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The Russians Hedrick Smith Ballantine Books Revised edition


31st January 2012 History Books 39 Comments

Hedrick Smith has done what we all wish we could do: he has gone to Russia and spoken to the people. Over steaming samovars, in cramped flats, and on dirt-floors, he has spoken to peasants and bureaucrats, artists and officials. He has studied their customs and their governments and shares his fascinating insights and fresh perspectives with us.

Hedrick Smith has done what we all wish we could do: he has gone to Russia and spoken to the people. Over steaming samovars, in cramped flats, and on dirt-floors, he has spoken to peasants and bureaucrats, artists and officials. He has studied their customs and their governments and shares his fascinating insights and fresh perspectives with us.

The Russians

Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition

“Milton Friedman is one of the nation’s outstanding economists, distinguished for remarkable analytical powers and technical virtuosity. He is unfailingly enlightening, independent, courageous, penetrating, and above all, stimulating.” – Henry Hazlitt, Newsweek

Selected by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the “hundred most influential books since the war”

How can we benefit from the promise of government while avoiding the threat it poses to individual freedom? In this classic book, Milton Friedman provides the definitive statement of his immensely influential economic philosophyone in which competitive capitalism serves as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. The result is an accessible text that has sold well over half a million copies in English, has been translated into eighteen languages, and shows every sign of becoming more and more influential as time goes on.
Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition










  • 39 responses to "The Russians Hedrick Smith Ballantine Books Revised edition"

  • John Rosato
    9:53 on January 31st, 2012
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    For many years the world behind the Iron Curtain was a mystery. There were Sovietologists of all different kinds. One famous Daniel Bell essay gave I believe eight or so different basic ways of interpreting the Soviet Union. Hedrick Smith is a reporter and what he did in this outstanding work was to look into the ordinary life of Soviet society as far as he could. He explained then close to thirty years ago many of the anomalies of the system. And when I read the book then I felt I really was getting inside information into a hidden and highly significant world.

  • PaulTheZombie
    11:02 on January 31st, 2012
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    As the other book reviews here suggest, there are plenty of what on the television series The West Wing were called “Milton Friedman worshippers” out there. For those who are not, it may be instructive that his ideological rival, Paul A. Samuelson, calls Friedman an “eminent scholar” and Capitalism and Freedom a “classic book…All thoughtful economists should study his arguments carefully” (Economics, 17th ed., pp. 41-42). Enough said.

    If your intent is to read only one book by Milton Friedman, you should pick Free to Choose. Arguably, Capitalism and Freedom is slightly more theoretical, while Free to Choose is more practical and more recent. But the books don’t duplicate in contents, and it’s a most worthwhile use of time to read both: first Capitalism and Freedom and then Free to Choose.

  • Ripel
    12:55 on January 31st, 2012
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    For anyone interested in how any of it’s citizens can possibly feel nostalgia for the former Soviet Union, or why so many others chose a political path towards democracy, this book is indispensable. Much of what is occurring now in Russian politics and culture can be traced back to conditions presented here. This is a magnificent portrait of a country which didn’t allow portraits. Those willing to overlook a few Cold War cliches have to agree that this book is a classic.

  • TrafficWarden
    13:19 on January 31st, 2012
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    This book was very long, but then to talk about the Russians and their culture it is a lot of material. Obviously, the author seemed biased from his american perspective and made many generalizations that could also be applied to America. But then, I see it as a sign of the times (he wrote this in 1973). All in all, a good guide to have some idea of life in Russia, but I would try to get the whole picture.

  • John Baxter
    16:14 on January 31st, 2012
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    It’s really difficult to find a better book as an introduction to contemporary history. Now that the Berlin Wall has fallen, it’s difficult for current generations of American university students to understand what Communism was like. Even current generations of Russian immigrants have difficulty remembering Communism. This book is a link to that history that couldn’t be any more brilliant. That is why Mr. Hedrick’s books continues to be one of the most commonly assigned books in Russian history and politics classes. The sequel “The New Russians” is updated to reflect the fall of Communism and the current morass (2000) that Russia is in now. Anykind of popular story or joke that I heard then was captured in this book. The best thing about the book is that Mr. Headrick wrote in a way that could be understood by the average American (meaning even my students could understand this book!). If you don’t have much of a feel for what life was like in Russia when it was the USSR, then the “Russians” is your ticket to both understanding and getting a feel for life under Communism.

  • Karla Shelton
    21:36 on January 31st, 2012
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    I received Capitalism and Freedom as a gift from an admissions officer at the University of Chicago. At the time, I was a 17 year-old kid in high school applying to U of C, which of course, is the University where Milton Friedman taught. After several failed attempts to read it, I left the book to gather dust in my bookshelf for several years, and only recently picked it back up. What I found is a book that I should have read many years ago. Mr. Friedman’s philosophy is essentially the philosophy of free-market advocates even today, almost fifty years after Capitalism and Freedom was first published.

