(Editor’s note: Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of famed economist Milton Friedman. The Mackinac Center will celebrate with blog posts commemorating his impact on free-market ideology and his educational choice.)
Milton Friedman’s 1979 interview with Phil Donahue includes a brief segment in which the two men discuss a common criticism advanced against proponents of the free market: capitalists are greedy. It serves as an example of an oft-recited complaint among those against whom such criticism is advanced.
The victims of this character assassination protest that “self-interest” is not the same thing as “selfishness.” Friedman does a fantastic job of identifying the way that capitalism is associated with vice, and clarifying the distinction between greed and free trade such that the association seems totally inappropriate, as it surely is. Not only that, but he does so with charm and good humor. That he refuses to succumb to resentment or bitterness in the face of misinformed animosity speaks to the strength of his character. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of this great economist’s birth, we would do well to remember that he was also a great man.