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Showing 1-10 of 210 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 323 reviews
on July 18, 2016
35+ years old and still up-to-date. It is interesting to read older Economics books like "Free to Choose" to see how accurate they have been in predicting outcomes of policy. It is easy to write a book with hindsight as we often see today by "experts" blaming this or that well after the fact. Milton Freeman had incredible foresight. Not because he could predict the future but because he understood Economics so well that he could simply predict outcomes of policy based on an asymmetry of economic knowledge that very few other Economists, let alone policy-makers, have. I have read this book a couple of times over the years and enjoyed his PBS series by the same name, that first aired in 1980. Also a more up-to-date version by Swedish Historian Johan Norberg's "Free or Equal" - Free to Choose 30 years after.
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on January 15, 2017
I'm a conservative. My college economics professor was a protégé of Milton in Chicago. It's hard to believe that Chicago is in the sorry state that is in now with influences like the Friedman's to use as a model for managing a city. What am I to know, except that this book, and their other, "Capitalism and Freedom", represent real common sense knowledge for running a country, or a city. Ronald Reagan understood.
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on December 24, 2014
This book presents a clear, thoughtful, and rational argument for maximizing free choice within the limits largely set by John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" (that is, one may not use his or her liberty to harm another).

Friedman sets out a strong case that when people are left to pursue their own interests, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts, and the commonwealth benefits more than when central planners try to orchestrate economies. That should be obvious now that nations like China and Vietnam, while retaining political repression, have given wide scope to free markets and thereby lifted millions out of poverty. Contrast that with Cuba or Venezuela, where central economic planning prevails, and the people are largely destitute.

The book's argument is often attacked as an appeal to "greed," which is unfortunate as "self-interest" is not necessarily greed. I think mostly of one of my leftist friends in this regard who assails capitalism and whatnot, but who, due to his comfortable job in a government bureau, is able to pursue an acting and singing career after hours. Is he not, there, pursuing his self interest? And doesn't the larger public benefit from his ability to deploy his talents? I along with many have enjoyed many of his performances, and will continue to. It's just Friedman's thesis at work: we all benefit when everyone seeks his own interest.

The book is often attacked as being anarchistic (or something like that) -- that is, that "limited government" or "less regulation" means "no government or "no regulation." Quite to the contrary, Friedman argues for a very clear and specific role for government in regulating natural monopolies, enforcing contracts, and taking many other actions to make sure that markets function openly. He clearly embraces regulation with the stipulation that when employed the benefits exceed the costs. And there's the rub with many government programs (say, agriculture subsidies): they favor entrenched interests rather than the commonwealth.

His arguments about free trade convince me that it is the best way to help the poor in the world. I've read that the annual subsidy for one cow in Belgium rivals the annual salary of an African subsistence farmer. Take down that trade barrier benefiting the rich Belgian cow owner, and that farmer suddenly has a chance to present his goods on a world market. My point is, if you care about the poor, and if you care about social justice and all that, this might just be a crazy (and, for a change, effective) way to go.

I don't fully agree with some of the book's policy prescriptions regarding environmental, education or monetary policy, but I suggest that Friedman's thoughts, formulated in the 1970s and published first in 1980, are far more likely to be successful than current ideas like "common core" or "quantitative easing."

Overall, this is a thought-provoking read no matter what your political stripe is. Check it out.
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In "Free To Choose", Milton and Rose Friedman take on the big government and inflation of the 1970's with a well reasoned, well articulated economic overview that ended up as the basis for much of the US and UK economic policies from 1980 through 2008. Bringing a rational analysis of history to bear from Adam Smith through the Great Depression, the Friedmans discuss the power of the market to self regulate, the drivers of economic crisis, and inflation. They then take on, piece by piece, in approximately 30 page chapters, their proposed solutions - both theoretical and practical for:

* Social Welfare and Social Security
* Racism and Equality under the law
* Education
* Consumer Protection
* Labor and Employer Relations
* Inflation

Recognizing the challenges that are faced in the political landscape, the approaches they suggest are largely compromises from the theoretical hard line stance, and many of them - such as school vouchers - were actually adopted in the 80's and 90's. One of the most interesting elements of the book is the Friedmans' analysis of the 1928 US Socialist Party platform, and the fact that most of that platform was in place by 1979.

As noted, the book is easy to read for an economics text, and is designed so that the lay person can read and understand the contents. A great read, and important work.
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on September 28, 2016
Great read with well thought out arguments as well as suggested resolutions from a Nobel Laureate.

