Milton Friedman On Our Responsibility to the Poor

Responsibility to the Poor
Responsibility to the Poor

Milton Friedman 1978. From a lecture given at Stanford University. Read about the racist minimum wage here:


For people to thrive inherently requires political and economic freedom, as one cannot actualize a happy life under a dictatorship.

No matter what kind of economy one lives in, there will always be poor people. It's impossible to completely eliminate all poverty from any given society, but we should still aim to lift as many people out of lower standards of living as possible.

With that in mind, whose responsibility is to aid the poor? It is the government's job? Over the past 50 years there have been innumerable government attempts to eliminate poverty, but the problem was only exacerbated. Should that responsibility be delegated to an institution that so often fails in its objectives?

I say, of course not! And so does Milton Friedman, the famed 20th century economist. It is his contention, and my own, that is is not government's role to take care of the poor, but our own. In a free society, free people must work voluntarily to aid their fellow man.

That will involve work in local organizations, charitable giving, job creation, and attitudinal changes about the poor. Admittedly, Friedman could have gone into more details about what exactly individuals need to do to carry out their responsibility, but he did make clear that it is individuals' responsibility, and that means me and you.