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April 21, 2011 / theoldsilly

A Thought or Two for Thursday – Milton Friedman on Capitalism and ‘Greed’

This short (two and a half minutes) clip–an excerpt from Milton Friedman being interviewed by Phil Donahue is thirty years old. But it is still pertinent today. I am politically conservative, as most of you know by now, a firm believer in the free enterprise system. Earn your own way. Small government. Big Brother? Don’t want or need you, thank you very much.

But I’m not here to persuade anyone one way or the other on political/social/economic matters. Another great blessing of living in this country is the freedom of thought, belief, and speech we still enjoy. Although I do fear for the longevity of those freedoms the way things are going … but that’s another rant post for some other time. Just take an honest assessment of what Milton Friedman had to say in response to Phil Donahue’s question, three decades ago, about the apparent ‘greed’ and lack of fair distribution of wealth in the world and what part capitalism plays in the good or bad of the global situation.

So? Impressions? I’m curious to see what y’all have to say today in the comments …

Oh – and by the way – the Old Silly does not endorse wanton ‘greed’ at the expense of the underprivilaged. I do believe we are ‘our brothers keepers’, and that a society should care for those who truthfully can not care for themselves. I think the use of that word, ‘greed’, is better replaced with ‘initiative’ and ‘aspiration’ to achieve for oneself. Just had to throw that in. Okay, on with our discussion, shall we?

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  1. alisonamazed / Apr 21 2011 4:19 am

    Friedman’s response was incredibly shallow and uninspired, and reflected a very narrow, unimaginative vision of alternatives to greed and capitalism.

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 6:58 am

      Well since you are apparently “deep” and “inspired”, with broad vision, perhaps you could, in your vast wisdom, enlighten us as to imaginitive visions of alternatives to the captialistic, free enterprise system this country was founded on?

  2. Hilary / Apr 21 2011 6:12 am

    Hi Marvin .. brilliant bit of film .. so true (I think) .. love his way of saying the only way individuals can be free is to be allowed to pursue our separate interests ..

    Monopolies and lack of free trade .. don’t help anyone .. provide a job or two .. but for what – those peoples’ lives aren’t particularly enhanced in any way …

    I think I’ll stop .. cheers – thank goodness for the freedom that we have .. and our minds can be free to think, consider and evaluate our choices .. and thank goodness for choice ..

    Cheers Hilary

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 1:30 pm

      Yes! Thank GOODness for choice! Thanks for you comment, Hilary. 🙂

  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh / Apr 21 2011 7:27 am

    I think he was right that it’s one of the few ways someone can get ahead. Back in medieval times, if you were born a peasant, you died one – no chance to change your economic status.
    And is it just me, or does it look like a ferret died atop Phil’s head?

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 1:31 pm

      Alex, oh no you didn’t say that about Phil’s hair! LOL, hey – it’s better than Donald Trump’s combover, hmm? 😉

  4. Stanley Berber / Apr 21 2011 7:35 am

    I too, would like for “alisonamazed” to amaze us with some better alternative to free enterprise? Capitalism is the ONLY system that allows the ordinary Joe/Jane any chance to become whatever he or she wants, with no limits other than what their God-given talents and self-motivations are capable of producing.

    Now, can a capitalist country go down the road of corrupt government and, as you put it, Marv, “wanton greed?” Yes. And we have, unfortunately that disgusting and unfair situation right now, getting worse every day.

    You asked for my opinion …

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 1:31 pm

      I did ask, and a worthy opinion it is, dear sire!

  5. L. Diane Wolfe / Apr 21 2011 8:09 am

    I’ve been a business owner and self-employed for years, so I’m a firm believer in capitalism and free enterprise!

  6. Ron Berry / Apr 21 2011 9:55 am

    Free enterprise works. So does Capitalism. It’s politics that’s messed up. As a famous humorist once said, “We have the best politicians that we buy”. That may not be a totally correct quote, but Will Rogers had the right idea.

    I agree with you Marv

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 1:32 pm

      So true, Ron – and any form of government, when it gets too big, can become corrupt, hmm?

  7. Daryl / Apr 21 2011 11:44 am

    Always loved Donahue’s emotional presentation style, and his willingness to give other views a hearing. In this case, Friedman has caught Phil with his idealistic pants down. Phil’s question was so typical of the rhetoric of progressive liberals–promote class warfare, stir up feelings of greed and envy. Yet when given a chance to suggest a better alternative, he is speechless.

