Friday, February 26, 2010

Some reading suggestions

I'm currently reading "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.  It's one of the books in what one might call the conservative canon (at least for modern American conservatives.)  Friedman is up there with Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, William F. Buckley, etc. as one of the most cited right of center political thinkers.  So far I've been impressed with how tightly logical and well-reasoned the book is.  I would recommend it to all political junkies out there.  The chapter about education policy, in which he famously argues for a voucher system, is especially good so far.  For people with a more casual interest in politics, this book might be a bit dry.  I think "Parliament of Whores" by P.J. O'Rourke is one of the best politics-for-dummies books I've ever seen.  Try that out first, and if you're still hungry for more, give "Capitalism and Freedom" a chance.  Friedman is amazing for his ability to explain sophisticated economic concepts using plain English and once in a while some simple arithmetic.

Here's an example of Friedman explaining his political views in common sense terms, in this case criticizing the notion that government action tends to be more moral than the pursuit of self-interest by individuals in the marketplace:


  1. I read this book for my university seminar. It reads like a textbook, by which I mean that it is very straight-forward, which is refreshing. I recommend that you keep reading it, as I think you will enjoy it.

    He also makes a cameo in "The Corporation", which I was surprised to see. Here's a clip of one of the segments in that documentary that features him.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation and for the link.

    I think if Friedman were to watch that clip, he might have some comments to add. E.g. he might say that, yes, there are market failures, but there are also government failures. So, don't assume that every time you spot a possible externality that the gov't is going to be willing or able to deal with it in a reasonable manner. That's how a lot of right of center economists tend to see things, I suspect: yes markets fail, but the track record of governments is even worse.

  3. I think that the liberal perspective would be that often the government makes things worse because they are more likely to be acting on behalf of one business in particular rather than trying to improve the entire system.