel.” At once her husband’s wife and colleague, Rose was never the great woman behind a great man. She noted in a 1999 interview that “I’ve always felt that I’m responsible for at least half of what he’s gotten.”  From co-authoring three of his most influential works to providing the impetus for such ambitious projects as their television series and nonprofit foundation, Rose Director Friedman can rightfully be called Milton’s partner.

An influential economist in her own right, Rose greatly influenced Milton’s economic thought. “It was an extremely close intellectual fellowship, and she was not someone who got credit for things she didn’t do,” Milton’s student Gary Becker observes. “They discussed ideas constantly.” Another longtime friend of the couple remarks that, for Milton, Rose’s opinion was “the ultimate test.” Friedman eagerly sought his wife’s point of view when developing his own, and openly admitted that she was the only person who had ever won an argument with him. This intellectual equality rendered their professional collaboration a very natural one. Still, she said, “I was smart enough to know that he was smarter than me.” So while Milton focused his efforts on technical economics, Rose set out to bring their theory of freedom to the public.

In the early 1980s, PBS approached the couple about turning their co-written international best-seller Free to Choose into a television series. After convincing Milton to take on the project with her, Rose assumed the role of associate producer and was heavily involved in organizing the series, which achieved global success. Friends and relations also credit her with providing the inspiration for the Friedman Foundation. But while she is universally recognized as an expert economist with intelligence and drive, Rose is also remembered for the grace with which she balanced her roles as colleague and wife.

“She was a great lady, in every sense of the word,” an acquaintance recalls. Outspoken yet polite, patient yet uncompromising, Rose stepped confidently — never aggressively — into her husband’s spotlight and quickly bowed out again when appropriate. She complemented Milton, earning the admiration of her peers and setting a tremendous example of feminine strength, courage and love.

These virtues helped to sustain the Friedmans through an arduous fight for freedom. When they entered academia, the field was virtually void of principled conservatives. Their work reintroduced classical liberalism as a valid and critically important body of thought with the power to revolutionize society as well as the academy. Milton and Rose changed the world together, leaving a legacy that will flourish for generations to come.

An Ode to the Frie Market

Milton Friedman won a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics
But that isn’t all about this man; a lesson on him isn’t quick

Born in Brooklyn, New York in July of nineteen hundred twelve,
Milton Friedman was a brilliant economist; in this topic he deeply delved

For thirty years, teaching economic theory was his passion
At the University of Chicago he taught the youth of the nation

As “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century,”
His ideas spread like wildfire, to almost everyone, and were not elementary

Big government he said to shun,
Instead, free markets should have all the fun

The virtues of a free market system are so clear
Market intervention a nation should never have to bear

The government’s role in the economy should be greatly restricted.
Interference would only bring about poverty, depressions, and an economy constricted

A natural rate of unemployment he believed existed
No government could change this rate; it was healthy and should not be resisted

Though greatly opposed to the Federal Reserve,
Advice he still gives so the economy will be preserved

The advice: A small steady expansion of the money supply is the only way
If the central bank did otherwise, hyperinflation would never be kept at bay

Services offered by the government can be inefficient,
Should be performed by the private sector: that’s where they ought to be sent

One of these services is the production of money,
The private sector should produce it; and a gold base will lead to the highest stability

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” he claimed
The relation between inflation and the money supply is close, he proclaimed

A monetarist at heart: Control of price inflation should be done with monetary deflation
In addition, price deflation is best controlled by only monetary inflation

An economic adviser to Ronald Reagan,
He predicted the policies of Keynes were bad, close to pagan

Not only would they cause high inflation
But minimal growth; later called stagflation

“Capitalism and Freedom,” a book he co-authored in nineteen sixty two
Speaks for policies like volunteer military and education vouchers, just to name a few

“A Monetary History of the United States,” which he published in nineteen sixty three
Investigates the role of money supply and economics in U.S. history

“Free to Choose,” another book that he and his wife did write,
Is where on monetary policy they shed much light

A staunch supporter of libertarian ideas, he took a chance,
When he fought for legalization of drugs and prostitution, not a popular stance

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program” is his quote,
Noting: Once a program is started, participants will do everything to keep it afloat

He coined the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Someone always pays in the end, and will feel the punch

Milton Friedman taught many good economic lessons
Which if heeded, may have kept us out of horrid recessions

With a full life behind him and theories not previously in the mix,
Friedman died on November 16 of two thousand and six

Though he is gone, this week we honor the day Friedman was born
Today his advice to us would be, go free the market rather than mourn

Gulf Oil Spill and Government Irresponsibility

The following is a letter I wrote to The Telegram & Gazette. It is in response to this editorial: (http://www.telegram.com/article/20100620/NEWS/6200411/1020

 

After reading “Not What’s Needed Now” (“Anger a Poor Substitute for Leadership,” Telegram & Gazette, June 20), my conviction in government ineptitude, especially in preventing potential disasters, was confirmed. The debacle during Thursday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing further illustrated the impotence of Big Government and proved that the emphasis should be placed on the free-market to clean and prevent future environmental catastrophes. Right now both sides of the spectrum frame their arguments in terms of how government could have prevented the Gulf Oil Spill: conservatives pointing to the Mineral Management Service and liberals outright criticizing the President for initial inaction. 

