On this day 102 years ago, Milton Friedman was born. In recognition of the life and contributions of the leading “Chicago School” economist, below are ten of his most timeless quotes according to readers, from his influential “Capitalism and Freedom.”

The quotes were compiled based on Amazon Kindle’s popular highlights feature, and are listed in descending order based on number of highlights.

Noted economist Milton Friedman. (Associated Press.)

Noted economist Milton Friedman. (Image Source: Associated Press.) 

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

1. ”[Of the two key Constitutional principles for preserving freedom] [t]he second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed.”

2. ”Fundamentally, there are only two ways of co-ordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion—the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary co-operation of individuals—the technique of the market place.”

3. ”Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task [protects individuals against coercion] so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

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4. ”[Of the two key Constitutional principles for preserving freedom] [f]irst, the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets.”

5. ”To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them.”

6. ”a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.”

7. ”The possibility of co-ordination through voluntary co-operation rests on the elementary—yet frequently denied—proposition that both parties to an economic transaction benefit from it, provided the transaction is bi-laterally voluntary and informed.”

8. ”The nineteenth-century liberal regarded an extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the twentieth-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom.”

9. ”These then are the basic roles of government in a free society: to provide a means whereby we can modify the rules, to mediate differences among us on the meaning of the rules, and to enforce compliance with the rules on the part of those few who would otherwise not play the game.”

10. ”Fundamental differences in basic values can seldom if ever be resolved at the ballot box; ultimately they can only be decided, though not resolved, by conflict. The religious and civil wars of history are a bloody testament to this judgment.”


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