BRETT: We are remembering Rush on this, the first month anniversary of his passing far too soon for all of us. But we are remembering the brilliance, the enlightenment, all of the great takes that we have gotten to receive over the years listening to this absolute entertainment powerhouse. He was unlike anybody out there.
But make no mistake. The admirers of Rush Limbaugh were vast and wide. Heads of state, musicians, novelists, writers, you name it. Folks admired what Rush Limbaugh did, and so much of it, I think, was his genuine, genuine nature. People knew what you saw was what you were getting, and you were getting something very special. If you ever had any opportunity to spend any time with Rush or listen to the program or watch the television shows or read his books, you no doubt felt that connectivity.
And one of the people, one of the people who admired Rush so very much was legendary American economist Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman is in many ways a visionary when it comes to economics and how it is we ought to be ordering ourselves in terms of free markets, capitalism, opportunity, all of that sort of stuff. Well, Milton Friedman was somebody that Rush also admired tremendously, and Rush replayed a segment of Friedman back in 1979 schooling uber-liberal Phil Donahue on capitalism and greed. It’s one for the ages.
RUSH: Milton Friedman, University of Chicago, a brilliant economist. He and his wife were a dynamo. They were a dynamic team. In economics, free market capitalism, Milton Friedman’s a rock star. Milton Friedman should be the Bible for young people, or anybody, trying to understand capitalism and free markets. Back in 1995, I interviewed Milton Friedman for an issue of the Limbaugh Letter.
Milton Friedman, while being interviewed by me — Snerdley will remember ’cause this is back in the days when Snerdley hung around to listen to the interviews taking place. I wish I could remember the exact words, but Milton Freidman paid me a high compliment. I think he suggested that it would be very helpful if more people listened to me.
I think that’s what it was, wasn’t it? And that, believe me, made my month, day, even year, because Milton Friedman, if he wasn’t in a class all by himself, it certainly didn’t take long to call the roll. He ended up at the Hoover Institution, the conservative think tank out at Stanford. I have a sound bite I want to play for you. Actually, two sound bites.
One sound bite is two minutes of Milton Friedman schooling Phil Donahue and his audience in greed and capitalism and virtue. Before that, though, I want to play for you a sound bite of “Barack Hussein Obama! Mmm! Mmm! Mmm!” reading the audio version of his book, The Audacity of Hope. This is Obama talking about a sermon by Reverend Wright that moved him.
OBAMA: It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year. Where white folks’ greed runs a world in need. Apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere. That’s the world on which hope sits.
RUSH: He was quoting Reverend Wright, and he said that’s for me, man, I love that. White folks’ greed runs a world in need. So let’s go to 1979, ancient times for many of you. We may as well be going back to the Roman Coliseum for this. Nineteen seventy nine, I was 28. Ancient times for many of you. Phil Donahue interviewing Milton Friedman, and they had this exchange. And Donahue starts off wanting to know about greed and capitalism. Here it is. And listen to this.
DONAHUE: When you see around the globe the maldistribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries, when you see so few haves and so many have-nots, when you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed’s a good idea to run on?
FRIEDMAN: Well, first of all, tell me, is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy. It’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus.
Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.
If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.
DONAHUE: But it seems to reward not virtue as much as ability to manipulate the system.
FRIEDMAN: And what does reward virtue? Do you think the communist commissar rewards virtue? Do you think Hitler rewards virtue? Do you think American presidents reward virtue? Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout? Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us.
DONAHUE: Well —
FRIEDMAN: I don’t even trust you to do that.
RUSH: Milton Friedman back in 1979 schooling Phil Donahue, and everybody else who heard that on the notions of virtue and greed and just basically upsetting Phil’s applecart. Phil wasn’t smart enough to know it was happening. He’s still running around lamenting the accident of birth. If he’d been 30 miles south, he would have grown up in poverty.
Milton Friedman: “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there will be a shortage of sand.” Milton Friedman: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” Another Milton Friedman quote: “Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.”
Boy, isn’t that true? “Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government.” Man. Pass another law. Government comes along and creates a program. The program is an absolute disaster. Government says, “That’s gotta get fixed.” Government says, “Okay, we’ll fix it.” And it compounds itself, one error atop another. Another Milton Friedman quote: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
I’ll tell you, the guy was great. He was a genius.
BRETT: That interview in 1995 for The Limbaugh Letter is a remarkable conversation that they got to have together. He was a genius, and Rush was a genius as well. It’s important to understand that, to take stock of the wisdom that Friedman puts out over the course of his career, those quotes that you just heard Rush referencing, because it’s very much the truth that government never is effectively able to go back and correct a mistake it made.
If you think about what happened on September the 11th, if you think about what happened with the mortgage meltdown in 2008, if you think about what it is that they’re saying about the pandemic or anything else — any mass event that causes disruption, destruction of property, destruction of wealth, destruction of capital, any of that sort of stuff — when the government’s involved, the same old excuse is going to be offered up.
And you know what that excuse is? “Ah, the system failed. The system failed! It’s unfortunate, but the system failed, and there’s just… We’re gonna have to fix the system.” As Rush said, as Milton Friedman said, “The system’s not going to get fixed by more government.” As Rush said, “Man, pass another law.”