Free to Choose

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Free to Choose (1980) is a book (ISBN 978-0-15-633460-0) and a ten-part television series by economists Milton and Rose D. Friedman that advocates free market principles.



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.

Milton Friedman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1976. Contrary to normal practice the book was written after the TV series was produced, although the line "Basis for the acclaimed public television triumph" is written on the front cover, using the program transcripts as reference. 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 Dr. Friedman 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 with a number of selected persons, such as Donald Rumsfeld (then of G.D. Searle & Company).

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.

Positions advocated

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.

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