79+ Best Milton Friedman Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Milton Friedman was an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy. He developed numerous free-market theories that opposed the views of traditional Keynesian economists. Most notable Milton Friedman quotes will enrich your views on the economy, business, government, and life.

If you’re searching for classic life quotes that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of Thomas Sowell quotes, and Peter Drucker quotes.

Most Famous Milton Friedman Quotes

A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both. – Milton Friedman

When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he does’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you. – Milton Friedman

The government doesn’t have any money. The only power it has is to take from some and give to others. – Milton Friedman

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. – Milton Friedman

The great advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science or literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government. – Milton Friedman

What makes it [economics] most fascinating is that its fundamental principles are so simple that they can be written on one page, that anyone can understand them, and yet very few do. – Milton Friedman

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand. – Milton Friedman

The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy. – Milton Friedman

Governments never learn. Only people learn. – Milton Friedman

I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstance and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible. – Milton Friedman

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. – Milton Friedman

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. – Milton Friedman

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. – Milton Friedman

I’m in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal. – Milton Friedman

Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom. By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion or central direction, it reduces the area over which political power is exercised. – Milton Friedman

One role of prohibition is in making the drug market more lucrative. – Milton Friedman

The key insight of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is misleadingly simple: if an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another. – Milton Friedman

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned. – Milton Friedman

There’s no point in comparing an actual, operating system with an ideal system that doesn’t exist. – Milton Friedman

Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government. – Milton Friedman

So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free-enterprise system. – Milton Friedman

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable. – Milton Friedman

Keynes was a great economist. In every discipline, progress comes from people who make hypotheses, most of which turn out to be wrong, but all of which ultimately point to the right answer. Now Keynes, in ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,’ set forth a hypothesis which was a beautiful one, and it really altered the shape of economics. But it turned out that it was a wrong hypothesis. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a great man! – Milton Friedman

With some notable exceptions, businessmen favor free enterprise in general but are opposed to it when it comes to themselves. – Milton Friedman

The unions might be good for the people who are in the unions but it doesn’t do a thing for the people who are unemployed. Because the union keeps down the number of jobs, it doesn’t do a thing for them. – Milton Friedman

The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit. – Milton Friedman

The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws. We regard the minimum wage law as one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books. – Milton Friedman

The proper role of government is exactly what John Stuart Mill said in the middle of the 19th century inOn Liberty.The proper role of government is to prevent other people from harming an individual. Government, he said, never has any right to interfere with an individual for that individual’s own good. – Milton Friedman

There is one and only one responsibility of business: to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game. – Milton Friedman

Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp. – Milton Friedman

See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true. – Milton Friedman

Because it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promises a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing. – Milton Friedman

I would say that in this world, the greatest source of inequality has been special privileges granted by government. – Milton Friedman

The only reason free markets have a ghost of a chance is that they are so much more efficient than any other form of organization. – Milton Friedman

Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it. – Milton Friedman

Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. – Milton Friedman

Higher taxes never reduce the deficit. Governments spend whatever they take in and then whatever they can get away with. – Milton Friedman

There’s nothing that does so much harm as good intentions. – Milton Friedman

Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. – Milton Friedman

The economic miracle that has been the United States was not produced by socialized enterprises, by government-unon-industry cartels or by centralized economic planning. It was produced by private enterprises in a profit-and-loss system. And losses were at least as important in weeding out failures, as profits in fostering successes. Let government succor failures, and we shall be headed for stagnation and decline. – Milton Friedman

The world runs on individuals pursuing their self interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. – Milton Friedman

We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork. – Milton Friedman

What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself. – Milton Friedman

What works for Sweden wouldn’t work for France or Germany or Italy. In a small state, you can reach outside for many of your activities. In a homogeneous culture, they are willing to pay higher taxes in order to achieve commonly held goals. Butcommon goalsare much harder to come by in larger, more heterogeneous populations. – Milton Friedman

With respect to teachers’ salaries …. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority. – Milton Friedman

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. – Milton Friedman

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office. – Milton Friedman

The Fed was largely responsible for converting what might have been a garden-variety recession, although perhaps a fairly severe one, into a major catastrophe. Instead of using its powers to offset the depression, it presided over a decline in the quantity of money by one-third from 1929 to 1933 … Far from the depression being a failure of the free-enterprise system, it was a tragic failure of government. – Milton Friedman

You must distinguish sharply between being pro free enterprise and being pro business. – Milton Friedman

If freedom were not so economically efficient it certainly wouldn’t stand a chance. – Milton Friedman

The problem in this world is to avoid concentration of power – we must have a dispersion of power. – Milton Friedman

When a private enterprise fails, it is closed down; when a government enterprise fails, it is expanded. Isn’t that exactly what’s been happening with drugs? – Milton Friedman

There are severe limits to the good that the government can do for the economy, but there are almost no limits to the harm it can do. – Milton Friedman

When you start paying people to be poor, you wind up with an awful lot of poor people. – Milton Friedman

The only reason there is a crisis about Social Security in the US and pensions in Europe and Japan is that you cannot maintain aPonzischeme indefinitely. We have collected from today’s young to pay today’s old and counted on tomorrow’s young to keep doing so. That was a fine scheme as long as the number of young people was rising faster than old people. When that ratio comes to an end, such a system also has to end. – Milton Friedman

Political leaders in capitalist countries who cheer the collapse of socialism in other countries continue to favor socialist solutions in their own. They know the words, but they have not learned the tune. – Milton Friedman

A free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. – Milton Friedman

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. – Milton Friedman

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. – Milton Friedman

You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state. – Milton Friedman

You cannot be sure that you are right unless you understand the arguments against your views better than your opponents do. – Milton Friedman

The essential notion of a capitalist society … is voluntary cooperation, voluntary exchange. The essential notion of a socialist society is force. – Milton Friedman

Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government– in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player. – Milton Friedman

Business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger….Every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that’s a different question. We have to have that tariff to protect us against competition from abroad. We have to have that special provision in the tax code. We have to have that subsidy. – Milton Friedman

Why have we had such a decline in moral climate? I submit to you that a major factor has been a change in the philosophy which has been dominant, a change from belief in individual responsibility to belief in social responsibility. If you adopt the view that a man is not responsible for his own behavior, that somehow society is responsible, why should he seek to make his behavior good? – Milton Friedman

Society doesn’t have values. People have values. – Milton Friedman

The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another. – Milton Friedman

If you pay people not to work and tax them when they do, don’t be surprised if you get unemployment. – Milton Friedman

Every person shall be free to do good ‘ at his own expense. – Milton Friedman

The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny. – Milton Friedman

The only corporate social responsibility a company has is to maximize its profits. – Milton Friedman

You know there are very few Marxists left in the world… they’re all in American universities. – Milton Friedman

You never can cure poverty. Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. – Milton Friedman

Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property. – Milton Friedman

A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. – Milton Friedman

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. – Milton Friedman

Since the 1930s the technique of buying votes with the voters’ own money has been expanded to an extent undreamed of by earlier politicians. – Milton Friedman

A minimum-wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills. – Milton Friedman

If you cannot state a proposition clearly and unambiguously, you do not understand it. – Milton Friedman

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