Friedman starts off with the most fundamental belief of a liberal - a belief "in the individual's freedom to make the most of his capacities and opporunties according to his own lights, subject only to the proviso that he not interfere with the freedom of other individuals to do the same."
As such, in judging social arrangements, the question to ask is, "Does it promote individual freedom?"
He goes on to argue that in order to have a free society, you need a free economy. Then he lays down fourteen activities undertaken by the government which could not be justified. They include:
- tariffs on imports and restrictions on exports
- Minimum wage rates, maximum prices
- Current public school system
- The present social security systems
- Licensure provisions
- National parks
This is quite a big challenge he brings to himself. I mean, this guy is arguing against requiring doctors to get a license!
He proceeds to argue very convincingly for each of the item. Every chapter is a gem. The thinking is rigorous, its clarity stunning. And they are filled with humor and episodes and insights that are a fun to read by themselves (think "Freakonomics").
Liberals are anything but idealistic. Friedman's basic argument is this: look, you can try to get the government to do something about this issue, and with luck you may see some quick effects. But once the government gets its hands into this, they are never gonna get out. That's the REALITY. Like in every institution, the natural tendency is to seek to grow and expand its influence. Once the government minds the business it should't mind, it's gonna bring in evil effects that are gradual, indirect, and unfortunately, will go unnoticed for a long while.
If you are a liberal, you can't be a good one without reading this. If you are somewhere else in the spectrum, this book will give you plenty food for thought.
Oh btw, in case you think this is something new, he wrote this book back in 1962....Continua