The Permanency of a Temporary Government Program
The commentary section of today's Washington Times contains an op-ed on the forthcoming centennial of Milton Friedman's birth, written by Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner. He would have been 100 on July 31.
He begins by noting, "Even if you’ve never heard of Milton Friedman, you’ve likely heard some of the famed economist’s pithy sayings." Some examples:
- “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
- “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”
- “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Other interesting observations according to Mr. Feulner:
- "At a time when it was fashionable to assert that collectivism was the wave of the future, he championed the moral and practical superiority of free markets . . . And when others looked to government to accomplish their social objectives, he reshaped American politics through his advocacy of monetary restraint, deregulation, the volunteer army, school choice and the flat tax."
- "Once, when hiring an administrative assistant who lacked an economics background, Friedman reassured her: “You don’t have to worry about not knowing anything about economics. There are many people who studied economics for years and don’t know anything about economics. Stick with me, and you’ll learn the correct way.”
- "Friedman’s parents emigrated from a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century."
- "His work on monetary policy soon became legendary and led to the founding of the Mont Pelerin Society, among other accomplishments. “People at MIT and Harvard didn’t know what they were going to work on until Milton made a speech,” said a fellow University of Chicago Nobel laureate, the now-deceased George Stigler. His influence transformed an academic department into a movement, the “Chicago School,” of which Friedman was the spiritual leader."
Finally, Feulner says that Friedman "thoroughly discredited the idea, common since the Great Depression, that capitalism is inherently flawed and requires the “fine-tuning” of government to avoid excess and disaster. This has been the central conceit of the Keynesian state, administered by educated sophists, adjusting tax-and-spend policies to tame the business cycle. Friedman attacked these beliefs at their root. He argued that the Great Depression was not caused by the “defects” of capitalism, but by government incompetence."