    The author provides a list of fourteen activities that the U.S. government was engaged in the early 1960′s, and which it should immediately stop performing in order to allow the country to become a true Capitalist nation. This list of activities includes trade restrictions, public education, and agricultural subsidies among others. In fact, the later chapters of the book are mostly devoted to explaining why the American government should seize to perform the aforementioned activities.

    I believe that the first two chapters are by far the most interesting and insightful in the book. Here are a few of my thoughts on the first couple of chapters of Capitalism and Freedom:

    Chapter 1 – Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
    Friedman contends that the primary function of government in fiscal matters is to coordinate the economic activities of its citizens. There are two fundamental methods in which a government can achieve this. The first is through central direction, that is, through big government and/or military efforts. The second, which is of course the more desirable of the two, is to identify and enforce the rules of engagement by private citizens in a free market. Moreover, the latter method would allow individuals to acquire economic power (i.e. wealth), which in turn offsets political power. It is this essential relationship between economic and political powers which allows for the maximum freedom of a nation and its people.

    Chapter 2 – The Role of Government in a Free Society
    In Chapter 2, the author further expands on the principles laid out in Chapter 1 and lays out perhaps the most insightful notion of the entire book, which is, that “…the role of the market…is that it permits unanimity without conformity.” In essence, Friedman is arguing that only a free market, and not the government, allows individuals to achieve the maximum amount of freedom. This is obviously an indispensable role in a society where freedom is the most desired quality of life value.

    The remaining chapters in the book break down as follow:

    Chapter 3 – The Control of Money
    Chapter 4 – International Financial and Trade Arrangements
    Chapter 5 – Fiscal Policy
    Chapter 6 – The Role of Government in Education
    Chapter 7 – Capitalism and Discrimination
    Chapter 8 – Monopoly and the Social Responsibility of Business and Labor
    Chapter 9 – Occupational Licensure
    Chapter 10 – The Distribution of Income
    Chapter 11 – Social Welfare Measures
    “Humility is the distinguishing virtue of the believer in freedom; arrogance, of the paternalist.”
    Chapter 12 – The Alleviation of Poverty
    Chapter 13 – Conclusion

    I do not give Capitalism and Freedom a rating of five stars, because of two major factors. First, the book is definitely outdated to the point that it is hard to ignore in some chapters. Moreover, as has been stated by other reviewers, Capitalism and Freedom does not go in depth on many of the key issues of interest in the book. It appears that Mr. Friedman provides a more comprehensive evaluation in Free to Choose, but I have yet to read that book.

    I do, however, rate the book as 4+ stars and recommend it as necessary reading to any person interested in Economics, Politics and/or Philosophy. It is also a good book to read and own for the casual reader.

  • Satish KC
    2:16 on February 1st, 2012
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    One of the “readers” complained about the failures of the free market…I say ‘readers’ in quotations because the free market has never failed. There has never been a 100% free market in America, but instead a Mixed Economy…just as there has never been a free market in Africa or anywhere else. There have always been elements of Government control.

    The perceived failures of the free market have always come from special favors given by Government to businessmen…thankfully this book does Capitalism justice by refuting the very notion that Socialism resembles a valid political/economic system.

  • PaulTheZombie
    3:25 on February 1st, 2012
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    Occasionally one stumbles upon a work that is truly enlightening and not only thought provoking, but thought changing. This book belongs to that highest category of literature. Friedman, a Nobel Prize laureate, lays out a concise explanation of the basic market forces that control markets and then uses those principles to support his classical liberal ideals. For one who’s mind is open, Friedman’s exposition can radically change your view of the world. People have a tendency to make erroneous assumptions about economics(like the idea that raising the minimum wage will help workers) that are totally wrongheaded(raising minimum wage actually causes employers to hire fewer people), though seemingly supported by common sense. Capitalism and Freedom will set you on the right track to understanding how things truly work. Most importantly though, Friedman explains how capitalism and freedom are irrevocably linked and that one necessitates the other. This is a must read for anyone serious about politics, even if you don’t agree with it wholeheartedly it gives you a perspective from where libertarians are coming from.

  • pop frame
    6:16 on February 1st, 2012
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    This a very good place to start to understand Friedman’s economic theories and ideas. Some parts drift a bit too much from his main arguments, but I blame that on editors rather than the author.

  • TrafficWarden
    6:41 on February 1st, 2012
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    This book is extremely important! Together with another classical von Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” and Amartya Sen’s “Development as Freedom” it gives a basic argument for thinking about politics and economics.

    In today’s Russia both common people and scientists/politicians are involved in post-planned economy discourse. They look at the free markets as something chaotic, uncotrolled and therefore – bad. They are thinking in terms of state intervention and paternalism and that’s a big mistake.

    This book won’t give concrete recipies for recovey in transitional or developing countries. But it will give a framework for thinking about resource allocation, taxation and spending, monetary policy and other stuff from the right point. A point where free society stands.

  • John Baxter
    9:35 on February 1st, 2012
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    This book does an excellent job of explaining that. Smith discusses how Americans and Russians operate on different premises about human nature. Americans believe that people can govern themselves based on internal restraints. So not many external restraints are needed. Russians believe that people are naturally unruly and anarchic and need a strong hand to restrain them. Some of the most interesting parts of the books are those explaining how the Russians, though hating communism and lack of freedom and being spied upon, were nostalgic for Stalin at the same time. Although by American standards, the Russians were very obedient to authority, the Russians themselves, as Smith tells it, often complained that things were falling apart and that people needed more discipline. The book is a fascinating look at how different peoples think differently.

