January 22, 2008
Friedman/Smith/Rogers Quotes

I just read a lecture by Milton Friedman from 1991 and found this quote:

The United States today is more than 50% socialist in terms of the fraction of our resources that are controlled by the govern ment. Fortunately, socialism is so inefficient that it does not control 50% of our lives. Fortunately, most of that is wasted. People worry about government waste; I don't. I just shudder at what would happen to freedom in this country if the govern ment were efficient in spending our money. The really fascinating thing is that our private sector has been so effective, so efficient, that it has been able to produce a standard of life that is the envy of the rest of the world on the basis of less than half the resources available to all of us.

This reminded my of this quote from Adam Smith:

This frugality and good conduct, however, is upon most occasions, it appears from experience, sufficient to compensate, not only the private prodigality and misconduct of individuals, but the public extravagance of government. The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition, the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived, is frequently powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things towards improvement, in spite both of the extravagance of government and of the greatest errors of administration. Like the unknown principle of animal life, it frequently restores health and vigour to the constitution, in spite, not only of the disease, but of the absurd prescriptions of the doctor.

And this classic quote from Will Rogers:

Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.

UPDATE: A student sent me this quote (paraphrased) that he remembers from a Pete Boettke lecture he heard at FEE:

Our future is like a horse race between three "S"s. The first two are Smithian gains from trade and Schumpeterian innovation. Government Stupidity would be the third "S" in this race. And so long as Smith and Schumpeter stay ahead of Stupidity then 'tomorrow's troughs will be higher than today's peaks.'
Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:07 AM in Economics

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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