winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, 1976
Fred Foldvary: Geo-Rent:
A Plea to Public Economists
opinion, the least bad tax is
the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George
argument of many, many years ago.
─Milton Friedman (1978, 14)
Q Is there no tax you like?
A Yes, there are taxes I like. For example, the gasoline tax, which pays for
highways. You have a user tax. The property tax is one of the least bad taxes,
because it's levied on something that cannot be produced — that part
that is levied on the land. So some taxes are worse than others, but all taxes
— Milton Friedman,
interview with Scott Duke Harris,
San Jose Mercury News,
Sunday November 5, 2006
to Choose: A Conversation with Milton Friedman” — July
2006: http://www.hillsdale.edu/imprimis/ The
following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Hillsdale College
President Larry Arnn and Milton Friedman, which took place on May 22, 2006,
at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, California, during a two-day Hillsdale
College National Leadership Seminar celebrating the 25th anniversary of Milton
and Rose Friedman's book, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. excerpt:
LA: Let me ask you about demographic trends. Columnist Mark Steyn
writes that in ten years, 40 percent of young men in the world are going to
be living in oppressed Muslim countries. What do you think the effect of that
is going to be?
MF: What happens will depend on whether we succeed in bringing some element
of greater economic freedom to those Muslim countries. Just as India in 1955
had great but unrealized potential, I think the Middle East is in a similar
situation today. In part this is because of the curse of oil. Oil has been
a blessing from one point of view, but a curse from another. Almost every country
in the Middle East that is rich in oil is a despotism.
LA: Why do you think that is so?
MF: One reason, and one reason only — the oil is owned by the governments
in question. If that oil were privately owned and thus someone's private property,
the political outcome would be freedom rather than tyranny. This is why I
believe the first step following the 2003 invasion of Iraq should have
been the privatization
of the oil fields. If the government had given every individual over 21
years of age equal shares in a corporation that had the right and responsibility
to make appropriate arrangements with foreign oil companies for the purpose
of discovering and developing Iraq's oil reserves, the oil income would
flowed in the form of dividends to the people — the shareholders — rather
than into government coffers. This would have provided an income to the
whole people of Iraq and thereby prevented the current disputes over oil
the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, because oil income would have been distributed
on an individual rather than a group basis.
LA: Many Middle Eastern societies have a kind of tribal or theocratic basis
and long-held habits of despotic rule that make it difficult to establish a
system of contract between strangers. Is it your view that the introduction
of free markets in such places could overcome those obstacles?
MF: Eventually, yes. I think that nothing is so important for freedom as recognizing
in the law each individual's natural right to property, and giving individuals
a sense that they own something that they're responsible for, that they have
control over, and that they can dispose of.
Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest
of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.