    Another good part and fascinating to Americans are the chapters on shopping. People stand in line for everything, including groceries. Sometimes the store runs out of whatever it is, bread, sausages, olives, before they get to you. People carry with them lists of friends’ and families’ shoe sizes and clothing sizes so that if they run into something desirable they can buy it before it is all gone. If you see a line of people waiting to buy something, you get in line even if you don’t know what it is, just in case it is something good, perhaps a better quality of shoe or bra or kid overalls that are usually not available.

    Another interesting part is about the arts and how seriously many Russians take books and poetry, the ballet, how much they appreciate the arts, and also the constraints under which artists create.

    Also good is the part about what happens to people that somehow, even unintentionally, displease someone in power, say a party member. Not only are they punished by losing jobs and status, their children cannot get into good schools or get good positions. The whole family becomes undesirables. If they have a nice apartment, they may have to leave it. And this is not as bad as being locked up or sent to Siberia.

  • nedendir
    11:01 on February 1st, 2012
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    Although this book is now rather dated (from the Brezhnev era of the 1970s) it still sticks in my mind as a very vivid portrait of Russia and the Russians…I read it in my late teens circa 1989 or so. I didn’t read THE NEW RUSSIANS until a couple of years ago. Both are excellent books but I enjoyed THE RUSSIANS more, I think. Any student of Russia would do well to read this book even today…although it’s no longer contemporary/current events it still captures like a snapshot the then-USSR in the late 70s, and even some discussion of the earlier times in people’s memories then–Krushchev, Stalin, etc. I found the book insightful and still relevant when I myself I finally visited Russia in 1993. Should be available at most Public Libraries…handle with care, the copies will be old.

  • cjinsd
    17:36 on February 1st, 2012
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    “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

    (There are many topics to comment on in this book. First, I will comment on one general idea and one relevant issue: The stimulus package.)

    Friedman, like many of our country’s founders, did not trust the collective ability of government to avoid building concentrated power for itself. It is in its nature to aggrandize power by limiting the liberty of those that it is meant to serve. “Economic power is joined to political power, concentration seems inevitable…if economic power is kept in separate hands from political power, it can serve as a check and a counter to political power.” (Page16) It is in governments political will to strengthen its power by pandering to populist sentiment and convincing enough of the people to forgo their liberties for guarantees and safety nets. “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” (Page 15) Playing on the misconception that large collective power is great enough to surmount all obstacles economic and otherwise. Or that government can take on a paternalistic role, treating citizens like lost children needing a strong hand to guide. Big and unwieldy governments inevitably give way to crony capitalism as it attempts to choose and favor some industries over others; an imbalance is struck that distorts the market making it unfavorable for those who do not have the resources to exploit the discrepancies: “Monopoly…arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals…the problem is either to avoid governmental fostering of monopoly or to stimulate the effective enforcement of rules such as those embodied in our anti-trust laws.” (Page 28)
    Therefore, government should remain as rule maker and umpire. Its role should be limited to overseeing that all elements should have the same rules applied appropriately across the economy. No favorites. Government should stick to enforcing laws and not using it as political patronage. In the long run, those groups and industries that allow its intervention and coercive tendencies will be undermining their own economic well-being for a short period of favoritism or paternalism.

    Although this book was written decades ago, it still highlights issues that are relevant to us today. Our congress passed a stimulus package in the amount of $168 billion dollars several weeks ago. Many of our citizens believe that this “stimulus package” will ease the financial duress due to the slowing economy. The politicians that pushed for this package either really believe in its benefits or are simply buying populist votes: “Each recession, however minor, sends a shudder through politically sensitive legislators and administrators with their ever present fear that perhaps it is the harbinger of another 1929-33. They hasten to enact federal spending programs of one kind or another.” (Page 76) Friedman addresses the issue of government “priming the pump” or attempting to serve as a “balance wheel” to offset reduced private expenditure: Reduce unemployment and get the economy going again by temporarily increasing government expenditures. By resorting to such poor measures, Friedman offers us a glimpse of our own likely economic outcome. More public debt and less likelihood of reduced taxes with no real long term solutions.

    Throughout this book, Friedman details his observations on just how efficient a free private enterprise exchange economy can be. The subjects touched upon are free-trade, the role of government in education, social welfare, fiscal policy and other still relevant topics.

    Milton Friedman’s economic philosophy of free-markets, free-trade, and capitalism naturally extends itself into a more piercing discourse of the philosophy of freedom. Of course, Friedman is an economist and he sees, feels, and analyzes freedom through the devices that the discipline provides him. Except for a few notable exceptions there have been very few economists in the 20th century (and into the 21st) that have been able to use these tools with such magnificent skill and insight as Milton Friedman.

