Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful book,but skips some interesting questions., 21 Mar 2007
This review is from: Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (Paperback)
Much of what is said in Free to Choose is essentially unassailable. Free markets work wonderfully well for many things, and governments are blunt instruments that often give the wrong incentives. One cannot argue.

However, there are a couple of areas where he pushes too far, into regions where it is not at all clear if free market capitalism will work as well as the book promises. Education doesn't simply fit into the free market mold because it's not clear who is buying the education. Is it the parent or the student? Is it the student before education or the student after education? It's also very different from buying shoes, because most people only buy one education; one doesn't get a chance to learn from failed purchases. So, it doesn't quite fit Adam Smith's model of two people, each rationally deciding if the transaction will be beneficial to him/her self.

Thus the book is missing something important: a discussion of how far one can apply the free market model. Friedman assumes it applies to everything, and maybe it does, but there are a lot of important cases where it's not at all clear.

But, really, I shouldn't complain too much. Every book has to stop somewhere, and there is much sense and very little confusion here. It's a readable book, and still relevant, even though history has moved on a bit.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 May 2011 01:07:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 May 2011 01:15:02 BDT
Paul says:
A problem with 'free' education where parents and others are taxed so that the state can organize and deliver 'education' is that the consumers - students and their parents lose their freedom of choice. They have to pay however bad the service. The absence of competition cripples quality and choice and allows costs to escalate.

Food is more vital than education. Students often go without classes for a month or more but you would die without food for that period. If you were forced to pay for your groceries through taxation and those groceries were free at the store, can you imagine how bad the quality would be? The store would have minimal opening hours - all the best food would be under the counter available only to managers and their friends and those able and willing to pay bribes. For everybody else the selection would be dismal. Free food would be wasted or illegally converted into other products. It is very easy to believe that for most students the quality of courses on offer at school and at university is a fraction of what could be delivered in a free market - albeit one where the poor get help to buy a basic education and the product delivered is grossly over priced to the taxpayer.

Friedman does discuss the minimum that a State must deliver. He concludes that the rule of law, and the defence of the population against invaders and criminals and the avoidance of monopolies are all necessary for the market to flourish.

Friedman is very careful not to claim the Market is perfect, it admits it has serious flaws, he merely claims that the Market is by far the best system yet invented to allocate resources. All other known systems have much bigger disadvantages.
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