Does the selfish pursuit of the individual lead to social optimality? Milton Friedman seems to think so. According to Mr. Friedman’s “Free to Choose,” the government should not get involved in the economic market system enough to hinder free enterprise and voluntary trade. Granted that it does not lead to anarchy, it may as well impose its laws and regulations upon any entity outside that realm. According to him, restrictions on monetary exports, tariffs and government-owned corporations are some of America’s biggest mistakes. Friedman’s pro-individualistic philosophy of an economic and social world is admirable; to take complete refuge in the free market system seems ideal. As indicated in his first segment in his documentary, “Power of the Market,” individualism is essential to the recipe for cooperation of societies across the globe and, ultimately, peace.
In a utopian world, the best practice would be a free one. Religious, ethical, monetary, or even legal restrictions would be non-existent because in this idyllic world, free means that when one willingly acts or reacts, one bears no consequence. Hypothetically (and perhaps absurdly speaking) assuming that a utopian world rejects crime in the same manner as does our own, could it be that when one deeply and sincerely wishes to steal or plunder, there may be no prosecution against it? If not, then a truly free world is essentially made up of a plethora of naïve peoples – either that, or a completely homogenous one, where everyone’s desires, financial and social and statuses are the same and the need for looting or other such corruption is a concept foreign to the wrongdoer and his community. This being said, considering this simple and fairly nonsensical anecdote, Milton Friedman’s argument would be entirely accurate and his model on freedom and individualism would more than likely thrive and flourish. But because we as humans are unpredictable by nature, his argument presents inevitable fallacies which make it only mostly accurate. By measure of definition, it still leaves his argument credible, but not void of criticism as human self-interests are known to be in conflict with each other.
Because of our mischievous and sometimes even brutal nature, restrictions and rules and regulations seem almost inescapable. However, these policies ordained upon our society, states or countries have always been an issue of heated debate and seldom, even as Friedman admits, has there ever been a perfect solution or model. In “Tyranny of Control” he starts off by discussing Adam Smith’s main idea in his book, “The Wealth of Nations,” and almost repeats a thought covered in “Power of the Market:” Prices of goods coordinate strangers all over the world as though there were an ‘invisible hand’ guiding them along; therefore, strengthening this idea that self-interest, through mutual monetary trade, produces an orderly society.
In an article written in June 2007 in the Journal of Scottish Philosophy, author Alistair M. Macleod argues, “[Friedman] seems not to notice that the larger argument he is constructing… requires that there be no gap between expected and actual benefit.” Macleod goes on to make a certain point, “If the parties to transactions do not always even expect to benefit – because desires, principles, ideals and beliefs unrelated to self-interest sometimes play a crucial role in their decisions – it is difficult to see what the basis is for the prediction that they will always in fact benefit.” The example Friedman uses to demonstrate Japan’s success after implementing Britain’s economic trading pattern seems justified, prima facie. But did the technological advancement and economic harmony of Japan derive from that particular theory? Or did it just work in the society which was Japan? The same structure was attempted in 1948 India, but due to government subsidization of material goods, Indian communities did not progress in the same way as did the Japanese. Why? If this is the perfect model, then why did it not work?
The point here is not that Friedman’s arguments are invalid, but that one argument or strategy for economic development cannot possibly work everywhere. Milton Friedman reveals his opinion for what is possibly a perfect world – but the U.K., the U.S., Japan and Hong Kong do not implement it as an exact science and thus causes a contrast in each. Perhaps free trade helps to modernize a country, where the country’s society is ready to be modernized. For various reasons, some countries are more susceptible to change and new ideas while others are not. In “Tyranny of Control,” debate section, Helen Hughes mentioned that there are countries whose governments ensure competition (and not the people). Countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden, where the people are largely homogenous practice a largely fair competition in that area. In effect, Milton Friedman’s points are not antiquated. They are merely points made to fit a certain society.
Free trade works well in America, because of the philosophy that America was founded upon. The people are willing and eager to implement it and it is a concept that is in fact highly respectable, even in today’s world. But when it comes to America, perhaps society is changing in a way so that Friedman’s ideals are harder to follow, no longer fitting and even impractical. Half of American run corporations are run by the government, nearly half of the population is pushing for what the other half considers socialist ideals (ex: Obamacare) and then there are some who believe that the result of the free market is the exploitation of other, poorer nations. Despite all this, there is much of Friedman’s theories that is still put into practice here and in other nations, and all this just begs the real question, is the invisible hand responsible for all of this?
After doing some research about this topic, I realized how little I really ever knew about it. It's interesting to me how the dichotomy-gap between the American rich and poor seems to be growing.
Reading as many articles as I could from both perspectives gives me a more impartial view on the subject than most other people already have.
So has the U.S. tax code benefited the wealthy? Obama seems to think so. However, what it appears Obama is also doing is encouraging a bitter class envy - not unlike the one that can be witnessed in certain parts of Europe.
Since it appears that besides death, the only other thing in life that is certain is federal income tax, then one can't really bargain for their elimination altogether. That said, there is not much that can be done but impose it- and who is to say that an entire population can ever agree upon its inevitable implementation?
The way it is implemented now seems fair, on the face of it. The more money one makes, the more they pay in taxes. So if you don't make a lot, you don't pay a lot. I imagine it must have been simple enough a century ago, when there weren't a lot of millionaires, and certainly there were no billionaires. Polling and surveys suggest that there's no doubt that a big portion of the tax burden is shouldered by a small group of the wealthiest in the country. It makes sense why these wealthy group of people would feel obligated to a tax break. When this happens, it then irritates the middle class whose tax breaks equaled bread crumbs.
"People who are doing quite well and worry about low-income people not paying any taxes bemoan the fact that they get so many tax breaks that they are zeroed out," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. "People at the bottom of the distribution say, 'But all of those rich guys are getting bigger tax breaks than we're getting,' which is also the case."
I think the issue is that the tax breaks and the deductions for the wealthy may be getting to the point where it is not proportional to what the middle class families (with very little tax cuts) get. And so the rates are for either side is no the same and there are accusations being made that the middle class are paying at a higher tax rate than the rich.
According to the August 2012 issue of Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, senior economics writer, Stephen Moore, states, "tax rates are set to go way up, not down, next year because of the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the beginning of 2013. The Obamacare law also raises tax rates on wealthy individuals by an additional 3.8 percentage points next year. President Obama and others in Congress argue that these higher tax rates are justified because of the growing consensus that the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes."
But according to IRS data, 390,000 tax filers reported adjusted gross income of $1 million or more for 2007. These people paid $309 billion in taxes.
It appears that in order to achieve a fairness in taxes for everyone, America needs to become poorer, with less millionaires.
Is that fair?
Most people take pride in where they come from. The Brits have their Regal Court and the Australians have their crocodiles. In America, not only do the people congregate as one to contemplate the right for independence early in July, but also on separate occasions, the Irish-Americans maintain St.Patrick’s day in March and the German-Americans feast over their Bratwurst in October. Therefore, it should behoove anyone with an observed ethnicity to understand the Chinese predicament; it is presumptuous to assume that the Chinese are otherwise indifferent to their strong history and culture.
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