  • PaulTheZombie
    18:45 on February 1st, 2012
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    Friedman gives some interesting counter-arguments on the welfare state and sometimes socialist economy that exists in the U.S. and why capitalism is the best system.

  • Ripel
    20:38 on February 1st, 2012
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    It is funny that the negative review came from a fellow Brazilian. As someone that lived there for 25 years, I can tell you that if the Brazilian people and its government understood the message of Friedman’s book the country would not be in the deplorable position it is (and it has ever been). It is not the corporations that will look over the people, it is the people who will look over themselves, and use the corporations to achieve their goals. The real problem is when government intervenes, and people think that is the right way to do things, since they are “entitle” to this and that. It is because of people like you, dear Brazilian, that the country is what it is.

  • TrafficWarden
    21:02 on February 1st, 2012
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    Overview / Review: Milton Friedman, like him or hate him, is an essential economic theorist to tackle if one is interested in that field or in theories of economic justice. Having a progressive bias, I disagree strongly with many Friedman’s theories. Having said that, for anyone interested in getting the essentials of his “liberal” (used in the older, more classic sense) economic views would do well to read this book. Friedman is opposed to state intervention in individual freedom, so many see Friedman as a modern counterpart to Adam Smith. Friedman advocates a free-market economy, with minimal taxation and government interference, because he believes the free market approach assures the greatest measure of freedom, justice, and overall affluence. Many modern conservatives have echoed the arguments he makes herein.
    Friedman is actually convincing in his review on a few counts – the abuse of licensure, the problems of tax loopholes, and the fact that there are frequent shortcomings of the well-intended social welfare state. Having said that, however, Friedman does seem unduly biased in favor of a society so individualistic it is therefore almost atomistic, with little to no social cohesion. Some of his arguments are more assertions and claims than full-blown arguments, and one wishes he had addressed major issues in more detail (perhaps he does elsewhere). The book’s virtue is that it is brief, but its weakness is also that its arguments are often too brief, and too compact. Karl Marx for example, has many faults in his theory that can be found, but Friedman too casually blows off Marx in about one page of analysis (Chapter 10, p. 167-8). Friedman’s argument for a very limited government, and against socialism/communism, would have been more convincing if he had devoted a full chapter to Marx for one, and more attention to other matters of social justice, inequality, and oppression.
    In a nutshell: this book encapsulates Friedman’s “liberal” or laissez-faire approach to a wide range of issues on economics, government, and capitalism. The free individual is given utmost importance, and government that governs best is that which governs (or interferes) least in his Friedman’s view. Not convincing from the standpoint of those interested in progressive social justice (Niebuhr’s views on selfishness and power are more cogent), but essential to read and analyze if one is interested in economics and ethics.

  • John Baxter
    23:57 on February 1st, 2012
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    I actually read “The Russians” waaaay back in the late ’70′s. I was a young woman in her 20′s. Obviously I was deeply touched by Hedrick Smith’s account of Communist Russia, or I wouldn’t be trolling the reviews of his book 30 years later. Although I am not a scholar of anything Russian — of anything for that matter — I recognized Smith’s book as a well-researched and very credible account of Russian life.

    The reason for Reagan’s quote as the title for my review? Because when Reagan was given such great press (still is) for his supposed influence in the fall of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War, I thought (back then) that Reagan had nothing to do with the collapse of the USSR — it was inevitable. Afterall, I had read “The Russians” and Hedrick Smith had all but foretold of it’s demise in his descriptions of Communist Russian society — not that he explicitly wrote that the Soviets would implode.

  • nedendir
    1:23 on February 2nd, 2012
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    A strong case for limited government and for reducing government’s place in a free market economy. Even though 50 years old, it remains timely and thought-provoking.

  • cjinsd
    7:58 on February 2nd, 2012
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    I cannot claim to be a student of Russian history, but I have always foudn the ironies and disconnects of Russian life interesting. I just read this book in 2004, and now understand today’s headlines from Russia, and their nostalgia for the order of the brutal regimes that preceded the fall of the Soviet Union. This is, as someone else said, a classic, a must read, a requirement for anyone who needs to understand Russia. Don’t worry about it being date; part of Russian culture is that they cling hopelessly to the old while being swept cruelly away by the new. The attitudes and longings portrayed in this book appear to still be the same.

  • PaulTheZombie
    9:06 on February 2nd, 2012
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    An all-time favorite of mine, Capitalism & Freedom creates a framework of classic liberalism and argues forcefully in favor of free-markets and decentralization over the expansion of government involvement in economic and social affairs. Friedman builds his argument from the ground up by identifying coercion as the State’s distinguishing feature over all other societal organizations. From the (classic) liberal’s perspective, this aspect shapes the relationship between citizen and government, and strictly limits the appropriateness of State involvement in society, particularly with regard to well-intentioned programs and policy.

    Friedman uses this foundation to build a case for limited government in economic matters, citing in particular the consequences of monetary and fiscal policy abuse. In an exceptionally apt comparison, Friedman argues that the same rationale that limits government interference with free speech should likewise apply to government interference in the economy: namely, that constraints be applied to monetary and fiscal policy to limit the potential for government to do harm in its pursuit of doing good. Friedman gives numerous examples in which government officials, exercising carte-blanche economic authority, have further aggravated economic crises by applying a case-by-case standardh to different economic scenarios.

