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Willisms

« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 235 -- Leprosy. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 236 -- Smoking In American Cinema. »

Quotational Therapy: Part 64 -- Milton Friedman, On Free Lunch.

Milton Friedman: There Is Such Thing As A Free Lunch-

The wisdom of Milton Friedman:

miltonfriedmaneconomist.gif
I have sometimes been associated with the aphorism "There's no such thing as a free lunch," which I did not invent. I wish more attention were paid to one that I did invent, and that I think is particularly appropriate in this city, "Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own." But all aphorisms are half-truths. One of our favorite family pursuits on long drives is to try to find the opposite of aphorisms. For example, "History never repeats itself," but "There's nothing new under the sun." Or "look before you leap," but "He who hesitates is lost." The opposite of "There's no such thing as a free lunch" is clearly "The best things in life are free."

And in the real economic world, there is a free lunch, an extraordinary free lunch, and that free lunch is free markets and private property. Why is it that on one side of an arbitrary line there was East Germany and on the other side there was West Germany with such a different level of prosperity? It was because West Germany had a system of largely free, private markets - a free lunch. The same free lunch explains the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the prosperity of the United States and Great Britain. These free lunches have been the product of a set of invisible institutions that, as F. A. Hayek emphasized, are a product of human action but not of human intention.

At the moment, we in the United States have available to us, if we will take it, something that is about as close to a free lunch as you can have. After the fall of communism, everybody in the world agreed that socialism was a failure. Everybody in the world, more or less, agreed that capitalism was a success. The funny thing is that every capitalist country in the world apparently concluded that therefore what the West needed was more socialism. That's obviously absurd, so let's look at the opportunity we now have to get a nearly free lunch. President Clinton has said that what we need is widespread sacrifice and concentrated benefits. What we need is exactly the opposite. What we need and what we can have - what is the nearest thing to a free lunch - is widespread benefits and concentrated sacrifice. It's not a wholly free lunch, but it's close.

Read the entire May 6, 1993 speech here.

Incidentally, nominations are open for the 2006 Milton Friedman Prize For Advancing Liberty:

miltonfriedmanprize.gif

That's neat. And it's worth half a million bucks.

-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Bush, On Iraq.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 December 2005 07:07 AM

Comments

I would like to nominate myself!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at December 5, 2005 10:47 AM

I've been a big fan of Robert Heinlein's interpretation of this, TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

And as far as contradictory aphorisms, how about "great minds run in similar channels" and "fools think alike?" Or "trust in God" vs. "God helps those who help themselves?" "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," or "one man's meat is another man's poison?"

J.

Posted by: Jay Tea at December 5, 2005 12:22 PM