E-mail fra Milton Friedman

I sidste uge kunne man i Wall Street Journal læse noget så forunderligt som en relativt ny e-mail fra den nysafdøde Nobelprisvinder i økonomi, Milton Friedman (1912-2006) (omfangsrigt omtalt her på stedet, både her og her).  Konkret drejede det sig om et e-mail interview i forbindelse med en artikel i avisen sidste sommer.  Interviewet var som altid interessant, og der er nok et svar eller to, der vil kunne få stort set enhver til at blive overrasket mindst én gang.  Her er et længere uddrag:

Are you still a strong supporter of flexible exchange rates, even for developing countries?

Friedman: Yes. Economic forces affecting different countries are not always the same. The right exchange rate for a country in general may be one thing one time and another thing another time. A country that pegs the exchange rate is essentially committing itself to adopt the economic policies of the country whose currency it is pegged to. If it does that by pegging the exchange rate, it will always be under pressure as circumstances change to take advantage of the pegged exchange rate when they can and get into a position which is untenable.

The case of Argentina is the most dramatic and clearest case about that. Either a country should explicitly become part of the economic system of another country, as it could by dollarizing its currency as Panama has done, or else it seems to me it is best off by allowing the market to determine the value of its currency and in that way adjust to changes in the relative economic pressures on different countries. But flexible exchange rates are not a panacea for all evils. Governments can follow bad economic policies with either flexible or fixed exchange rates.

Do tax cuts pay for themselves?

Friedman: Occasionally. But revenue loss is almost always less than static prediction.

Do you have any favorite candidates for president in 2008?

Friedman: No.

Is inflation-targeting the right medicine for monetary policy? If so, how would you do it?

Friedman: It is a good medicine with the present institutions. And recent experience suggests that it is doable. Targeting central banks have been able to hit their targets. Basic way to do it is to keep quantity of money growing at a rate equal to target plus trend rate of real growth. Full discussion beyond the scope of email.

What is the biggest risk to the world economy: America's deficits? Energy insecurity? Environment? Terrorism? None of the above?

Friedman: Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon.

What are your thoughts on the low U.S. savings rate?

Friedman: The right saving rate is whatever satisfies the tastes and preferences of the public in a free and unbiased capital market. Market can adjust to any rate. This is a very complicated question. Present estimates probably understate actual savings because of treatment of capital gains. In any event, the present situation does not raise any problems for the economy.

India–how do you assess its prospects?

Friedman: Fifty years ago, as a consultant to the Indian minister of finance, I wrote a memo in which I said that India had a great potential but was stagnating because of collectivist economic policies. India has finally started to disband those collectivist policies and is reaping its reward. If they can continue dismantling the collectivist policies, their prospects are very bright.

Any thoughts on a China versus India comparison?

Friedman: Yes. Note the contrast. China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.