    Having clearly laid out his political philosophy, Friedman builds his case for free-markets, detailing control measures intrinsic of a laissez-faire economy. From floating exchange rates to voucher-funded schooling, union contracts to charity, Friedman argues that the free-market harnesses the productive potential of millions of individuals and corporations, reconciling their preferences in a competitive process far more efficiently than any collective body. Throughout the book, Friedman debunks popular myths, disputes misunderstandings, and challenges the conventional wisdom prevalent among intellectuals and social elites of his day and ours.

    The book’s only drawback is its age and somewhat antiquated writing style that would certainly make it difficult for some readers to fully understand (particularly those who are victims of public school “education”). Friedman references several examples that would have been more easily recognized in the 1960s, but will not be immediately familiar to younger readers. Still, this brilliant work presents the core principles of laissez-faire capitalism and classic liberalism in a relatively clear manner, and is a must-read for anyone studying the dynamics of free-markets and free societies.

  • Ripel
    10:59 on February 2nd, 2012
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    “Capitalism and Freedom” is one of a series of books that Milton Friedman wrote with a more general audience in mind, as part of his battle against the pre-1980 economics consensus. Freidman was a believer in freedom, and to him, the free market was an essential part in ensuring that freedom. Today, his beliefs form the basis of most non-Marxist economic theory. Yet, when he wrote “Capitalism and Freedom”, the consensus view following World Wars and economic disasters was that government intervention in the economy was not only beneficial, but was necessary. The world had seemed too complex, to uncertain for anything other than a heavily taxed and heavily regulated economy. The only disagreement was over the level of government intervention – a Keynesian state, an economy heavily directed by a Galbreaithian “new class” or a Marxian economy where the role of the private sector was practically non-existent.

    Milton Friedman was one of a band of economists who challenged these views, not only in economics faculty lounges, but, more importantly, in the court of public opinion.

    While this book is well written and persuasive, it is not as relevant today as some of his other works. This book was written at a time of a very different economy. For example, the book spends much time discussing the effect of the gold standard on economics and trade, something which has no relevance today.

    In short, read the book for its historic value. If you want a Friedman book that is relevant for today, read “Free to Choose.”

  • Markoc
    13:27 on February 2nd, 2012
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    Hedrick Smith is a modern day Herodotus (sans the tall tale reputation). This is an honest and fascinating look at the reality of the Russian people and what it was really like to live under ‘Communism’. By having a first-hand view of the Russian people and the system, Americans can not only recognize how fortunate we are to live in a ‘democracy’; but also how alike we are in our human-ness. I am looking forward to ‘The New Russians’ by Mr. Smith.

  • John Baxter
    16:22 on February 2nd, 2012
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    Milton Friedman, now approaching 94 has for his entire lifetime been the vanguard of freedom in academia. “Capitalism and Freedom” dispels the so-called myths about capitalism that have become prevalent in society. The book was orignally writen in 1962 so that is the era in which his point are made. However, they are points that never go out of sytle. He refutes the lie that the free-market caused the depression (it was actually a tyrannical Federal Reserve), that socialism can be democratic, and others. Friedman discusses public education, roads, minimum wage laws (which he calls, “the most anti-black law on the books,”), as well as the how so-called “progressive” tax system and welfare actually hurt the poor.

    Please understand that Friedman is NOT a “right-wing” extremist as some knucklehead below states. He is a libertarian. He developed the idea of the negative income tax to help the poor. His ideas were to help people not hurt them with the free-market. Someone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  • nedendir
    17:48 on February 2nd, 2012
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    “Capitalism and Freedom”, the 2002 version, contains a brief preface for the 2002 edition, as well as the preface to the 1982 edition. On the subject of whether he would revise anything to his original work, Friedman said, with one exception, that he wouldn’t. There’s good reason for that.

    The book is written for a generalist audience (like me), and pulls back from the nuts and bolts of economic theory in order to provide a broad scope that makes sense in plain English. With broad subject matter such as “The Control of Money”, “Fiscal Policy”, and “The Role of Government in Education”, all of which average around 20 pages each in a 200 page book, the reader will not be in danger of getting bogged down in esoteric details.

    Some of the subject matter that Friedman speaks of in the present tense is only relevant in historical terms (such as the segment on the gold standard for monetary policy). Other chapters speak directly to current issues (such as his chapter on the virtues of school vouchers, or the chapter on social welfare measures).

    Because the book was written in the pre-Civil Rights Act era and makes no apologies for the least amount of government restraint on economic relationships, the book provides an insightful glimpse of what free-market conservatives believed before the political paradigm shift. Friedman takes the proper care to say he does not favor racial discrimination, but he also makes it clear that government intervention into such economic relationships doesn’t necessarily make things better.

    Friedman contributes a lot on the subject of monopolies, whether they be technical monopolies, private monopolies, or government monopolies, and which of them would be the least damaging under the circumstances. In the same vein as Adam Smith’s talk of the danger of private collusion, the danger of a private monopoly holding together is much less probable than a government monopoly or a technical monopoly.

