Published on Dec 2, 2007
Summary: A student poses a question to Milton Friedman in which he asks for an appraisal of just how exactly the riches that now exist in the so called “capitalist democracies” were obtained and how those countries became so rich so quick. Specifically he asks Friedman to account for the effect that having free labor derived from slavery allowed them to enrich themselves, and how the possession of colonies allowed rich countries to bleed wealth out of their colonial domains.
Friedman responds by claiming it’s simply untrue that the wealth that arose in Western countries was due to slavery. Slavery was a disgrace and a blot on the United States’ record, but many rich Western nations did not have slavery. Britain and Japan did not have slaves when they developed and Hong Kong does not have slaves today. He goes onto claim that the facts are against the notion that the wealth was created due to the West exploiting its colonies. The reason people are quick to think so is that they have an ingrained predisposition to see view the world as a zero-sum game where if one man gains the other man looses. In reality a free market allows everyone to gain through mutually beneficial voluntary transactions.
When the West colonized Africa they brought with them technology that greatly improved the condition of the people that lived there and actually made them better off. The wheel for example had not even been invented in Africa in the 19th century. As a result of Africa’s contacts with the West their condition improved greatly from what it previously was. To the charge that colonizers bleed wealth from their colonies, Friedman notes that it has always cost the mother country more to maintain its colonies then what was ever received in direct or indirect economic benefit. In the famous case of India, conclusive studies have shown that it cost Britain far more to maintain India then if it had never had it.
Furthermore, many Western nations never possessed colonies yet became wealthy despite that fact.
See also: Free to Choose – All 15 episodes streaming online for free http://www.ideachannel.tv
A history of Free to Choose http://www.freetochoose.com