There is no alternative, but Capitalism

From Reason Magazine comes this story about the lack of defenders of Capitalism, and “the patron saint of Capitalism” – Milton Friedman, and the following short clip (~150s) from his 1979 interview with Phil Donahue on “The Phil Donahue Show”-

Reason doesn’t provide the entire transcript. So here it is-

Donahue: When you see around the globe the mal-distribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries, when you see so few haves and so many have-nots, when you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed’s a good idea to run on?

Friedman: Well, first of all, tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy; its only the other fellow who’s greedy.

The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear: that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

Donahue: But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system.

Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the communist commissar rewards virtue? You think a Hitler rewards virtue? You think – excuse me, if you will pardon me – do you think American presidents reward virtue? Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout? Is it really true that political self interest is nobler somehow than economic self interest? You know I think you are taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that.

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Comments

  • you12  On February 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Isn’t it ironic that I am opposed to the same ideas I upheld a few months ago. Poverty doesn’t happen because rich people are rich, it happens because poor people are not rich.

    Instead of going into moral debate MF should have simply said like he did in the middle that those “underdeveloped countries” are under developed because of their continuous opposition to capitalism and individualism.

    Capitalism is not about economic equality as such equality doesn’t really exist between individuals. Everyone is different and they are rewarded according to their specialization,skill and demand. And it is the only fair system we know.

    Concentration of power happens because of confiscation of property and rights,because ideas like common good are treated above the individual.And becuase the limit of the government is not defined.

    And what exactly is virtue? ‘Creation is bad but spreading is good’,is that really virtue? But I guess it makes sense when ‘people’ want to get out of a credit crisis by spending.

    ____________

    Have you checked out this ‘Free to Choose’ series by Milton Friedman:

    http://www.ideachannel.tv/

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 12, 2009 at 1:44 am

    “Isn’t it ironic that I am opposed to the same ideas I upheld a few months ago.”
    Were you opposed to capitalism, or were not clear about it, or were so angry with some private companies that you wished the government would teach them a lesson? I have had some category 3 fits, but have never been opposed to capitalism, not since 17 at least.

    “Instead of going into moral debate MF should have simply said like he did in the middle that those “underdeveloped countries” are under developed because of their continuous opposition to capitalism and individualism.”
    The problem is that Friedman does not get into a moral debate, whereas he should. People like Friedman are utilitarians of a particular kind, people who defend capitalism by saying “this works; so this is good.” But utilitarian defenses fail in times of crises because the general public won’t buy an argument like “your version of capitalism failed because of too much regulation.”

    Any defense of capitalism must always be a moral one – a man is not the means to some other end – he has the right to his life and to his property. And as far as I can tell, Friedman didn’t say that. I am not too familiar with his works though, not even Capitalism and Freedom.

    ” Have you checked out this ‘Free to Choose’ series by Milton Friedman”
    No. Have heard of it. Never seen it.

  • you12  On February 14, 2009 at 1:03 am

    “Were you opposed to capitalism, or were not clear about it, or were so angry with some private companies that you wished the government would teach them a lesson? I have had some category 3 fits, but have never been opposed to capitalism, not since 17 at least.”

    I was not clear about capitalism and what it was and hence was against it. Fueled by Documentaries like The Corporation(2003), I thought capitalism was all about big businesses sucking the life out of its workers. But it all changed after I started reading on Libertarianism and Mises.org.

    Although now I understand capitalism better and how it snot about big Corporations and the combination of governments and big corps is more worse than the big corps. Still any kind of concentration of power is bad and markets do depend a lot on competition.

    Other than that the other two factors were that Socialism is ideologically tasty until you realize its consequences and the second factor was that I just hated how most Indian companies treat their employees.

    Regarding moral debate I have a detached cynical view; Similiar to what The Joker
    Says here from 1:18 to 1:50
    .

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 14, 2009 at 3:21 am

    “Regarding moral debate I have a detached cynical view; Similiar to what The Joker Says here from 1:18 to 1:50 .”
    The “their moral code is a bad joke” argument is not a new one. When you put people in a situation that they have no control over, they can go berserk. It happens all the time and is a staple of nearly every disaster movie – whom shall we sacrifice, and who shall lead the group? Been a long time since I have seen it, but The Trigger Effect too is based on the same premise.

    The problem is – such situations are exceptions rather than the rule. An example – Rand’s world view was based on the Benevolent Universe Premise – the idea that the bad is an exception, not the rule. And morality cannot be judged using exceptional cases as the standard. She wrote an entire chapter on the issue – “The Ethics of Emergencies” in her book – “The Virtue of Selfishness” (the second comment I am mentioning this in, today) Morality – moral decisions – can only be taken by a man who is “free.” If you force him – make him act contrary to what his mind tells him – he bears zero responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

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