I’ve written thousands of stories for dozens of publications, but this one has remained one of my favorites since it was published in early 2009. The economic collapse of 2008 and the nonstop bailouts under late Bush and early Obama were bringing me down something fierce. I had never written for Reason before but I had something to say and they let me say it. It generated a ton of reaction, as well.
It’s hard to recall now, ten years later, how things felt in 2008, when gigantic institutions like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch suddenly disappeared. It seemed to me like Americans were ready to throw in the towel on our entire economic system after one bad (really really bad) year. Watching Milton Friedman full-throatedly, unabashedly defend capitalism in this clip from the 1970s made me stand up and cheer.
I quoted him in the story and I’ll quote it here:
“The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate 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 auto industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from 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.”