    All in all, for someone looking for a primer on conservative economics, this relatively inexpensive book is a safe bet.

  • Dagmar Naguin
    4:07 on February 3rd, 2012
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    At a current time of cynicism towards Democracy, (especially within the U.S. , with its liberal left wing professors teaching our college students to criticize capitalism, instead of helping them to understand how ideally it functions in preserving our individual freedoms), this book is a brilliant reminder that if we veer towards Socialism, as the Democratic party always does, it will lead to less incentive and less personal freedom, to create ones own life and successes, rather than having the government (strangers) redistribute our wealth. If strangers in the government decide for us how to regulate our wealth (sound like China with the starving farmers, or Russia with an undeveloped economy, comrades?), then we are less free to do with it as we please, or to develop freely and invest it in our own interests. Hence, less freedom, more servitude to a centralized government.
    College students who are struggling to keep communist/socialist (left wing democrat) professors from turning them into weak, mindless,conformists and altruists, should read this book in their own spare time (as well as Ayn Rand) to continue to think for themselves and allow our system to reward and elevate those who do so, without taxing them more than those who do not.

  • Seano
    9:03 on February 3rd, 2012
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    Hendrick Smith is a New York Times correspondent that spent the years 1970-75 living in and among the Soviet people, studying both the people and the culture. As much as a westerner could he immersed himself in many aspects of their lives interviewing workers, peasants, government beaurocrats, physicists, writers, movie producers, dissidents and students. He came away with a picture of a passionate and conflicted people; at times warm and hospitible, fearful and paranoid, petty and tyrannical, cynical and apathetic, and proud and loyal. In a country where the state is in overwhelming control of nearly every aspect of their lives, where a stroke of the pen from a government beaurocrat could destroy a man’s life for the slightest misstep, the Russian are hardy souls that have found many ingenious ways to cope and survive.

    In a supposedly classless utopia Smith shows us a country deeply divided by class distinctions, much more so than anywhere in the west. With a haughtiness that rivals the most snobbish western aristocrat, the cultural elite enjoy a life that is completely out of reach of the common man. They get to shop at special stores, stocked to the gills with imported goods from all over the world (Soviet made items considered beneath them) while the rest of the country spends on average 22 hours a week per household standing in line for basic necessities. The blatant corruption and hypocrisy is startling, but don’t you dare voice it. Smith claims that just a few weeks of this type of living would wither away the will of your average American, and I believe him.

    Only a westerner living among the Soviet people could write such a book. He tells of his 11-year-old daughter, enrolled in a Soviet public school, coming home and practising military drills taught as a regular part of the curriculum, or repeating songs and slogans extolling the `Great Leninist State’ and condemning America without really comprehending the meaning of anything she’s saying. Soviets are taught from an early age to simply parrot the idealogical dogma that is fed to them on an almost daily basis without digging too deeply. The Russians are so used to being lied to by their own government that they assume all nations lie to their people, and the Soviet government uses this political cynicisim as an effective means of control.

    Although many of these `facts’ about life in the USSR are fairly common knowledge in America (especially if you grew up during the Reagan years), Smith puts a human face on it that transforms this grey, drab, and seemingly monotonous totalitarian state into a vivid and colorful mosaic of a sincere, intelligent and deeply conflicted people with a communal inferiority complex

  • Ripel
    10:56 on February 3rd, 2012
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    Milton Friedman is one fo the strongest proponents of freedom in society as the only way towards development (a concept later expanded by Amartya Sen). This book is not an economics textbook, since he does not spend much time on the basic concepts of economics such as price theory. He assumes a bit of knowledge and uses it to make the case for many different economic ideas ranging from macroeconomics (monetarism) to microeconomics (school vouchers).

    For a book that was written in the 60s, it is amazing how current his ideas remain. It is perhaps the most important book on the libertarian philosophy, focusing on preventing the accumulation of power by any individual or group of individuals in society.

    Overall, it is a great read for someone familiar with economics and social sciences, it will definitely expand your horizons of thought. However, if you are looking for an introduction to interesting eocnomic ideas, I would suggest you read Free to Choose, which Friedman wrote a dozen years later to reach a more general audience.

  • Markoc
    13:24 on February 3rd, 2012
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    This book is the first I had ever read by the late great economist Milton Friedman. I had first heard about him in an article by Ben Buranke I had to read for my economics class that had to do with monetary factors and the Great Depression. I had little idea that as I read more of what he wrote that he would have such a great impact on my way of thinking. It would be a stretch for me to see he changed my way of thinking. I have always been for free markets. However, I had always thought of capitalism as simply a means toward material prosperity while it was democratic political institutions and certain rights such as freedom of speech and of the press that were the sole means of measuring how free a society was.

    In this book, Friedman explains that while democracy and civil rights are necessary for a free society, they aren’t sufficient. This is especially true for the democracy part. He explains using many examples how capitalism is the best means available for achieving both material prosperity and human freedom.

