One of the things that trouble me very much is I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for a democratic society. But I also believe there is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy. So rolling back the welfare state is exceedingly difficult, there’s no question about that.
(First published as Why Liberalism Is Now Obsolete |Interview With Milton Friedman, by Peter Brimelow, Forbes Magazine, December 12, 1988).
Has the Reagan Revolution run its course? Or has the American electorate firmly rejected liberalism?
Amidst all the static and breast-beating about a “dirty” presidential campaign, most commentators have overlooked this fundamental question, which was the gut issue in the late presidential election.
That the old game of taxing-and-spending no longer works politically was made reasonably clear by the Bush victory. So, will the so-called Reagan revolution continue? Or will the federal government resume playing a larger role in our lives? To get a longer-range perspective on what lies ahead in politics and economics, FORBES interviewed Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. From his magnificent apartment high above San Francisco’s Nob Hill, Milton Friedman offers a global and historical vision of where the U.S., indeed the world, is heading.
FORBES: Do you think the current free market cycle that is manifested almost everywhere today—including behind the Iron Curtain—will last? Or will government intervention come back into fashion?
Friedman: The free market cycle will last. The intellectual movement [for a free market] is approaching middle age, but the political movement is in its infancy.
You wrote in 1962 in Capitalism and Freedom that “…the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude and misery.” How do you feel about that now?
Still true. But I’m much more optimistic than I was in the late 1970s because of the change in the intellectual climate of opinion.
Historically, the intellectual climate tends to be subject to very long swings, which are reflected in public policy only after a lag. At first only a very small group of people are persuaded….