Harry Truman once complained he wanted to find a one-handed economist because he was tired of asking a direct question of those on his economic team, only to have them say, “On the one hand … but on the other hand.”
If there was one hand that noted economist Milton Friedman favored, it was the “invisible hand” of the free market.
Today marks the 102nd anniversary of Friedman’s birth. He died in 2006, but during his long career Friedman won over admirers and drove left-of-center critics crazy with his direct and eloquent defense of capitalism.
Friedman won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1976. But perhaps his greatest influence was nudging people who otherwise may have had little interest in the “dismal science” of economics to look at the world through a new set of eyes and question their assumptions.
Here’s a look at some of Friedman’s most notable quotes:
- “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”
- “Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.”
- “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
- “When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union—like public housing in the United States—look decrepit within a year or two of their construction…”
- “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”
- “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
- “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”