Arnold Kling  

Milton Friedman on Big Business vs. Freedom

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In the context of Wal-Mart's joining the crowd that wants government to fix health care, Don Boudreaux reminds us of this quote from Milton Friedman.

The two chief enemies of the free society or free enterprise are intellectuals on the one hand and businessmen on the other, for opposite reasons. Every intellectual believes in freedom for himself, but he’s opposed to freedom for others.…He thinks…there ought to be a central planning board that will establish social priorities.…The businessmen are just the opposite—every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that’s a different question. He’s always the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing…

[Reason Magazine gives the attribution: “An Interview With Milton Friedman,” December 1974, conducted by Tibor Machan, Joe Cobb, and Ralph Raico.]

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The author at johnopedia in a related article titled Big Business and Freedom writes:
    Head on over to EconLog and check out a quote from the late Milton Friedman. ... [Tracked on February 9, 2007 1:51 PM]
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nelziq writes:

Perhaps Wal-Mart looks at the amount it pays for health care now due to the absurd level of government regulation of the health market and all the resulting market pathologies that drive up the cost of health care and concludes that even paying more taxes to support universal health care it would still come out ahead.

dWj writes:

The important point is that Wal-Mart, contrary to popular belief, offers better healthcare coverage now to its employees than its competitors do.

Note the same thing, but in some ways inverted: Wal-Mart has come out in favor of a minimum wage increase. Why? If you said, "PR", you get only partial credit. Again, Wal-Mart pays its employees better than its competitors -- and does, in fact, require a somewhat more skilled employee than is typically required by its competitors' business models. A minimum wage increase increases its competitors' costs, and therefore can be passed along to its customers -- even though it doesn't (to the same extent) face those increased costs.

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