Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Milton Friedman talks about greed

In 1979, Phil Donahue asked Milton Friedman how he could defend a system based on "greed." Friedman then proceeded to school Donahue in the realities of the world, including the self-interest at the basis of authoritarian, non-market socialist economic systems that Donahue seemed to favor.
"Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest?"

I guess this is a lesson that never truly sinks in.



Anonymous Matt said...

The way I try to make the argument for "greed" is this: Which human instinct do you trust? That of self-interest or the interest of others? Government is essentially a system based on trusting people to act in the interests of others, and we see that even then, people revert to acting in their own self-interest. It is much more reliable to operate a system where people are expected to act in their own self interest.

February 17, 2009 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Perry E. Metzger said...

Great clip. I'm always stunned at how smoothly Milton Friedman made his case.

BTW, I'm not sure Donahue really favored statism any more than the average well educated person of the time -- that is to say, far too much, but not anomalously so. I'm also fascinated in retrospect by the fact that he had a daytime talk show, most of who's viewers were housewives, that regularly discussed important topics with considerable intellectual depth over an entire hour.

February 18, 2009 8:57 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...


That's a good point about Donahue's show. I had glossed over the fact that it was daytime TV, but it certainly operated at a far higher level than anything in a comparable time slot today.

Of course, its role is probably filled, now, by cable news channels which cater to the audience that once would have watched Donahue.

February 18, 2009 9:23 AM  

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