Sunday, November 19, 2006

3187 How Milton Friedman would cut down on government waste

Milton Friedman, Nobel prize winner in Economics, and an advisor of President Reagan, died last week at 94. In a 1999 interview at the Hoover Institution, he was questioned about the 14 cabinet positions and departments and which ones he'd keep:


ROBINSON I have a list here of the 14 cabinet departments, now 14 is a lot for television so I want to just to go right down the list quickly and have you give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, keep them or abolish them? Department of Agriculture?


ROBINSON Gone. Department of Commerce?


ROBINSON Gone. Department of Defense?


ROBINSON Keep it? Department of Education?


ROBINSON Gone. Energy?

FRIEDMAN Abolish. Except that energy ties in with military.

ROBINSON Well then we shove it under defense, the little bit that handles the nuclear, plutonium and so forth goes under Defense but we abolish the rest of it. Health and Human Services?

FRIEDMAN There is room for some public health activities to prevent contagion, such a thing as for example..

ROBINSON So you keep the National Institute of Health say and Center for Disease Control..

FRIEDMAN No, no, no those are mostly research agencies.. .No, no that's a question of whether the government should be involved in financing research.

ROBINSON And the answer is no?

FRIEDMAN Well that's a very complicated issue and it's not an easy answer with respect to that.

ROBINSON We'll eliminate half of the Department of Health and Human Services?

FRIEDMAN Yes, something like that..

ROBINSON OK one half. Housing and Urban Development?


ROBINSON Didn't even pause over that one..Department of the Interior?

FRIEDMAN Oh, but Housing and Urban Development has done a enormous amount of harm. My God, if you think of the way in which they've destroyed parts of cities under the rubric of eliminating slums. You remember Martin Anderson wrote a book on the federal bulldozer describing the effect of the urban development. There've been many more dwelling units torn down in the name of public housing than have been built.

ROBINSON Jack Kemp has proposed selling to the current inhabitants of public housing their unit- their townhouse, their apartment for a dollar apiece and just shifting the ownership to the people who live..

FRIEDMAN If you got rid of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would be worth doing that.

ROBINSON Alright, done. That's gone. Department of the Interior, your beloved national park service?

FRIEDMAN Well, given the problem there is you first have to sell off all the land that the government owns but that's what you should do.. [ROBINSON But it could be done pretty quickly..] It could be done, you should do that, there's no reason for the government to own...the government now owns something like 1/3 of all the land in the country.

ROBINSON And that's too much, should go down to zero.

FRIEDMAN Should go down, well not entirely zero. They ought to own the land on which government buildings are on.

ROBINSON Ok, terrific. Department of Justice?

FRIEDMAN Oh yes, keep that one.



ROBINSON Gone. State?


ROBINSON Keep it. Transportation?


ROBINSON Gone. The Treasury?

FRIEDMAN You have to keep it to collect taxes.

ROBINSON Alright collect taxes through the Treasury. Veteran's Affairs?

FRIEDMAN You can regard the Veteran Affairs as a way of paying essentially salaries for services of those who've been in the armed forces but you ought to be able to get rid of it. [ROBINSON Pay it off?] Pay it off.

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