    The most striking example from this book is the hollywood blacklist case. Here were people that were discriminated against by the government because they were communists yet it was the economic system they seeked to destroy that allowed them to find work and continue to live free. Communists also were able to publish their works since the publisher only cared about making profit. He then asks how someone favoring capitalism could have published their views given the state is dominant over every aspect of life in a communist country. The book has some flaws but these are corrected in his more mature work Free to Choose.

  • John Baxter
    16:18 on February 3rd, 2012
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    The author combines a deep understanding of the people in the Soviet Russia with an easy-going writing style.

    This book covers a multitude of experiences foreigners didn’t normally get to have in Soviet Russia. As an American journalist who speaks decent(?) Russian, Hendrick Smith both partakes in the Soviet Russia’s shiny facade created specifically for Western consumption, and engages into normal Soviet reality, that is, normal for Russian citizens. He and his family meet and befriend people in the true Russian friendships – where secrets are discussed, unorthodox ideas are shared, and yes, lots of vodka is consumed.

    And then there are reflections and comparisons and cleverly and generously supplied statistics from official Russian-approved sources and guesstimates by western researchers about the scale of things in Soviet Russia.

    This books discusses both Soviet and American propaganda of the 70s, but the story itself is fair and earnest and told by a kind and involved observer.

  • nedendir
    17:44 on February 3rd, 2012
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    Journalist Hendrick Smith spent several years in Russia and wrote what he observed and experienced. Readers see life under the Soviet system circa 1970′s. Soviet freedom meant working, speaking freely if you never criticized the government, and voting for the one candidate the Communist Government listed on the ballot – with Election Day a holiday and the government reminding you to vote. As the author shows, the Soviet government didn’t hide its suspicions; imagine needing an internal passport (listing your ethnicity) to travel within Russia. Of course, no travel was permitted outside Russia and perhaps its Warsaw Pact satellites. Readers also learn about centralized planning, shortages, inefficiencies, block housing, and long lines at the stores. In short, we get a revealing look at where communism tragically began in 1917, and would collapse less than two decades later. Perhaps most telling is when Mr. Smith recognized his ever-present tail from the secret police, and wordlessly handed the snoop an ice cream cone from a street vendor. Having visited East Germany and Communist China, I felt that stifling concern one feels when desiring to speak freely. In China, it was amusing to see our Chinese guide/interpreters, forbidden to speak openly of their nation’s politics, freely join our group debate about Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, and the U.S. Government.

    I gave this dated book just four stars because the author might have reduced his manuscript by some 50 pages. Still, this is a nicely revealing, still-relevant look at Soviet Russia.

  • Satish KC
    22:25 on February 3rd, 2012
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    The book starts out with the premise that economic freedom is a prerequisite to all other forms of freedom (civil, political). However, the bulk of the remaning text is a topic-by-topic accounting of how government intervention in various industries has been a poor choice. Unfortunately, Friedman doesn’t come back to the central theme often enough to tie it all together.

    It is still worth reading as a libertarian enconomic position statement, but it never develops it’s central idea as fully as I felt it could have done.

    Both Friedman’s “Free to Choose” and Hayek “Road to Serfdom” do a better job of explaing the ‘why’ behind the necessity of economic freedoms.

  • PaulTheZombie
    23:34 on February 3rd, 2012
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    Capitalism and Freedom is a classic work by Friedman. Many of his thoughts, from the mid-20th century, are still timely here in the early 21st. This book is a good read for capitalist and socialist alike. And although I enjoyed it, I would like to have seen better sourcing and references from this author. Yes, it’s an essay-type work, an extended think-piece, but because Friedman wrote this book in the late 1950s, when he wasn’t quite yet the economics superstar that he would later become, I think better support and references should have been provided by someone of his then-status.

  • Ripel
    1:27 on February 4th, 2012
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    I bought this book because I understood that Milton Friedman was a leader in (classical) liberal (meaning libertarian) economic thinking. Now I see why. Pure genius. This book appears to be written to the general public, although I must say that if are a complete stranger to economics certain parts of this book may confound you. I am a beginning student of economics, and only 2 paragraphs were out of my grasp. It’s true, some of this book was a little dry, but those sections were short. The scope of the book is surprisingly wide for it’s size (202 pages in this edition)-yet it’s level of detail is satisfying.

    Friedman’s arguments were compelling and well constructed.

    If you are a progressive, (modern) liberal, socialist, statist, marxist (or whatever else) and want to know what free-trade libertarians believe-this is to book for you.

    If you are an economic conservative or a libertarian (as I am) and you want to read a great book that will make you smile-this is the book for you.

    Overall a fantastic book.

  • Markoc
    3:54 on February 4th, 2012
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    Although he never uses the term, Milton Friedman would probably be considered a libertarian with his view of a very limited Federal government. The main responsibilities of the Fed would be establishment and enforcement of laws, resolving property rights and maintaining the monetary system. Mr. Friedman considers himself a defender of `classical’ liberalism which is essentially the liberalism of the 17th century that concerned itself with the distribution of power, protection of property rights and freedom of individuals.

