Published on October 21, 2020 by Benjamin J. Montoya

University of Chicago Press, 2002 | 230 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Benjamin J. Montoya


About the Author

Milton Friedman is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the Paul Snowden Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. He has written a number of books, including two with his wife, Rose D. Friedman—the bestselling Free to Choose and Two Lucky People: Memoirs, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.



President Kennedy was famous for saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Although this statement is well-known, this statement no longer resounds with people as it used to. Now this statement can be reworded to, “What can I and my compatriots do through government to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes and to destroy the very freedom the country was founded upon?” Friedman addresses the larger issues of capitalism and freedom to address this underlying shift in thinking in our country. Consider this summary to learn more.

There is one important note to make before beginning this summary. The author of this book is a liberal, but “liberal” in the sense of being a proponent for freedom, not “liberal” in the sense of big government as it typically means today.


Table of Contents

Chapter I  The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
Chapter II  The Role of Government in a Free Society
Chapter III  The Control of Money
Chapter IV  International Financial and Trade Arrangements
Chapter V  Fiscal Policy
Chapter VI  The Role of Government in Education
Chapter VII  Capitalism and Discrimination
Chapter VIII Monopoly and the Social Responsibility of Business and Labor
Chapter IX  Occupational Licensure
Chapter X  The Distribution of Income
Chapter XI  Social Welfare Measures
Chapter XII  Alleviation of Poverty
Chapter XIII  Conclusion


Chapter I: The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom

What is the relationship between economic freedom and political freedom? Do they have any at all? Are they independent or dependent systems?  There is an important relationship between economic freedom and political freedom: one affects the other. That relationship, however, has been questioned by many.

Particularly, socialists and communists question that very point. They believe that if the government takes over, becomes totalitarian even, that economic freedom will not be affected. Is that so? That is simply untrue. Economic freedom always suffers from this kind of system. Those systems that have enacted communism have seen a loss of economic freedom because for the government to have the kind of control it wants, it seeks to control the market.

There are all kinds of problems with the socialist/communist system. One of the major problems is that it forces others to submit to others in ways that violate their human freedoms. For example, one such freedom is the ability to choose which career someone wants. The socialist/communist system denies someone that fundamental right.

If we turn to history to learn about political and economic freedom, we see that only capitalism allows for freedom in both. What is ironic about socialists/communists in the US is that they argue from a platform that arose under capitalism, not taking that into account. They also do not recognize the importance of their being allowed to express their ideas in a free environment, protected from the kind of coercion they seek to enact upon others.


Chapter II: The Role of Government in a Free Society

We have considered the role of the government in relation to economics, and how those two things affect one another. But what should the role of the government be in a free society? There are several roles they can, and should, take.

First, the government should provide law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another, such that economic activity can be truly free. Second, the government needs to take action in the cases of monopoly and neighborhood affects. Monopolies are not always a bad thing, as the Pony Express had proven itself to be the best mail delivery service. But monopolies can become bad if they abuse their position to coerce people. Third, the government should take action on paternalistic grounds to protect people from madmen. Freedom is only a real option for responsible individuals. People, especially children, require protection from people who are irresponsible.

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University of Chicago Press, 2002 | 230 pages

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