If you like this book you should consider checking out the "Freedom to Choose" series Milton Friedman did back in the 70's. Full episodes (of which there are 10) can be found on youtube by searching freedom to choose. The debates that take place in the second half of each episode are fantastic. I wish we could bring back that type of debate back to today but that seems neigh impossible.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in economics.
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on November 16, 2015
Milton writes this book for the regular person to be able to understand. He simplifies situations maybe a touch to much, but like in life things are always complicated. This book will continue to be timeless, with many issues he raised back then still very much relevant in today's world. I believe it is a must read.
Note: I am an Economics major, so this topic interests me, but I believe anyone with the slightest interest in how the world works will enjoy this book.
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on March 9, 2013
I read this in about 1980 when it was first published, and decided to re-read it. I thought Fiedman was inciteful then - now I think he was absolutely prescient. My education was liberal arts (BA Philosophy) from very liberal universities, and Friedman opened doors for me I didn't know existed. I have only the usual liberal arts education in economics, so I appreciate his clear non-technical style and cogent examples. If you really care about our way of life and sustaining our economy, you really should read and seriously consider this book. His examples are drawn from the era in which he wrote, so some of the exemplar quantities he chooses are different today, but if you consider them in the context of his times, they remain as pertinent today as they were when written.
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on July 22, 2011
In an age where we're taught that having an opinion and evangelizing the world with it is much more important than carefully learning about an issue before making any conclusions (and admitting it when we just don't know), I greatly appreciated this book for being highly informative.

I come from a part of Chicago that is fiercely liberal--where any of the ideas related to 'the market' or the 'Chicago School' are quickly rejected, and so this book's lucid explanations of the pricing system, unionization, special interests, education, social security, and other relevant issues were much appreciated. I would recommend anyone who thinks that the 'free market' is as simple as greedy capitalists exploiting helpless laymen, because anyone who takes the time to read this book will see that, with proper regulation, that's not the case.

Milton Friedman points out, time and time again, that well-meaning voters and perhaps less well-meaning politicians have great intentions that produce hideous results. This book points out exactly what those are, why they are put into action, and what effect they have, and I was nothing short of stunned with the clarity, logic, and precision of the arguments, which might be why Friedman is arguably the most influential economist in the past century.
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on May 23, 2014
Milton Friedman discusses the problems of government's role in the free market system and why it leads to undesirable results for individuals and the country as a whole. Throughout, Freidman outlines basic economic truths and cites the philosophical inspirations of America's founders to clearly illustrate his arguments. This book was written in 1979 and published in 1980, right at the end of the Carter administration, so although the "current" examples are now over 30 years old the basic theme of the book remains timeless when compared to current issues of government control, such as bailouts for banks and corporations, and run health care.
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on September 29, 2009
Milton Friedman was a highly visible economist, statistician, and policy
commentator during the Twentieth Century. Before he died in 2006, he wrote
and co-wrote several books relating economic theory, policy studies, and
statistics. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1976.

I just finished reading "Free To Choose: A Personal Statement," written by
Thomas Friedman and his wife, Rose Friedman. The book is dense and full of
well thought-out arguments for free markets, smaller government, and how
policies that adhere to these principles will result in greater liberty and
freedom for the people that live under them.

This book is almost thirty years old and it shows. Many of the numbers
the Friedmans use in the book are laughable today, especially those they use as
salaries for the common man or the cost of an average home.

It's fascinating, however, they write at the end of the Carter
administration that "the tide is turning."

"The failure of Western governments to achieve their proclaimed objectives
has produced a widespread reaction against big government. In Britain the
reaction swept Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979 on a platform pledging
her Conservative government to reverse the socialist policies that had
been followed by both Labour and earlier Conservative governments ever
since the end of World War II."

"Free To Choose" is organized in chapters that each spend a liberal amount
of print on a specific category of policy thinking. The first chapter, "The
Power Of The Market" spends nearly 30 pages covering the ideals of a free
market, the dangers of price controls, and the role of government with
respect to markets. The second chapter is devoted to governments' role in
free trade and overall liberty and economic growth. Hint: Friedman isn't a
fan of tariffs or any other kind of government meddling with trade between
nations. He offers a compelling historical argument for free trade by
examining the governance and trade policies of Japan during the latter half
of the 19th century and India during the latter half of the 20th century.

The third chapter, "The Anatomy of Crisis," is perhaps the most relevant to
readers today. It examines the modern banking system in the United States
from the inception of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the depression nobody
remembers from 1920-21, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. For those
who believe we are currently at risk of suffering from the same mistakes or
making greater ones today in our vulnerable financial status, this chapter
offers some brilliant insights.

In the conclusion of this chapter, the Friedmans write:

"In one respect the (Federal Reserve) System has remained completely
consistent throughout. It blames all problems on external influences
beyond its control and takes credit for any and all favorable
occurrences. It thereby continues to promote the myth that the private
economy is unstable, while its behavior continues to document the reality
that government is today the major source of economic instability."

