Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges. He loved freedom not only because it allowed IBM to pursue maximum profit but because it allowed for human flourishing at all levels. Economic growth is important to everybody, but it is most important to the poor. While Friedman’s contributions to academic economics are well appreciated and his opposition to government shenanigans is celebrated, what is seldom remarked upon is that the constant and eternal theme of his popular work was helping the poor and the marginalized. Friedman cared about the minimum wage not only because it distorted labor markets but because of the effect it has on low-skill workers: permanent unemployment. He called the black unemployment rate a “disgrace and a scandal,” and the unemployment statute the “most anti-black law” on the books with good reason. He talked about two “machines”: “There has never been a more effective machine for the elimination of poverty than the free-enterprise system and a free market.” “We have constructed a governmental welfare scheme which has been a machine for producing poor people. . . . I’m not blaming the people. It’s our fault for constructing so perverse and so ill-shaped a monster.”
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