Volume 7 - Who Protects the Consumer?
Do consumers need protection? Increasingly the public answer to this question has been "yes." Increasingly, too, the Federal government has been identified as the source of this protection. Milton Friedman disputes the views that (1) consumers are in dire need of governmental protection against the wiles of the business community and that (2) governmental actions tend to make consumers better off. He argues that consumers' problems more frequently than not can be attributed to failures of government rather than to failures of free markets. The best protection for the consumer, in Dr. Friedman's view, is the free market. Despite popular mythology, business interests do not have the power to make people purchase something they do not want. Consider, for example, the failure of the highly touted Edsel, a product that was heavily promoted by the best advertising brains at the Ford Motor Company and its advertising agencies.
When people have alternatives, they will not accept products they do not want. In a competitive market system, business people's recognition that consumers have alternatives provides a powerful stimulus to keep product quality high. Fear of losing business to competitors provides a strong protective shield for the consumer. Armed with the protection offered by the free market, the consumer, says Dr. Friedman, really needs very little protection by the government. Indeed, many government attempts to protect consumers have made them worse off than they were before.
Milton Friedman: Free To Choose
Free To Choose® is the ground-breaking PBS television series featuring Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist. These programs, filmed on location around the world, have helped millions of people understand the close relationship between the ideas of human freedom and economic freedom. The interaction between those ideas has created in the U.S. the richest and freest society the world has ever known. Milton Friedman sees this success threatened by the tendency in the last few decades to assume that government intervention is the answer to all problems. In these programs, which first aired on January 11, 1980, Dr. Friedman focuses on basic principles. How do markets work? Why has socialism failed? Can government help economic development? The 1980 version consists of 10 one-hour programs.
Producer and links to original media: Free to Choose Media, http://www.freetochoosemedia.org/freetochoose/media_ftc1980....