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What Drives Economic Progress


Published: April 10, 2019

Civilization’s greatest achievements have not come from government bureaus, but from the ability of individuals to pursue their own interests. Free markets and free trade not only increase people’s productive activities but also improve economic conditions. Thus, free markets have the ability to harness self-interest in ways that benefit everyone.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does capitalism facilitate happiness?
  2. What has happened in other countries that tried to eliminate greed?

Additional Resources

  • Listen as Russ Roberts talks to Milton Friedman about the radical ideas he put forward almost 50 years ago in Capitalism and Freedom. Available here.
  • Read “The Case for Free Trade” by Milton Friedman, Rose D. Friedman, available here.
  • Listen as Milton Friedman explains "greed," markets, and politics, available here.
View Transcript

 Tell me is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? 

You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? 

You think China doesn’t run on greed? 

The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. 

The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. 

Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. 

Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. 

If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. 

The record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by capitalism and largely free trade.