By: Milton and Rose Friedman
Subject Matter: Capitalism; Welfare state; Industry and state
Oh yeah. Look at that stud.
Free to Choose is a “personal statement” from the late 1970s about economic policy.
It is wildly outdated.
It is also wildly Republican.
I suppose this is the time to state that I was a political science minor in college. And that during those four years my influences shifted from my very Republican family to my much more Democratic school. So yes, I had a few issues with this book.
First of all, there were several things that the Friedmans brought up that were just a little too funnily prophetic for me. Like banking. They spent an awful lot of time talking about what would happen when the banks needed to be bailed out… 2008, anyone? And then that whole discussion about national health care and why America shouldn’t have it… Obamacare, anyone? Oh yeah, and then the concern over what happens when Social Security runs out. Like I haven’t been hearing that one all my life.
So that part was fun.
But then there were passages like this:
The people, for example, who gain from the greater availability of wilderness areas, or from the cleaner air in the cities, are generally not the same people as those who would lose from the resulting higher costs of food or steel or chemicals.
The people who would gain? Everyone would gain from less pollution. Everyone.
Something tells me the Friedmans still believe global warming isn’t real.
And a lot of the facts and statistics that the Friedmans gave (and they do give a lot) felt contrived or skewed. I’m no good at math or economics so I won’t attempt to argue with them, but they were all a little convenient.
There was this hilarious description of Milton and Rose touring the projects. Can’t you just picture that man on the cover walking through the projects in his red suit and glasses as thick as bottles, tsk-tsking?
So I’d like to give them the excuse of being old. Because they are.
But it’s also just a boring, outdated, pompous book on economics.
2016 edit: Yo! If you’re interested in economics or the Friedmans or that book called Freakonomics, check out this pretty cool podcast on the subject! Definitely gives me a different take on good old Milt. (But pisses me off every single time that Rose isn’t mentioned…)
Here are some similar book suggestions:
(for more economic and political books)
The Last Empire by Gore Vidal
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Capitalism by Ayn Rand
The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard Keynes
The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
(for more by the Friedmans)
Why Government Is the Problem by Milton Friedman
Money Mischief by Milton Friedman
Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
(for classic political theory)
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
I Can’t Tell You by Hillary Frank
The Vow by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter