FREE TO CHOOSE by Rose D. Friedman


A Personal Statement
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Timed to coincide with a PBS lecture series, this volume is vintage Friedman, packed with commonsensical nonsense. Any page at random contains the genetic-structure of the Nobel laureate's entire pitch: the only insurance for freedom is a free-market economy, hence freedom involves the extension of market relations to as much of social existence as possible to avoid the "tyranny of the majority" represented by government. For Friedman, prices are "information"--they tell people what to produce and provide the data upon which consumption-decisions are based--so any tampering with prices is "static" that interferes with individual choices. The static can come from government controls, or from monopoly price-fixing--either by the providers of capital or labor (unions)--but wherever it comes from, it's bad. This view, which prefers the quantitative language of prices to the verbal language of social needs, is based on an image of the free market that exists only in Friedman's ahistorical head. Chapters on "the tyranny of controls"--in education, consumer protection, worker protection, inflation--all trumpet the same tired line: left to its own, the market will take care of everything. Discussing government controls on pharmaceuticals, for example, Friedman argues that the negative incentive of adverse market reaction is a more "efficient" deterrent to harmful drugs than the control of government, since the bureaucratic incentives to catch bad drugs lead to the suppression of potentially beneficial drugs as well. Friedman's example here is thalidomide: "after all, the manufacturers of thalidomide ended up paying many tens of millions of dollars in damages--surely a strong incentive to avoid any similar episodes." That's the language of prices--alone.
Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1979
ISBN: 0156334607
Page count: 575pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1979


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