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Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition Paperback – Special Edition, 15 Nov 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 40th Anniversary edition edition (15 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226264211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226264219
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Milton Friedman is one of the nation's outstanding economists, distinguished for remarkable analytical powers and technical virtuosity. He is unfailingly enlightening, independent, courageous, penetrating, and above all, stimulating." - Henry Hazlitt, Newsweek

From the Inside Flap

Selected by the "Times Literary Supplement" as one of the "hundred most influential books since the war"
How can we benefit from the promise of government while avoiding the threat it poses to individual freedom? In this classic book, Milton Friedman provides the definitive statement of his immensely influential economic philosophy one in which competitive capitalism serves as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. The result is an accessible text that has sold well over half a million copies in English, has been translated into eighteen languages, and shows every sign of becoming more and more influential as time goes on."

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The book is of course a classic. I don't want to give a detailed academic review or critique, because I'm not qualified. I just want to explain its personal relevance to me.

I came to this after thinking about abstract questions after the financial crash in 2008. What are the theoretical justifications for the free market? What are the theoretical / pragmatic justifications for regulation? Should banks be regulated more? How can capitalism be evolved to reduce the risk of financial crises? How can capitalism deal with the risks of climate change if the costs of climate change are not priced into the market?

Friedman's philosophy is pretty right-wing.... Flat rate income tax of 20% (if I recall correctly). Privatise pretty much everything. But not *everything*. Some government spending is justified because of so-called neighborhood effects. E.g., subsidise poor families to send their kids to school. If not, society as a whole loses out. Some government regulation is justified. E.g., regulation to reduce environmental harm. If not, the market will allow environmental harm and society as a whole will lose out.

This book is pretty much the bible for a huge school of liberal economics that is prevalent in many parts of the world. It's important to read it, *especially* if you are not convinced by the free market. Sometimes I wanted the author to go further with his arguments. For example, he certainly didn't convince me about flat-rate taxation (his main argument appeared to be that tax avoidance is easier to avoid if there is a flat-rate). However, all in all, this is a classic that is worth reading for its rhetoric, breadth (it talks about so many areas of government policy), and importance.
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Reading Milton Friedman for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. The wealth of ideas coupled with the wry delivery and almost John the Baptist like certitude with which he preaches his version of the economic gospel all make for a challenging, if not occasionally infuriating read.

The central pillars of Friedman's thinking are deceptively simple but the consequences should they ever be fully enacted by any government would be profound. Friedman feels that government is `guilty' until proved `innocent'. Government equals power over individuals, waste, inappropriate resource distribution and the indulgence of what economists call `rent seeking' special interest groups. Governments want to tax, regulate, control and disperse revenues and favours to suit their own particular agendas. Even when they are trying to act in the public interest, governments frequently make matters worse. Extra taxes lead to disincentive effects, extra spending leads to inflation and interventions like minimum wage legislation lead to increased unemployment. The list of potential and actual government failings are lovingly documented by the author. The relish with which he grinds out his dismal litany of state mismanagement and corruption is almost disconcerting, but it is entertaining.

So what are governments for? Well in time honoured Libertarian fashion, as little as possible.
Government should be about up -holding the rights of citizens and business to operate in accordance with their own best interests. So the protection of property rights, the proper fulfilment of contracts and basic civil liberties. Just about everything else can be resolved by the market. This is where Friedman gets serious. He takes on issues that softy `mixed- market' types think of as sacred and untouchable.
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I became vaguely aware of Milton Friedman in the 1980s, when he was often referred to as the favourite economic guru of Thatcher and Reagan, the founder of "monetarism" as a new school of economics. He was disliked by the left, and there were dark mutterings about his involvement with some of the less pleasant South American regimes of the period.

More recently I was referred to some excellent video clips of Milton Friedman on YouTube, and became interested in how his views fitted into economic thinking as a whole. I also became aware of economic libertarianism, expounded by such organisations as The Cato Institute (publishers of some of the sceptical volumes on man-made global warming theory, but with a much wider range of interests than that) and The Von Mises Institute, that seems to have quite an extreme view as to how limited the role of the state should be. Private justice, anyone?

Capital and Freedom was Friedman's seminal popular work, published in 1962 and based on a series of lectures that Friedman had delivered in the mid to late 1950s. Other popular works include Free to Choose, written jointly with his wife and published in 1980. He doubtless wrote scores of more technical papers in between. Friedman's economic hypothesis is that free market capitalism is the most effective mechanism for organising economic activity and growth, and that it thrives best when the government intervenes in it as little as possible. This economic hypothesis is allied to a strong personal conviction for individual liberty, that men should as far as possible be left to do as they choose so long as their actions to not have injurious effects on others - a philosophy stated emphatically by the founding fathers of the United States.
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