Dr. Milton Friedman is a noted Nobel Prize winning economist who advocated for free enterprise and free markets. In his book Free to Choose, he identified the essence of that which makes a human being whole: free will. This principle at the foundation of economic productivity penetrates all spheres of societal activity. People, individually making personal free choices, combined collectively as a culture, is the general formula for the most efficacious societal progress. Milton and Rose believed that personal freedom, without excessive government intervention, was the answer for most problems facing America. The outcomes of national policy should be the choices of the citizens, amended and adjusted regularly, as the collective will would dictate. National standards should not be mandated by the minority in power based upon theoretical outcomes designed on their worldview to which they are not subjected.
I had the privilege of representing Dr. Friedman in the 1980s. I found him to be a great man who only cared for the protection of every individual’s potential. But even more so, he held inviolate the concept of equal opportunity for “pursuit of happiness.” Only through free will and freedom of choice could an individual find fulfillment in personal destiny.
Governments’ incessant addiction to printing and borrowing money for the purpose of giving people what they thought they wanted, instead of what they needed, was his greatest fear for the future stability of our country. He clearly presented the evidence mathematically that there were limits to how much money a government can borrow or print without destroying the foundation of its economy. Elected officials of both parties ignored his warnings.
Dr. Friedman felt so strongly about this economic axiom of sound budgeting that he took his message to state legislatures across the country. He implored them to pass a federal Constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. Upon returning late one night from a long road trip, in a moment of serious contemplation, he admonished me to carry on at all cost to express the truth to elected officials that if the kings of the Middle Ages who controlled lands, rents, serfs and means of production, and who had the power to print money, and whose words were law and who could not print and borrow money forever, what makes government think that it can do it today?
This admonition that freedom and free will are the only unlimited forces of productive society, as measured against limited government, is as true today as it was since the beginning of time.
The national jobs report yesterday released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August. This is 2.9% of the national workforce, the highest percentage ever reported. The reason given by the workers in a recent survey is that they want higher pay and greater benefits. Robert Reich, U.C. Berkeley professor of public policy and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, claimed, “There is no labor shortage. There’s a childcare shortage, a living wage shortage, a hazardous pay shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage. Until these shortages are remedied, Americans won’t return to work anytime soon.”
Absent from the debate on the situation of workers leaving valid jobs is, what is the cost of the government programs to support these individuals while not working? The merits of the argument for higher pay aside, where is the calculation for allocation of resources based upon proven, sound limits of government spending? Congress is now proposing a $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill that is purported to cover certain needs of workers in a changing economy. The Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary scoring of the legislation concludes that the cost of the programs could be closer to $5 trillion. Again, leaving the merits of the debate aside, giving the people what government thinks they want should be considered in respect for the government’s ability to pay for such programs without decimating the country’s currency through inflation. Destroying the economy is certainly not what the people need.
A headline in today’s New York Times opinion section voices a call that “Rich Countries Must Bear the Cost if We Can Ever Hope to Achieve a Net-Zero World.” The estimated cost of financing developing countries to comply with one world climate accords is $1 trillion. Besides the merits of the claim, costs and regulation of a one world objective must be apportioned to the cost of governments’ requirements to meet their primary obligations without undermining the world economy.
Tom Edsall counters on the same New York Times opinion page that political parties cannot continue to just give the people what they want while ignoring those who just want freedom and free will for economic choices. Tom is a seasoned political journalist who spent the majority of his career with the Washington Post covering national politics. The theme of his article is that, besides the merits of the claim, parties cannot hold a majority coalition together simply by giving them stuff.
The danger of the precipice potentially breached of criminally negligent government spending is not posed just by the United States. China is facing its own economic crisis due to a flawed communist command system. The Chinese government directed citizens to invest in real estate funds as a component of their retirement security. Real estate is overdeveloped. Evergrande is a huge commercial development corporation now in default on a portion of its bonds. China is likely to underwrite this default and its real estate industry. It will buy some time, but only for a while. China is about to realize that, regardless of controls on freedom, no government is able to print and borrow forever.
We as Americans must be constantly vigilant of the rules and principles that are the pillars for the structure of our freedoms. All merits of the debate aside, compassion must be guided by respect for these axioms.
As sovereigns in denial of economic axioms continue to print and borrow money without discipline, they cannot be excused for either ignorance or good intentions. Only the United States possesses the financial power, the political influence, and the cultural commitment to freedom, to stabilize the world’s economic system in reference to the merits of the debate. Properly managing the world’s medium of commerce, the dollar, is the country’s moral calling. We, the citizens of the United States, are the only people who can hold America’s elected officials accountable. This then is every citizen’s moral obligation.
Heeding Milton Friedman’s call for maintaining freedom to choose is the imperative for the lesson of the ages.
My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.
What do you believe?