The Collected Works of Milton Friedman

by Don Boudreaux on April 28, 2014

in Adam Smith, Antitrust, Competition, Crony Capitalism, Trade

Mark Perry has info on an invaluable project by the Hoover Institution to collect in one place all the writings of Milton Friedman.  This news is great!

Just skimming the offerings, I came across the very first article that I ever read by Friedman.  I read it when it was first published in July 1977 in Newsweek.  It was recommended to me by Bill Field, my mentor at Nicholls State University.  The title of this excellent essay is “Fair versus Free.”  I vividly recall the excitement I experienced when, as I read this essay, I learned that such a clear and ethical thinker as Milton Friedman walked the earth.  A slice:

Businessmen who sing the glories of free enterprise and then demand “fair” competition are enemies, not friends, of free markets.  To them, “fair” competition is a euphemism for a price-fixing agreement.  They are exemplifying Adam Smith’s remark that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”  For consumers, the more “unfair” the competition the better.  That assures lowest prices and highest quality.

(Quiz for economists: Why is it a mistake – albeit one commonly made – to use the passage quoted by Friedman from Smith’s Wealth of Nations as support for antitrust legislation and regulation?)

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