On Free To Choose

I recently finished reading Free To Choose – A Personal Statement – by Milton and Rose Friedman.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom. By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion or central direction, it reduces the area over which political power is exercised. In addition, by dispersing power, the free market provides an offset to whatever concentration of political power may arise. The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny.”

2- “The experience of recent years—slowing growth and declining productivity—raises a doubt whether private ingenuity can continue to overcome the deadening effects of government control if we continue to grant ever more power to government, to authorize a “new class” of civil servants to spend ever larger fractions of our income supposedly on our behalf. Sooner or later—and perhaps sooner than many of us expect—an ever bigger government would destroy both the prosperity that we owe to the free market and the human freedom proclaimed so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence.”

3- “Prices perform three functions in organizing economic activity: first, they transmit information; second, they provide an incentive to adopt those methods of production that are least costly and thereby use available resources for the most highly valued purposes; third, they determine who gets how much of the product – the distribution of income. These three functions are closely interrelated.”

4- “Our society is what we make it. We can shape our institutions. Physical and human characteristics limit the alternatives available to us. But none prevents us, if we will, from building a society that relies primarily on voluntary cooperation to organize both economic and other activity, a society that preserves and expands human freedom, that keeps government in its place, keeping it our servant and not letting it become our master.”

5- “The ballot box produces conformity without unanimity; the marketplace, unanimity without conformity. That is why it is desirable to use the ballot box, so far as possible, only for those decisions where conformity is essential.”

6- “Freedom cannot be absolute. We do live in an interdependent society. Some restrictions on our freedom are necessary to avoid other, still worse, restrictions. However, we have gone far beyond that point. The urgent need today is to eliminate restrictions, not add to them.”

7- “In one respect the System has remained completely consistent throughout. It blames all problems on external influences beyond its control and takes credit for any and all favorable occurrences. It thereby continues to promote the myth that the private economy is unstable, while its behavior continues to document the reality that government is today the major source of economic instability.”

8- “The waste is distressing, but it is the least of the evils of the paternalistic programs that have grown to such massive size. Their major evil is their effect on the fabric of our society. They weaken the family; reduce the incentive to work, save, and innovate; reduce the accumulation of capital; and limit our freedom. . These are the fundamental standards by which they should be judged.”

9- “A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests…Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today’s disadvantaged to become tomorrow’s privileged and, in the process. enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.”

10- “We believe that the growing role that government has played in financing and administering schooling has led not only to enormous waste of taxpayers’ money but also to a far poorer educational system than would have developed had voluntary cooperation continued to play a larger role…We have tried in this chapter to outline a number of constructive suggestions…These proposals are visionary but they are not impracticable…We shall not achieve them at once. But insofar as we make progress toward them—or alternative programs directed at the same objective—we can strengthen the foundations of our freedom and give fuller meaning to equality of educational opportunity.”

11- “Insofar as the government has information not generally available about the merits or demerits of the items we ingest or the activities we engage in, let it give us the information. But let it leave us free to choose what chances we want to take with our own lives.”

12- “When unions get higher wages for their members by restricting entry into an occupation, those higher wages are at the expense of other workers who find their opportunities reduced. When government pays its employees higher wages, those higher wages are at the expense of the taxpayer. But when workers get higher wages and better working conditions through the free market, when they get raises by firms competing with one another for the best workers, by workers competing with one another for the best jobs, those higher wages are at nobody’s expense. They can only come from higher productivity, greater capital investment, more widely diffused skills.”

13- “Five simple truths embody most of what we know about inflation: 1. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon arising from a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output (though, of course, the reasons for the increase in money may be various) 2. In today’s world government determines—or can determine -the quantity of money. 3. There is only one cure for inflation: a slower rate of increase in the quantity of money. 4. It takes time—measured in years, not months—for inflation to develop; it takes time for inflation to be cured. 5. Unpleasant side effects of the cure are unavoidable.”

14- “We have been misled by a false dichotomy: inflation or unemployment. That option is an illusion. The real option is only whether we have higher unemployment as a result of higher inflation or as a temporary side effect of curing inflation.”

15- “The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic h that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good purposes.”


Omar Halabieh

Free To Choose


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