    BTW, Thomas Sole’s book, Intellectuals and Society, covers issues like this very intelligently and helps explain why progressive libs think the way they do, and why conservs think the way they do.

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 1:33 pm

      Appreciate the comment and tip, Daryl – I’ll check that book out.

  8. Cactus Annie / Apr 21 2011 1:52 pm

    I agree ‘greed’ can become a counter-productive element in any society when taken too far. I tend to be conservative, I love free enterprise and don’t much care for so many socialistic-paid-for-by-our-taxes programs that the hard working middle class and small businesses get suffocated out of existence—the way Obama seems to be trying to do. But I also agree we ARE our brothers keepers and should help the less fortunate. I just can’t stand ‘free rides’ for people who take advantage of welfare type ‘enablers for the lazy’ programs. If you can’t work and are really disabled for some reason, then yes—we should help them out. But I know far too many people who come from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation welfare families ….. they grow up EXPECTING for Big Brother to give them what is “owed” to them. OH! Drives me mad!!!

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 5:09 pm

      LOL, well now don’t let it get TO ya, gf! 😉 But thanks for your impassioned comment and opinion, Cactus!

  9. Marcus Franks / Apr 21 2011 1:54 pm

    I’d like to read that book that Daryl pointed out. Good post, and this is a good discussion to have in these times. Although, I feel we need to do more than TALK about what’s going down in this country — AND the world!

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 5:10 pm

      Marcus, I agree, more than mere talk is sorely needed.

  10. John Standish / Apr 21 2011 2:04 pm

    I know I’m often guilty of grousing about all the crappy s**t going down in America, but one day a good friend check me with the question: “Well, ok, if you think it’s so bad here, let me ask you ….. where is it better?”

    Kinda shut me up. I had to think. And you know what? In spite of all its faults – the human nature of greed taking it too far, corruption in government, etc., free trade, capitalism-based countries are the best places to live in this world. Always have been (well, they are a relatively new, but since their arrival on the scene) and, probably always will be. Bar none. Unless someone can think of something better, but in thousands of years of recorded history, well … seems like if it were possible it would have been tried by now!

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 5:11 pm

      Pretty much sums it up for my observation, too, John.

  11. Joyce A. Anthony / Apr 21 2011 5:42 pm

    Were his words true? Yes.

    Do I think this is the best we have in the world? Yes.

    Is it the best it could be? No.

    The last part of his answer explains why it won’t get to that point. Virtue is NOT rewarded in our society (or any other for that matter). While allowing everyone the opportunity to grow and become better (free enterprise and such) the average citizen does have a chance–IF he forgoes virtue and grabs onto the fighting instinct that allows him to do whatever is necessary to get to the top. For those who can’t allow themselves to replace virtue with cut-throat tactics, their cimb is limited in scope. They may rise above where they are, but they won’t reach the top.

    Yes, it all boils down to choice and freedom. I believe we have the greatest opportunity of achieving our dreams in this country and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. However, I don’t believe the choice should have to be between virtue or success. We have a long ways to go if we are ever going to get there–if it is even possible.

    • theoldsilly / Apr 21 2011 6:15 pm

      Hey – now there’s an astute, enlightened, and well stated comment! And you bring to light an important aspect of one significant ‘flaw’ in the otherwise ‘best’ system in the world to date.

      I agree, capitalism – even though it’s better than any other form of government we’ve seen – will never be the perfect form of society unless we can attain to an enlightened state of society … which is hardly …

      You know what? I’ll not say it’s unattainable. Thoughts and words have too much power. I’ll say I meditate and pray and visualize an enlightened society of free will, free enterprise, and brotherly love and care for one another.

  12. Arlee Bird / Apr 21 2011 7:55 pm

    Friedman gives a very smart answer here that is as true now as ever. The problem with greed is when it is willing to trample over others in order to increase its own gains. I think we should all be self-serving while at the same time serving others– the two are mutual. I do think some of the balance has gone out of whack and the moral compass is spinning wildly in many cases. Things could be a lot better, but they could also be a whole lot worse.

    Good clip. I’ve never seen that before. I never even knew that Donahue had relevant stuff on his show.

    Tossing It Out

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