Unfortunately, both sides miss a prime opportunity to consider the impediments that government has already placed on safer off-shore drilling, namely regulations which unwisely forced deep sea drilling. Also, the federal government has lost a chance to repeal another irresponsible regulation, specifically a liability cap of $75 million in exchange for the government’s ability to dictate where rigs could drill. The error in this regulation is two-fold: $75 million is a drop in the bucket for Big Oil; and bureaucrats are incapable of knowing where to safely drill, something best demonstrated by the current mess.

We must demand our representatives turn their attention to more reasonable solutions by allowing the market to unleash more forceful pressures on Big Oil, which will better prevent future catastrophes. Unwise regulations enabled reckless behavior, and increased regulation will do so even more.

Clint Townsend

Michigan Unemployment Decreases

The unemployment figures for the month of May recently decreased throughout Michigan from 14% to 13.6%. The administration and michigan legislators are pointing to these numbes as proof that intense government action, in the form of stimuli and bailouts, actually improves our standards of living. But nothing could be further from the truth and it is insulting to the intelligence of every Michigander.

The truth is that the numbers are decreasing despite the harmful actions of both the federal and state government, thus illustrating the force of markets and government’s inability to contain them.

If lawmakers both state-wide and federal want to have a more significant impact in encouraging a speedy recovery they would abandon their activist efforts and embrace free market solutions, namely lower taxes, less regulations, and more economic freedom.

Conservatives Should Adopt Free-trade Policy

The following is a letter submission I made to the Detroit Free Press in regards to the recent debate over immigration.

Since the passage of Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, Americans have split into two distinct groups, namely those who acknowledge the benefits and moral obligations of open immigration and those who clamor over the increased size of the welfare state. Ultimately however, it is an erroneous assumption to conclude that immigration controls improve the economy. In actuality, additional labor increases economic productivity and therefore everyone is made more prosperous.

Also, conservatives should not abandon their belief in Ricardo’s theory of free-trade, especially as it pertains to labor markets. Immigration control is a barrier to entry and acts as a protectionist policy. Furthermore, opponents of free-entry should consider that border controls unfairly punish the geographically disadvantaged. No one should be discriminated against based solely on nationality. Nationalism holds little difference than racial prejudice. True believers in civil liberties and free-markets should endorse open borders, while still rejecting the welfare state.

– Clint Townsend
Mackinac Research Intern

Health Care

Letter to the Editor by Don Boudreaux

Health Care and the Value of Life
17 June 2009

News Editor, WWL Radio
New Orleans, LA

Dear Sir or Madam:

A listener called in today during the one o’clock hour to assert that “health care isn’t like other services” – and so it can’t be supplied reliably on the market because people are willing to “incur any cost to save their lives.”

First, if this assertion is true, it’s unclear how matters would be improved by socializing the payment of medical expenses. Second, everyday experience shows that this assertion, in fact, is false. If people really are desperate to save their lives at all costs, then everyone would exercise regularly, eat only healthy foods, and completely avoid rock climbing, horseback riding, snow skiing, and tanning booths. No one would smoke, drink to excess, or have unsafe sex. Women would never get pregnant, as there’s still some positive chance of dying while giving birth.

Unless and until people stop behaving in ways that reduce their life-expectancies, it’s mistaken to believe that each of us is committed to living longer at all costs.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University

Health-Care the Safeway

-Jarrett Skorup

The news the past week has been heavy on health care.  President Obama delivered a speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin partially outlining his plan to force private insurance companies to compete with the government (still not sure how that works) and demonizing those on the side of free-markets.  He has also issued statements that his new plan will include more taxes; Max Baucus, senator from Oregon, hints that Congress may tax health benefits, something Obama specifically chided McCain for on the campaign trail saying,

Apparently, Senator McCain doesn’t think it’s enough that your health premiums have doubled. He thinks you should have to pay taxes on them, too.

The AP reports that Obama is also open to borrowing in order to pay for the plan, though I’m not exactly sure how that fits with his “paygo” idea.  But what the hey, I’m just a lowly intern, much to inexperienced to understand that politicians rarely mean what they say.

So what is the free-market response?  Has anybody solved the problem?

There are several examples of companies who have found ways to better their insurance while decreasing costs, and all have done so by using the free-maket ideas of incentives and competition.  The two major examples are Whole Foods (led by the libertarian-leaning CEO, John Mackey) and, more recently, Safeway.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, CEO Steven Burd lays out his plan for how the federal government could save 40% on its health care by adopting some easy Safeway initiatives.  So how has his company been able to cut costs and yet manage to keep good service?  By relying on the free-market.

As much as we would like to take credit for being a health-care innovator, Safeway has done nothing more than borrow from the well-tested automobile insurance model. For decades, driving behavior has been correlated with accident risk and has therefore translated into premium differences among drivers. Stated somewhat differently, the auto-insurance industry has long recognized the role of personal responsibility. As a result, bad behaviors (like speeding, tickets for failure to follow the rules of the road, and frequency of accidents) are considered when establishing insurance premiums. Bad driver premiums are not subsidized by the good driver premiums.

