Because of that, I give money to a charity that offers teachers free copies of some of my TV news videos that explain the benefits of free markets. The video most popular in high schools is one in which I ask students, "When so many nations remain poor, why did America become prosperous?" Many answer, "Because we have democracy." Yet India has democracy, and India has been poor for years. "India is overpopulated," they say. They don't know that India has the same population density as New Jersey.
Other students suggest that America prospered because of our natural resources. But Hong Kong has no natural resources. It's basically a rock. It is also more densely populated than India. Yet, in just 50 years, Hong Kong went from poverty to American levels of wealth.
How? In "Free to Choose," Friedman explained that it was the free market. Overlooking the amazing Hong Kong skyline, he said: "This miracle hasn't been achieved by government action -- by someone sitting in one of those tall buildings and telling people what to do. It's been achieved by allowing the market to work."
Walking down a crowded street, he added, "They are free to buy from whom they want, to sell to whom they want, to work for whom they want.
Sometimes it looks like chaos, and so it is, but underneath it's highly organized by the impersonal forces of a free marketplace."
At the time of his series, India was a symbol of enlightened central planning.
"India has tremendous economic and human potential," Friedman commented. "The human tragedy is that in India that potential has been stifled by the straightjacket imposed by an all-wise and paternalistic government. Central planning has condemned India's masses to poverty and misery." What counted most for Friedman was that people should be free to try innovative ideas and succeed ... or fail.
"The free market enables people ... to trade with whomever they want; to buy in the cheapest market around the world; to sell in the dearest. ... (B)ut most important of all: If they fail, they bear the cost."
"Most important of all." It's clear what he would have thought of today's government bailouts.
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