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Milton Friedman on Government Expansion Renowned scholar and Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman is one of the most highly regarded economists of our time In his book Capitalism and Freedom Friedman attacks the expansion of government spending on a variety of fronts Basically Friedman states that government is a necessary evil in a society of imperfect humans but is one whose scope should be limited to only absolutely essential tasks He very specifically defined these tasks as he states in the introduction of the book a fully functional government would be one which maintained law and order defined property rights served as a means whereby we could modify property rights and other rules of the economic game adjudicated disputes about the interpretation of the rules enforced contracts promoted competition provided a monetary framework engaged in activities to counter technical monopolies such a government would clearly have important functions to perform Basically he views any government action beyond the scope of this as improper including agricultural price supports import tariffs and quotas rent controls minimum wage laws industry regulation military conscription toll roads and many others Friedmans basis for opposition is that the best method of making any decision is in the market setting because a market allows for numerous different outcomes for different individuals with different preferences Governmental or political decisions are made on a majority basis they do not allow for differing levels of choice for individuals because they produce a single outcome the market allows for each individual to come to an agreement at the level he feels comfortable Thus the more that is left within the scope of the market the more likely it is that agreement can be achieved while still maintaining freedom Friedman believes that the modern trend has been to curb the scope of the market in favor of government intervention a trend which has had poor results overall While he concedes that the market does not function perfectly he
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