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Season 1 - Episode 4
What's needed to achieve prosperity (1994 interview)

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) taught economics at the University of Chicago for over thirty years and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976. His book Capitalism and Freedom presents a strong, principled case for individual liberty. Among his many achievements, he played an important role in eliminating the US military draft.

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In this reprise of a 1994 interview, Milton Friedman, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2012, characterizes modern advances in communication and transportation technology as a veritable revolution. For the first time, argues the Nobel laureate, a truly global economy has become possible.

And yet, governments persist in maintaining trade barriers. According to Friedman, “We don’t need walls against goods coming from abroad. What we need is rather to let down our barriers, to open them up and take advantage of the opportunities for cooperation around the world.” Things like tariffs and quotas only serve to frustrate the forces of economic growth.

Another problem that remains relevant today is the sorry state of public schools in the United States, which is not really all that surprising since, as Milton Friedman points out, governments are not generally very good at producing goods and services. “The way to resolve our educational problem, in my opinion, is to privatize it; to open it up; to let parents choose what schools their children go to; to make it possible for private, profit-making schools to have a market.”

Viewers will also hear the famous economist defend the legacy of American President Ronald Reagan, who had some measure of success in lowering tax rates, deregulating, holding down government spending, and bringing down inflation. Unfortunately, the Bush-Clinton years saw a retreat from these policies, a symptom of the pull that interventionist policies have on the political class. The big challenge, says Friedman, is to bring lawmakers’ incentives more in line with the interests of the public instead of the special interests of lobbyists.

Links of Interest: Capitalism and Freedom | The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | Nobel Memorial Lecture, “Inflation and Unemployment”

Watch these related FMS interviews
- Reuven Brenner - The force of finance
- Ruth Richardson - Radical reforms in New Zealand

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