    As the heir apparent to Fredrick A. Hayek, Mr. Friedman takes up the battle against socialism, central planning and the concentration of power. Unlike his predecessor, however, Milton Friedman is extremely specific about the changes he would like to see in the way the U.S. government governs. He would like to see the elimination of rent control, minimum wage, the FCC, Social Security, most business regulations, tariffs on imports, public housing and national parks. Friedman was also an early proponent of school vouchers. In fact he goes so far as to call for the complete `denationalization’ (privatization) of public education. The main thrust of Mr. Friedman’s argument is that when the government attempts to solve social problems through central planning it invariably causes more problems than it solves, restricts individual freedoms and consolidating power in central planners.

    There is an almost mystical reverence in this book for market forces and their ability, if left alone, to solve practically any social ill including racism. The problem is that Friedman presupposes that business will be forced to act in a rational and benevolent manner in order to maximize profits and survive in a competitive marketplace. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Businesses in the south were more than willing to forgo money offered by blacks. As a pro-business liberal Mr. Friedman sees regulations that force shops to hire blacks as unfair and damaging to those businesses that “[serve] a neighborhood inhabited by people who have a strong aversion to being waited on by a Negro clerk”. However, Mr. Friedman’s argument can be turned around as unfair and anti-capitalistic to blacks who offer their services and are denied based on race. This would apply to anyone barred from the marketplace, not just blacks.

    Milton Friedman is so pro-business that he advocates a complete elimination of corporate taxes. In his mind business owes nothing to society and even says, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities to increase its profits”. He then goes even further stating that, “Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible”. Not only does Friedman encourage unbridled greed he makes it the number one corporate responsibility in order to protect “free society”. Once a person accepts that the relentless pursuit of self interest is the best thing a person can do for society he or she can justify just about anything.

    One part of the book that seems particularly dated is Friedman’s claim that Capitalism reduces wealth disparity. In fact he holds up the United States as a model for wealth equality. If only this were true. He completely ignores the real and growing threat to freedom brought on by the concentration of wealth because he doesn’t see it as a problem. The average voting age citizen is welcome to vote for whichever party they choose at which point the parties in power will adjust policy to the needs of wealthy donors. The Bush administration has turned this it into an art form. Friedman also expresses concern that, “a large fraction of the public scrimps in their productive years to provide themselves with a higher standard of living in old age than they ever enjoyed in the prime of life”. Mr. Friedman should be pleased to know that 40+ years after the books publication a large percentage of American’s have more debt than assets.

  • John Baxter
    6:49 on February 4th, 2012
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    I liked his other books more. It has many of the downfalls of dry, boring academic writing. Also, Friedman makes rigidly-ideological attacks which, in retrospect, are clearly distorted and embarrassing, hurting his ideas.

    Milton Friedman’s best book for general readers is “Free to Choose: A Personal Statement.” He wrote this book late in his career and, mercifully, gets straight to his message is that book.

  • Karla Shelton
    12:11 on February 4th, 2012
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    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago, I have visited various parts of the former Soviet Union over a dozen times. What astonishes me about this book is that all that Smith reports so closely matches what I have seen and experienced on my visits to the Soviet empire. Though he wrote in the 1970s – long before the collapse of Communism – Smith has captured the essence of the country and its people in a way which is extremely readable and relevant today. It is the best book on Russia which I have read.

  • cjinsd
    18:46 on February 4th, 2012
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    Milton Friedman _Capitalism and Freedom_ presents an analysis of modern America (at least the America of 1960) against the values of classical liberalism. First he begins with an arguement that economic freedoms can’t be separated from other personal freedoms, such as speech or privacy. He than lays out the basic values of classical liberalism and proceeds to test the American experience in various areas of public policy against this principles. Of course he finds that the country has moved away from the path to freedom, as he sees it, and presents various routes to its return.

    For the most part I enjoyed the book but some areas, such as in fiscal and monetary problems, I had difficulty since I have no economics training. While Friedman’s arguements are interesting they are hardly groundbreaking. Anyone familar with the development of liberal thought will be able to anticipate his point of view. But it is refreshing to see these ideas held up to American public policy.

  • PaulTheZombie
    19:54 on February 4th, 2012
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    This is a new edition of Milton Friedman’s classic 1962 capitalist manifesto. As such, it was ignored, spurned and hated for decades by the intellectual, post-Keynesian establishment. In the 60s, Friedman once found himself debating a liberal who attacked him by simply reciting Friedman’s views of the proper role of government. This was working rather well with the audience of college students until he quoted Friedman’s opposition to the military draft. Friedman suddenly found himself awash in the unexpected cheers of students. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of his career. Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976, and his ideas gained some degree of mainstream acceptance in the Reagan years – although many of his thoughts remain controversial. To the extent that Friedman debunks myths about the Great Depression that are widely accepted as fact, perhaps he has a point about the semi-privatization of education. We strongly recommend this volume to those who seek a deeper understanding of government’s role in a free-market economy.

  • pop frame
    22:45 on February 4th, 2012
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    Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective about life, economics and individual responsibility. It’s a must for everyone, even if you are not a student of economics.

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