Milton Friedman—Is Capitalism Humane?

My personal politics may best be defined as “pro-freedom”. In some ways that makes me sympathetic to positions espoused (though seldom actually practiced) by both of the major political parties in the US. It makes me much more sympathetic to several of the “third” parties of US politics: most especially the Libertarian party (though not without reservations).

However, I’m much more interested in economics than politics (although the two are inextricably intertwined). And, in that realm, my leanings are entirely towards laissez-faire capitalism. To clarify, this is the form of capitalism in which the government only takes on the role of preventing force or fraud and adjudicating disagreements. No bail-outs, no subsidies, no charity, no public works. Regulations are only in service of preventing fraud and force. Also, there are no favors, no bribes, and very little corruption as there are no hand-outs to be obtained or clubs to he wielded against competitors. Needless to say, the form the US economy has taken since before WWI has only had a passing resemblance to this economic system, even though many people still refer to it as “capitalism.”

Milton Friedman (1912–2006) won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1976, and was perhaps the most famous defender of laissez-faire capitalism in the 20th century. In the talk I’ve linked to here, he defends capitalism on moral grounds by tackling the question: “Is capitalism humane?”.

If you feel as I do about capitalism, I encourage you to listen to this talk. In it, you will witness an excellent and entertaining speaker explaining points you may have heard before, but in an excellently clear and persuasive fashion.

If you do not feel as I do about capitalism, I encourage you to listen to this talk all the more. Not because I think you’ll be persuaded by 45 minutes of listening to Milton Friedman, but because I suspect what you and I think of when we hear the word “capitalism” are miles apart. And when you hear me promote and defend capitalism, and, perhaps, are inclined to persuade me otherwise, it would be great if we started out on the same page. Listening to this talk will bring us a lot closer to that point.

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