In 1962, future Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alex Haley sat down with jazz musician Miles Davis for what would become an institution of American journalism—the Playboy Interview. To celebrate the Interview’s 50th anniversary, Playboy has culled 50 of its most (in)famous Interviews and will publish them over the course of 50 weekdays (from September 4, 2012 to November 12, 2012) via Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. Here, a glimpse at our conversation with economist Milton Friedman from the February 1973 issue.
“What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? As a friend of mine says, the one thing you can absolutely depend on every other person to do is to put his interests ahead of yours. Now, his interests may not be greedy in a narrow, selfish sense. Some people’s self-interest is to save the world. Some people’s self-interest is to do good for others. But for most people, most of the time, self-interest is greed.
So the problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm. It seems to me that the great virtue of capitalism is that it’s that kind of system. Because under capitalism, the power of any one individual over his fellow man is relatively small. You take the richest capitalist in the world; his power over you and me is trivial compared with the power that a Brezhnev or a Kosygin has in Russia.”
“If a consumer finds he’s being sold rotten meat at the grocery store, he has the very best protection agency available: the market. He simply stops trading at that store and moves to another.”
“The decisions of the people who run the Fed, as I said, are made in good faith. They want to do the right thing. But the state of our knowledge is incomplete. Often they don’t have all the facts or they see one particular phenomenon out of proportion. In the Great Depression, they managed to shrink the total money stock by a third. They did this for the most honorable of reasons, but it was exactly the wrong thing to do. Just as banks all around the country were closing, the Fed raised the discount rate; that’s the rate they charge for loans to banks. Bank failures consequently increased spectacularly. We might have had an economic downturn in the Thirties anyway, but in the absence of the Federal Reserve System—with its enormous power to make a bad situation worse—it wouldn’t have been on anything like the scale we experienced.”
“The Government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”
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