Free to Choose
|LC Class||HB501 .F72|
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1980) is a book and a ten-part television series broadcast on public television by economists Milton and Rose D. Friedman that advocates free market principles. It was primarily a response to an earlier landmark book and television series: The Age of Uncertainty, by the noted economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Milton Friedman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1976.
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement maintains that the free market works best for all members of a society, provides examples of how the free market engenders prosperity, and maintains that it can solve problems where other approaches have failed. Published in January 1980, the 297 page book contains 10 chapters. The book was on the United States best sellers list for 5 weeks.
PBS telecast the series, beginning in January 1980. The general format was that of Dr. Friedman visiting and narrating a number of success and failure stories in history, which he attributes to capitalism or the lack thereof (e.g. Hong Kong is commended for its free markets, while India is excoriated for relying on centralized planning especially for its protection of its traditional textile industry). Following the primary show, Dr. Friedman would engage in discussion moderated by Robert McKenzie with a number of selected debaters drawn from trade unions, academy and the business community, such as Donald Rumsfeld (then of G.D. Searle & Company) and Frances Fox Piven of City University of New York. The interlocutors would offer objections to or support for the proposals put forward by Friedman, who would in turn respond. After the final episode, Friedman sat down for an interview with Lawrence Spivak.
The series was rebroadcast in 1990 with Linda Chavez moderating the episodes. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, Steve Allen and others give personal introductions for each episode in the series. This time, after the documentary part, Friedman sits down with a single opponent to debate the issues raised in the episode.
Guest debaters included:
- Gregory Anrig (Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Education) – Episode 6
- Jagdish Bhagwati (economist) – Episode 2
- Samuel Bowles (economist) – Vol. 3 Episode 5
- William H. Brady (Founder and President of W.H. Brady Co.) – Episode 8
- Clarence J. Brown (politician) – Episode 9
- Joan Claybrook (Administrator of the NHTSA) – Episode 7
- Barber Conable (politician, President of the World Bank) – Episode 1
- John Coons (law professor, school choice activist) – Episode 6
- Robert Crandall (Brookings Institution economist) – Episode 7
- Richard Deason (IBEW union leader) – Episode 2
- James R. Dumpson (bureaucrat, social worker, academic) – Episode 4
- Otmar Emminger (President of Deutsche Bundesbank) – Episode 9
- Bob Galvin (CEO of Motorola, Inc.) – Episode 1
- Ernest Green (U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor) – Episode 8
- Michael Harrington (author, academic, activist) – Episode 1
- Nicholas von Hoffman (journalist, political commentator/columnist) – Episode 3
- Helen Hughes (economist) – Episode 2
- Peter Jay (economist, journalist, diplomat) – Episodes 3, 5
- Robert Lampman (economist) – Episode 4
- Richard Landau (medical professor) – Episode 7
- Robert Lekachman (economist) – Episode 3
- William McChesney Martin (former Chairman of the Federal Reserve) – Episode 9
- Helen Bohen O'Bannon (economist, bureaucrat, social worker) – Episode 4
- Kathleen O'Reilly (CFA consumer advocate) – Episode 7
- Russell W. Peterson (chemist, politician) – Episode 1
- Frances Fox Piven (academic) – Episode 5
- Donald Rumsfeld (politician, President of G. D. Searle & Company) – Episode 2
- Albert Shanker (President of UFT and AFT teachers' unions) – Episode 6
- Thomas Shannon (Executive Director of the NSBA) – Episode 6
- Thomas Sowell (economist, author, columnist) – Episodes 4, 5
- Beryl Wayne Sprinkel (Executive Vice President of Harris Bank) – Episode 9
- Peter Temin (economist) – Episode 3
- Lynn R. Williams (International Secretary of United Steelworkers) – Episode 8
- Walter E. Williams (economist, political commentator) – Episode 8
The Friedmans advocate laissez-faire economic policies, often criticizing interventionist government policies and their cost in personal freedoms and economic efficiency in the United States and abroad. The authors argue against government taxation on gas and tobacco and government regulation of the public school systems. The Friedmans argue that the Federal Reserve exacerbated the Great Depression by neglecting to prevent the decline of the money supply in the years leading up to it.
On the subject of welfare, the Friedmans argue that current welfare practices are creating "wards of the state" as opposed to "self-reliant individuals" and suggest a negative income tax as a less harmful alternative. The Friedmans also argue for abolishing the Food and Drug Administration, tighter control of Fed money supply, and the repeal of laws favoring labor unions.
Video chapters (1980 version)
- The Power of the Market
- The Tyranny of Control
- Anatomy of Crisis
- From Cradle to Grave
- Created Equal
- What's Wrong with Our Schools?
- Who Protects the Consumer?
- Who Protects the Worker?
- How to Cure Inflation
- How to Stay Free
Video chapters (1990 version)
- The Power of the Market – Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- The Tyranny of Control – Introduction by George Shultz
- Freedom and Prosperity (featured only in the 1990 version) – Introduction by Ronald Reagan
- The Failure of Socialism (original title: "What's Wrong With Our Schools?") – Introduction by David Friedman
- Created Equal – Introduction by Steve Allen
- Angus Burgin, Age of Certainty: Galbraith, Friedman, and the Public Life of Economic Ideas. In: Tiago Mata/Steven G. Medema (eds.), The Economist as Public Intellectual (History of Political Economy, annual supplement), Durham 2013, pp. 191–219
- Sören Brandes, "Free to choose": Die Popularisierung des Neoliberalismus in Milton Friedmans Fernsehserie (1980/90), in: Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 12, no. 3 (special issue "Marketization", edited by Ralf Ahrens, Marcus Böick, Marcel vom Lehn), December 2015, pp. 526–33