2 thoughts on “E-mail fra Milton Friedman

  1. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Som tidligere nævnt her på stedet var mandag officielt “Milton Friedman Day” i Californien og Chicago–noget der blev besluttet forud for Friedmans død.I den anledning er der blevet lanceret en ny film af Bob Chitester, manden der producerede “Free to Choose”. Den bliver i denne uge vist på den amerikanske TV-kanal PBS (som også i sin tid viste “Free to Choose”). Jeg havde selv fornøjelsen at se lange uddrag af filmen ugen før Friedmans død, og jeg kan kun sige, at den er meget bevægende og inspirerende, og man kan kun håbe, at den bliver tilgængelig for danske seere.Produceren og den nye film har WSJ’s John Fund en klumme om i dag–og den indeholder bl.a. den interessante oplysning, at FtC blev filmet uden tekst-manuskript …:TV’s Evangelist for Capitalism The man behind “Free to Choose” with Milton Friedman. BY JOHN H. FUND Wednesday, January 31, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST Despite his renown as a Nobel Prize-winning economist and best-selling author, most people came to know the late Milton Friedman through television. His 10-part 1980 series, “Free to Choose,” was so popular that it aired three times on public television and is even now adding fans via a free Internet video-stream (www.ideachannel.tv). So it’s fitting that the original team of producers for “Free to Choose” returned to PBS Monday (declared “Milton Friedman Day” in California by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco) with a 90-minute intellectual biography called “The Power of Choice: The Life and Times of Milton Friedman.” (Many public television stations are airing the program at other times this week; check local listings.)The show ranges far and wide to show the influence of Friedman’s thought. Former Prime Minister Mart Laar of Estonia, a former Soviet satellite that turned to free markets in desperation after independence, says that “the only book about economy what I read was ‘Free to Choose,’ but there was a lot of good ideas in there, and I introduced a big part of those.” Such Friedmanite reforms as a 23% flat-rate income tax (soon to fall to 20%) have led the latest “Index of Economic Freedom” to list Estonia as the 12th most free economy in the world, ahead of Denmark and the Netherlands. The show is chock-full of tributes from figures as diverse as Alan Greenspan and Gov. Schwarzenegger.As much as the show is a celebration of Friedman’s life and work, it also showcases the remarkable entrepreneur who made it and “Free to Choose” possible. Bob Chitester produced the original series while serving as the only public-TV station manager in the country who didn’t believe in government subsidies. A tireless promoter, he raised the equivalent of $8 million today for the series–entirely from private sources, an achievement that delighted Friedman. Mr. Chitester came to the project with an unusual background. In 1966, he became the general manager of the PBS station in Erie, Pa., at age 29. An opponent of the Vietnam War, he handed out literature for George McGovern in 1972 and admits he knew nothing about economics. Then, in 1976, he met with economist W. Allen Wallis, who gave him a copy of Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom.” Mr. Chitester soaked it up, became a believer in markets, and immediately began pursuing Friedman to do a series that would provide a counterpoint to one by liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith that PBS was airing. After all these years, Mr. Chitester is still surprised by how easily Friedman’s cooperation came. “I was a bearded, leather-jacketed, small-town TV executive, yet he treated me as competent and honorable, as he did everyone he met, until you proved otherwise,” he recalls. Surprisingly, Friedman insisted on not writing a script in advance of filming. The points that would be made in each scene were discussed, but his commentary was extemporaneous. This resulted in such gems as the economist sitting in a sweatshop in New York’s Chinatown, where he recalled the days when his mother worked in a similar environment. “Life was hard,” Friedman noted, “but opportunity was real.” He then transports the audience to a junk floating in the harbor of Hong Kong, “the freest market in the world,” where Friedman discusses how the then-British colony’s leaders refused to collect some economic statistics because they feared they would be used as an excuse for government intervention in the booming economy. Since the success of “Free to Choose,” Mr. Chitester has gone on to produce programs that range across time and space, from a dramatization of how the Pilgrims realized the importance of private property to a series on private space exploration. He has produced five teaching kits based on John Stossel’s ABC News TV specials that have been used in 84,000 classrooms to encourage more rigorous thinking about science and economics. Today, Mr. Chitester is most excited about a two-hour program he is producing featuring Hernando de Soto. A Peruvian economist, Mr. de Soto has been the target of murder attempts by drug barons and Marxist terrorists who fear his message that the poor in developing nations need true capitalism–property rights, markets and the rule of law. Time magazine recently named him one of the five leading Latin American innovators of the century. Mr. de Soto warns that capitalism isn’t working for the majority of the world’s people. This is largely because economic elites use their power to restrict competition, limit access to capital and promote their vested interests over those less fortunate. That, in turn, undermines the potential of free markets to spread wealth and opportunity in the same way that has made developed nations so successful. “The poor are not the problem; they are the solution,” Mr. de Soto says. “Give them access to land titles that can be used for collateral, the rule of law, a responsive bureaucracy and streamlined tools of business, and you will see creativity and entrepreneurial self-reliance flourish.” The program being planned for Mr. de Soto will take him from an Albanian village, where ancient disputes over who owns what land are prompting young people to leave the country, to the office of a Tanzanian banker who has tried in vain for 12 years to get a mortgage. Increasingly, Mr. de Soto says Americans need to appreciate how much developing nations are dominated by an extralegal economy that must be brought into the mainstream. “What Bob is proposing is an eye-opening look at how to finally make poor countries wealthy by empowering their people,” says Ed Crane, president of the Cato Institute. But TV’s evangelist for capitalism has other projects, too. He has storyboards done for a series on Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish scientist who has gathered Nobel laureates together to agree on where money should be spent to safeguard human life. (Hint: global-warming curbs are far down the list.) A program on the life of former Secretary of State George Shultz is in the works. This week’s PBS special pays tribute to the many achievements of Milton Friedman. One that is often underappreciated is the extent to which he demonstrated how visual images could influence and shape public debate. As his most ardent electronic disciple, Bob Chitester deserves the free-market community’s equivalent of an Oscar.Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com.

  2. Nikolaj Hawaleschka Stenberg

    Det er bemærkelsesværdigt, så god Friedman var til at forklare markedet og betydningen af valgfrihed, så alle kunne være med.For mit eget vedkommende var jeg helt “solgt”, da jeg så et afsnit af Free to Choose, hvor Friedman, i hvad der forekommer som en zen-tilstand, sidder og snakker om en blyant og alle de transaktioner der ligger bag dens bearbejdelse.


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