The program also provide incentives to those who get healthy on their own; doing things like quitting smoking, losing weight and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Employees are provided with lower premiums for improving in these areas, much in the same way that car companies reward good drivers, women (who, it pains me to say, tend to be safer) and those who avoid tickets.  This voluntary program (done by those in Safeway’s non-unionized work force) has a rating of “very good” or “excellent” by 78% of those participating; and Mr. Burd believes that things could be even better if laws were repealed that currently constrain the incentives his company is allowed to offer.

Using the free-market to increase competition, lower costs, and provide better care?  What a novel concept.

What Deregulation?

Kurt Bouwhuis, Mackinac Center Intern

The Federal Register, which lists new regulations, averaged 72,844 pages annually during the Carter years from 1977 to 1980. These were presumably, by Pearlstein’s 25-year standard, the last time before now that Americans didn’t have “faith” in open, unregulated markets. Then the average fell to 54,335 during the Reagan years, rose to 59, 527 during the Bush I years, to 71,590 during the Clinton years, and, finally, to a record 75,526 during the administration of that great believer in laissez-faire, George W. Bush.

This is from the article entitled Are We Ailing from Too Much Deregulation? by David R. Henderson

Great Quote From SFE Blog

elitism

“In short, free markets are nothing more than free individuals doing what they feel is best for themselves. Speaking out against it takes an immeasurable amount of arrogance.  It necessitates that you can be judge and jury in the lives of others, rather than allowing them to do the best they can with what they have.” – Isaac Morehouse

Students for a Free Economy

Somalia Better Off Stateless?

Kurt Bouwhuis, Mackinac Center Intern

Are people really capable of governing themselves without a national government?  Peter Leeson, professor at George Mason University provides evidence in his essay “Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse.”

Peter Leeson has an assortment of essays on his website that are free to download and read.

Keep an eye out for his new book, “The Invisible Hook”, coming in 2009…

The Free Market is Smarter than I

Kurt Bouwhuis, Mackinac Center Intern

I find the free market fascinating because, many times, it offers valuable solutions that we are difficult to see.   I was introduced to yet another great free market solution when I read an essay written by Peter Leeson titled Do Markets Need Government? The essay illustrates a true story that takes place in pre-colonial Africa.

Angolia, in the late 19th century, was a large exporter of beeswax, ivory, and wild rubber.  The trade consisted of two groups, the buyers and sellers.  The buyers were the European middlemen who hired agents to collect the goods.  The sellers were the local Angolians.  The European agents were armed and traveled in large caravans while the local producers lived in small villages and were often unarmed.  Despite the fact that the Europeans had a power advantage over the locals, trade still existed.

There were times, however, that the European agents would kill off villages and steal all of the goods rather than paying.  At this point in time, there was no government to intervene in these affairs.  How could the free market solve a criminal problem such as this without a court system or police force?  The free market solution happens to be very simple and does not require huge monetary costs.  A typical government solution requires large sums of monetary value to create courts, jails, and police.
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Want world peace? Support free trade.

William Freeland, Mackinac Center Intern

An outstanding article on the pacifying effect of trade by Donald Boudreaux  of George Mason Univerity and Cafe Hayek blogger. This from the November 20, 2006 edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

(Cross-Posted at Michigan SFE Blog)

By Donald J. Boudreaux 
FAIRFAX, VA.

Everyone knows that a key to the Democrats’ big electoral win was their opposition to the Iraq war. But also, as the Wall Street Journal reported recently, “Democrats’ stances against free trade helped build the party’s success at the polls and could tip the balance on trade matters. The new dynamic could put a definitive end to the already troubled effort to reach a global agreement to reduce tariffs and open markets….”

Protectionists (of whatever party) believe that consumers who buy goods and services from foreigners cause domestic employment – and wages – to fall. Economists since before Adam Smith have shown that this belief is mistaken, largely because foreigners sell things to us only because they either want to buy things from us or invest in our economy.

These activities employ workers here at home and raise their wages. Mountains of empirical evidence show that protectionism is economically destructive. The facts also show that protectionism is inconsistent with a desire for peace – a desire admirably expressed by many Democrats during the recent campaigns.

Back in 1748, Baron de Montesquieu observed that “Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who differ with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.”

If Mr. Montesquieu is correct that trade promotes peace, then protectionism – a retreat from open trade – raises the chances of war.

Plenty of empirical evidence confirms the wisdom of Montesquieu’s insight: Trade does indeed promote peace.

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Mackinac Center Current Comment :: 14 July 2008

<>< Josh Rule : : 2008 MCPP Intern

Isaac Morehouse has a great Current Comment today that has been crossposted several places across the liberty-loving blogosphere.  He writes about the false moderation of a mixed economy, and how choosing a middle ground between a free economy and a planned economy is really no middle ground at all.  Morehouse defends the claim that the true middle ground is actually the free market.  Go ahead, and check it out.