The fourth chapter, "Cradle to Grave," examines the development of the
*welfare state* beginning in Europe in the late 1800s and then in the
U.S. in the 1920s. Friedman spotlights health, education, and welfare in
this chapter because at the time the book was written, they fell under a
single department within the federal government.

"The waste is distressing, but it the least of the evils of the
paternalistic programs that have grown to such massive size. Their major
evil is their effect on the fabric of our society. They weaken the
family; reduce the incentive to work, save, and innovate; reduce the
accumulation of capital; and limit our freedom. These are the
fundamental standards by which they should be judged."

The following chapter challenges the popular notions of what "equality"
means. The Friedmans distinguish between the following:

* Equality of outcome
* Equality of opportunity
* Equality before God

Concerning *equality of outcome*, they write:

"Life is not fair. It is tempting to believe that government can rectify
what nature has spawned. But it is also important to recognize how much
we benefit from the very unfairness we deplore."

This chapter goes on to examine the effects of egalitarian policies as
practiced in the US and in other modern societies.

"... a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up
with greater freedom and greater equality. Though a by-product of
freedom, greater equality is not an accident. A free society releases the
energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives. It
prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others. It does not
prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as
freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from
being institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other
able, ambitious people. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It
preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's
privileged and, in the process, enabled almost everyone, from top to
bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life."

Next, the Friedmans attach "What's Wrong with Our Schools?"

It's no surprise their position is that centralized planning is a
substantial culprit of the problem with schools. Again, freedom is the
answer, they say. Vouchers, for example, tied with freedom to choose
public schools, are an ideal way to encourage competition between private
and public schools and drive education quality up.

I found this passage about public subsidies of higher education shocking
considering what we have observed in 2009:

"When we first started writing about higher education, we had a good deal
of sympathy for the (justification that public subsidies was an
investment in future productivity and economic growth of society). We no
longer do. In the interim we have tried to induce the people who make this
argument to be specific about the alleged social benefits. The answer is
almost always simply bad economics. We are told that the nation benefits
by having more highly trained people, that investment in providing such
skills is essential for economic growth, that more trained people raise
the productivity for the rest of us. These statements are correct. But
none is a valid reason for subsidizing higher education. Each statement
would be equally correct if made about physical capital (i.e., machines,
factory buildings, etc.), yet **hardly anyone would conclude that tax money
should be used to subsidize the capital investment of General Motors or
General Electric.**

Milton Friedman is undoubtably spinning in his grave today.

Following education is the question of "Who Protects the Consumer?" This
chapter discusses the development of the Interstate Commerce Commission,
The Food and Drug Administration, The Consumer Products Safety Commission,
The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The
Friedmans raise some very valid questions about the government's role in
establishing these authorities and whether they are effective in their
stated objectives.

For example, many are familiar with Ralph Nader's book, "Unsafe at Any
Speed," in which he supposedly documents the safety risk the Chevrolet
Corvair was to its occupants. This book ignited a firestorm that eventually
crushed the Corvair out of production and resulted in new government
regulations pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles. It's difficult to
argue that the outcome was a bad thing, but what about the original
premise? Was the Corvair that bad? My dad was a Corvair collector and had
two that he tinkered with, restored, and drove around on occasion. I always
thought they were odd cars because the engine was in the back. The
Friedmans point out that ten years after Nader's book landed, "one of the
agencies that was set up in response to the subsequent public outcry
finally got around to testing the Corvair that started the whole thing.
They spent a year and a half comparing the performance of the Corvair with
the performance of other comparable vehicles and they concluded, 'The
1960-63 Corvair compared favorably with the other contemporary vehicles
used in the tests.'"

Next is "Who Protects the Worker?" Here labor unions land square in the
crosshairs. Also addressed are government interventions into work such as
regulations against child labor, minimum wage laws, OSHA oversight, workers
compensation, and more.

Chapter 9 is about inflation. This isn't very relevant right now, but
likely will deserve a re-read in a year or so.

Here, Friedman puts his statistician muscles to work and establishes
through numbers a strong correlation between monetary control and consumer
prices. When the the Treasury and the Federal Reserve flood the market
with money, prices respond by going up.

The final chapter is a nice capstone on the book and discusses how the U.S.
Constitution relates to many of the policies discussed and how it is eroded
by some.

Appendix A is an interesting inclusion. It is the party platform from the
Socialist party during the 1928 presidential campaign. The Friedmans go
through each of the 14 items in the platform and demonstrate that despite
the Socialist Party not having a chance in Hell of ever having a candidate
elected, since 1928, just about each and every one of these ideas put forth
by the Socialist Party has been enacted.

That's something to think about.

[...]. It's not a
quick read, but definitely an informative and educational one.
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