There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

By Milton Friedman | Go to book overview
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Chapter Fourteen
Central Planning vs. Free Enterprise

This chapter covers a wide range of specific issues--from the mode of governing the West Bank of the Jordan to federal relief to individuals damaged by floods. Their common theme is the widespread bias against the free market and in favor of central planning, despite the dearly superior performance of the market. This theme has been present in many of the earlier chapters of this book, but in most of these it has been a minor theme. In these columns, it is the major theme.

This general bias against the free market is a puzzling phenomenon, particularly on the part of intellectuals. I have often noted that the two groups that threaten the free market most are businessmen and intellectuals, but for opposite reasons. The businessman is in favor of free enterprise for everyone else but not for himself--he's always a special case, urging that governmental assistance, protection, and subsidy for him are necessary to serve the national interest. The intellectual is just the other way. He is strongly in favor of free enterprise for himself but not for anyone else. He wants no central government planning bureau to tell him what to write, what research to engage in, what to teach. No, he believes in free speech, a free press, and academic freedom. But when it comes to other people, that's a different story. Then he will tell you about the necessity of having central direction to avoid the wastes of competition and duplication of effort and to assure that resources are employed in accordance with the "right" social priorities.

Why is it that intellectuals do not see the inconsistency? Is it only their expectation (which, incidentally is doomed to be disappointed) that in a centrally planned society they will be in the driver's seat? Is it their tendency to overestimate the power of deliberate direction because cerebra


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There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch


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