These students enjoyed a baseball game and discussed Milton Friedman’s lifelong dedication to free markets as part of a nationwide celebration marking what would have been Dr. Friedman’s 95th birthday.
(Note: On Tuesday, July 31, Students for a Free Economy
a project of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, partnered with the
Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation to celebrate what would have been Dr. Friedman’s 95th birthday by renting a box at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league
baseball game. Each of the 20 college students attending received a free
copy of Milton and Rose’s famous book "Free to Choose" and watched a short DVD on
Milton’s life and work. For many of the students, this was their first
encounter with the Nobel Prize winner’s ideas.)
What do baseball and free markets have in common? Competition.
You’re watching a baseball game in the bottom of the ninth inning and the score is tied 3-3. The game gets called. No rain, no thunder or lightning, nothing out of the
ordinary to stop play. Instead, the game is stopped because the league has
determined that 3-3 is the fairest score for everybody. In fact, the league has
determined that allowing anyone to score more or less than three runs would be
an "unfair balance of score," and that umpires, managers and players need to
achieve this tie every game.
officials decided how many balls, strikes, hits, home runs and every other stat
each player and team was allowed per season for the next five years. Anytime an
above average player reached his quota of home runs, RBIs or great defensive
plays, he’d have to either sit on the bench for the rest of the season or
purposely play poorly.
teams and players got four strikes instead of three and some players had to hit
the ball completely out of the park for a home run, while others just had to get it
past the infield.
wouldn’t take long to realize that baseball under such circumstances would not
be fun to watch and that there would be little incentive for players to achieve
is exciting because no two players are alike in ability or desire, and though
everyone plays on the same field by the same rules, the results are anything but
uniform. Within the basic set of rules any team or player is free to work as
hard as they can to achieve the most they can and enjoy the rewards of their
effort. It’s this competition that makes baseball great.
economy is in many ways like baseball. The same lackluster performance you could
expect from a player who is limited in how many runs he can score can be
expected from an individual who is constrained by how many workers he can hire,
how much of his product he can sell or how much profit he can earn. Removing
competition from the marketplace reduces its progress, development and strength.
government enforces different rules on different businesses and individuals —
saying only certain companies are allowed to sell certain goods or taxing
products from one country at a higher rate than others — it becomes like moving
foul poles or changing home run rules in baseball. The uncertainty of rewards
for effort reduces the desire to strive and achieve.
baseball, no one can predict exactly what will happen in the marketplace, or
what great new achievements will come about. No group of central planners could
ever successfully plan all that should happen a year, or five years, in advance.
A basic and understandable set of rules need only be laid out and enforced
fairly for all, and the creativity and effort of individuals will let them
achieve great things.
however, one major difference between baseball and the free market: In baseball,
there is only one winner. The free market is completely different. If left free
from government intervention, markets are not a zero sum game. Despite what the
movie "Wall Street" says, when someone wins in a free market, nobody has to
recently bought tickets to a baseball game. I did not feel ripped off; in fact I said "thank you" to the person I bought them from. The team didn’t feel cheated, and they thanked me. Both of us gained in the transaction. In a free market, as individuals freely choose to do business, everyone gains and overall wealth increases.
Friedman dedicated his life to fighting not just for the free market, but for
freer markets. Friedman knew that government planners could never improve our
economy by changing the rules for some, by limiting free trade and competition
or by planning how every detail of the market should function. Friedman knew
that in order to achieve their full potential, individuals need to be free to
try and fail, or succeed, and to enjoy the fruits of their success.
students enjoy the game, they’ll be reminded that the same competition that
makes this sport so great is also our best hope for a freer and more prosperous
future. Thank you, Dr. Friedman, for helping to advance that freedom.
Isaac M. Morehouse is director of campus leadership
for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute
headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is
hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.