Picking up where I left off yesterday…..If political rights were extended to the masses, it was thought, people would choose the economic system that was best for them. And the one that was best for them would be obvious, competitive capitalism. Friedman says, for the most part, this prediction was correct.After two world wars there was a steady trend towards more government intervention in the economy. Each intervention represented a loss of economic freedom and a subsequent step towards socialism. Hayek spoke of this in “The Road to Serfdom”. Does more economic control by government equate to less political freedom?Friedman does say that when government overreaches and attempts to control too much of the economy in some instances there is a voter backlash. As an example he points to England and the “control of engagements” order that created much protest and ultimately was repealed. To achieve the objectives of socialism, which involve central programs and plans, political freedoms are necessarily curtailed. When cherished rights and freedoms are violated, the government can expect some citizens to resist.Friedman does acknowledge, at least to set up his argument, that maybe the connection between the expansion of political liberty and the rise of capitalism and markets is a coincidence. Historical evidence, he says, “can never be convincing.”In a social context, indeed for each social interaction, the first question a “liberal” asks, or ought to ask is this, is this- do the parties involved in this interaction possess freedom? This freedom that an individual has in society creates numerous questions about how an individual should exercise or use his freedom. These are ethical or philosophical questions that are best left the individual to wrestle with.Since the liberal assumes that people are imperfect, often a bundle of good and bad, the aim of government is to prevent “bad” people from doing harm and to enable good people to do good. No attempt is made to elaborate on the definition of “harm” or “good”. Friedman simply says much of this depends on who is the judge.Economics involves interdependence. Few men, if any, can satisfy all of their needs without assistance. And since society cannot truly take advantage of all of its resources without division of labor and specialization of task, the dilemma posed to those who prefer liberty is how to coordinate economic activity without trampling on individual freedom? Central planners are willing to sacrifice personal freedoms to achieve economic objectives. That their efforts have often been poor adds additional support to arguments against socialism. Even if effective, though, the price paid in liberty is costly.
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