July 31st is the anniversary of the birth of Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, who would have been 102 years old this year. Friedman was one of the staunchest and most effective defenders of the free market system that our country has ever seen.
In fact he did such a brilliant job of advocating for capitalism, that I call him my “intellectual porn”.
Not only could he present the merits of free enterprise, but he did it in a way that was engaging and entertaining, which made it much easier for the average lay person to understand.
A perfect example of Friedman’s simple yet compelling elegance took place in 1979, when he discussed the word “greed” as it relates to capitalism with liberal talk show host Phil Donahue.
Poor Donahue…bless his heart.
You can tell by the befuddled look on his face that he didn’t even know what hit him. This clip also illustrates how far we have fallen as a society. With the “Springerization” of the daytime talk show genre, it’s highly unlikely that Friedman, if he were still with us today, would have the opportunity to present his views to a pop culture audience.
Then, there is this fantastic exchange between Milton Friedman and Frances Fox Piven who, along with Richard Cloward, formulated the Cloward-Piven strategy:
The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.
Thomas Sowell is also included in this debate. Sowell, who is also on my intellectual porn list, was once a student of Friedman’s. Watching the two of them corner Piven in her argument would be a turn on for anyone who values economic autonomy and personal responsibility.
Milton Friedman even took on a young Michael Moore with a predictable outcome. Sadly, Moore hasn’t learned much in the years since.
Finally, Friedman makes an exceptional case for limited government in this exchange with an audience member.
Notice the demeanor that Milton Friedman displays while he’s in the midst of the debate. He seems to relish the challenge to the point of being almost jovial. Friedman was the master of rejecting the false premise. Knowledge is power and when you have the facts on your side, you can dominate the discourse without having to engage in a shouting match. The one who maintains poise in an exchange is the one who controls it, as the unflappable Friedman consistently demonstrated.
Perhaps the best insight into Milton Friedman came from Thomas Sowell, in a piece he wrote two years ago, called “Milton Friedman’s Centenary” for the 100th anniversary of Friedman’s birth:
“Although Milton Friedman became someone regarded as a conservative icon, he considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word — someone who believes in the liberty of the individual, free of government intrusions. Far from trying to conserve things as they are, he wrote a book titled “Tyranny of the Status Quo.”
Milton Friedman proposed radical changes in policies and institution ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve. It is liberals who want to conserve and expand the welfare state.”
It was difficult to sift through all the Friedman video on YouTube and try to choose just a few clips. Thankfully, there is a wealth of footage that is available and I would encourage anyone who values economic freedom to explore it. Incidentally, along with Friedman and Sowell, others on my intellectual porn list include Walter E. Williams, Mark Steyn, and Bill Whittle. Like Friedman, these men value intellect, knowledge, thoughtful debate and the exchange of ideas; combined with their devotion to individual liberty and the U.S. Constitution, well… bow chicka wow wow!
Friedman was also the one who coined the term, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Indeed! Happy Birthday Milton Friedman…and thank you for educating me!
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