The Quality of Government

From Café Hayek, Milton Friedman in a debate in 1975,

HEFFNER: Yes, but it interests me that you just said that mankind is selfish and greedy. And that has always been the battle cry of those who have said; therefore, we must impose controls upon them…

FRIEDMAN: But it’s a false argument, because it assumes somehow that government is a way in which you put unselfish and ungreedy men in charge of selfish and greedy men. But government is an institution whereby the people who have the greatest drive to get power over their fellow men, get in a position of controlling them. Look at the record of government. Where are these philosopher kings that Plato supposedly was trying to develop?

Great rhetoric, but the quality of government depends not just on the character of individuals, but also on institutions. King Leopold II of Belgium was a pretty good king in Belgium, but resposible for mass murder in Congo where there were no checks and balances. See Samizdata for more; Samizdata refers to a podcast discussed here in a previous post.

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