Sunday, August 13, 2006

Milton Friedman t.v. series available on-line

Andrew Chamberlain of the The Idea Shop points out that legendary economist Milton Friedman's television show "Free to Choose" is now available on-line for free.

Andrew writes:
At the end of the day, all the important things in life are ideas—not the junk we spend our days trying to accumulate. These videos have got plenty of good ones. Do your kid’s generation a favor, and pass it on:

Original 1980 Series (10 Volumes):
Volume 1: Power of the Market
Volume 2: The Tyranny of Control
Volume 3: Anatomy of a Crisis
Volume 4: From Cradle to Grave
Volume 5: Created Equal
Volume 6: What’s Wrong With Our Schools?
Volume 7: Who Protects the Consumer?
Volume 8: Who Protects the Worker?
Volume 9: How to Cure Inflation
Volume 10: How to Stay Free

Updated 1990 Series (5 Volumes):
Introduction by Arnold Swarzenegger
Volume 1: The Power of the Market
Volume 2: The Tyranny of Control
Volume 3: The Failure of Socialism
Volume 4: What’s Wrong With Our Schools?
Volume 5: Created Equal


Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

The laissez-faire capitalists seem to condemn labour unions too much so I am slightly suspicious of people like Friedman. (There is no sound on this machine so I can't check out the "who protects the worker?" video).

After all, if they defend the right of corporations to have collective power, why should the consumer and worker not have a similar option?

I'll admit I am a libertarian socialist who sees gift economics as an ideal and well-adapted to technology, but I accept the free market as "tolerable" as long as several things are in place.

One of those is unions - labour unions are one thing (it's not just about the striking), but I think what the free market needs to have some element of "freedom" for me to like it more, is consumer unions, which can organise boycotts and allow the individual consumer to have a conscious, collective effect.

For example, things like boycotts of the tobacco industry in order to drive them out of business, because the non-smokers in majority actually have the power to stamp out the practice of smoking (and what effectively violates the environment and public health) ... but because they aren't organised the tobacco industry continues to thrive.

Of course, the laissez-faire and Rand types I've met seem to condemn unionisation (and things like parecon) so I am often confused.

10:42 AM  
Blogger a singapore economist said...


Friedman argues that labor unions hurt non-union workers and consumers. Most economists would agree.

A couple of examples from the video:

1. Doctors in California who don't want paramedics to treat patients even though paramedics save lives. (There is a study quoted that 1% of cardiac patients survived before paramedics entered the market, 23% after.)

2. Unions lobby for increases in the minimum wage even though their members aren't directly affected (union workers earn wages much higher than the minimum wage). The unions know that employers will likely replace non-union low skilled workers with the union's high skilled workers if the wages of unskilled workers increase.

After all, if they defend the right of corporations to have collective power, why should the consumer and worker not have a similar option?

Not sure what you mean here. Economists don't like collusion among firms because it causes inefficiencies. Can you give me an example?

1:23 AM  
Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

Well in terms of being a collective entity in itself, since companies are basically already a collusion of individuals that form their own entity.

So if the laissez-faire supporters champion economic freedom, shouldn't the right of the organisation of workers to form unions be one of those freedoms?

The idea then is to reciprocate with unions among consumers. If for example, doctors are campaigning against paramedics, their patrons (as a union) should then be disgusted at them, rather than abhorring labour unions in themselves.

I don't support laws that protect striking workers for being fired, from a social contract point of view.

5:23 PM  
Blogger a singapore economist said...

So if the laissez-faire supporters champion economic freedom, shouldn't the right of the organisation of workers to form unions be one of those freedoms?

This is a fair and interesting point. I think unions hurt the greater good when they move from organizations that bargain in good faith to those that rent seek, particularly when they lobby for self-serving regulation and muck up the playing field.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if anyone's still tracking this thread, but here's another go:

John, when you refer to unions the key element is what sort of government-enforced power they receive.

A union, simply as a group of people agreeing about what sort of employment contracts they'll accept is a perfectly acceptable kind of collective to laissz-faire captitalists. It's the instant the government starts enforcing their desires that l-fc's get upset; it isn't unionization per se - it's the government intervention. Now of course, if you consider a labor union to be synonymous with government enforcement then that would explain the objection.

Here's another way of looking at it: A labor union is essentially a corporation (in a loose sense of the word) that sells labor, and shouldn't have anymore government enforced privileges than any other business.

So I have no problem at all with GM, for instance, existing as a business. It's just a group of people that get together to make and sell cars. I would have huge problem, though, if the government mandated that I could only buy cars made by GM.

By the same token, I have no problem at all if a group of people get together and sold, as a service, assembly line work as well as other manufacturing-like services (think UAW). But I would have a huge problem if the government mandated that I could only by manufacturing services from them.

That's the objection to labor unions as we see them today; they're government enforced monoplies of services.

3:11 PM  
Blogger a singapore economist said...

Thanks for your comment but I don't think anyone is checking this thread. Too bad because I think you have written a nice exposition.

10:28 PM  
Blogger le radical galoisien said...

Indeed, I don't think unions should get government protection - e.g. laws that companies cannot fire workers for conducting a strike, but they should be allowed or respected for collective bargaining.

I'm not against corporate welfare since aid and investment in an area can go a long way with discernment, so it's not all kinds of intervention that is at fault (the goverment makes a good neutral arbitrator). Also, when corporations have a rather plutocratic hold on the media, the corporations can become the state.

I have a rather social contract view of things - any organisation, government, corporation, or union is basically a cooperative (coercive or otherwise) assembly of individuals. There will be instances where the de jure state is not the one enforcing the monopoly, but rather the de facto state that has arisen to benefit it.

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