Milton Friedman: Free Markets Don’t Have to Mean Growth and Governments Ought to Regulate Pollution

May 25, 2024 by Joshua
in Freedom, Models, Nonjudgment

Researching more for my upcoming book and planning to write opinion pieces, I’m learning more limited government, free market thought and practice relevant to sustainability and the environment.

It’s relevant beyond anything I expected. If only people asked questions of people they disagreed with and listened to their answers in 2024 as much as they tried to convince and defeat, we’d have solved a lot of problems where we mutually benefit from the solutions. I guess it will have to fall on me to help everyone see that mutual benefit and collaborate for it.

Here is Milton Friedman on the case for government regulating behavior that affects a third party without consent, including pollution:

Question to Milton Friedman: You’re not going to condemn regulations regarding emissions?

Answer by Milton Friedman: I certainly am. Of course I’m going to condemn them. Why not?


There is a case for doing something about pollution… There is a case for the government to do something about it. Because there’s always a case for the government to some extent when what two people do affects a third party.

There’s no case for the government whatsoever in mandating air bags because air bags protect people inside the car. That’s my business. If I want to protect myself, I should do it at my expense. But there is a case for the government protecting third parties, protecting people who have not voluntarily agreed to enter. So there’s more of a case, for example, for emissions control than there is for air bags.

He then suggests the best way is to tax emissions, not realizing pollution is not an externality, but kills. The evidence wasn’t big enough then.

Milton Friedman on growth not being necessary. Text from the video below is below the video.

We have no desperate need to grow. We have a desperate desire to grow, and those are quite different.

I believe that the level of growth in this country ought to be whatever people want it to be. If the people at large — if each and every person separately was satisfied with where he is and didn’t want to grow, fine. I have no objection. I don’t want to impose growth on anyone. I want people to be free to pursue their own objective. But it so happens that the American people have been a very dynamic, forward-looking people and they have wanted to improve their conditions.

General Motors cannot get a dollar out of your pocket unless you voluntarily pay it over. The government can, and that’s the fundamental difference.

The bigger they are the harder they fall. W. T Grant being an enormously big company didn’t keep it from going bankrupt. The New York Central being a big company didn’t keep it from going bankrupt. Chrysler Corporations may be the third automobile company, but it’s a 13 billion dollar company. It’s one of the biggest companies in this country. That isn’t going to keep it from going bankrupt.

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall”: he is implying that nations can go bankrupt and collapse. How can we not conclude he believes humanity can collapse?

Here are the full videos:

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