Both David Boaz and Bryan Caplan recently sent a link to a YouTube audio recording of a talk that Milton Friedman gave in the early 1990s. After his talk came a back and forth between Milton, moderator David Boaz, Hannes Gissurarson, Sally Pipes, and me.

Milton was his usual cogent and clear self, surveying the landscape and focusing on ways that government messed things up in area after area.

I won’t bother giving play by play but I will highlight a few things with a rough estimate of where they appear in the 1 hour and 19 minute audio.

There is an interesting discussion starting at 38:00 about the low quality of programming on TV, with me advising Hannes to get cable and Milton pointing out that the FCC had banned pay TV for years. It reminded me of my first major trip in United States when my friend Clancy Smith and I hitchhiked and took buses from Rockford, IL to Philadelphia and then went on to New York. In the midwest, we saw ads on movie theatre marquee saying “Stop Pay TV.” In New York, as Clancy noted, it was slightly more subtle: “Save Free TV.”

Good discussion of medical care at around 47:00.

At the 58:00 point, Milton says, “No one believes in majority rule as a general principle.” He makes his case well with his 60/40 example.

At the 59:38 point, in a discussion of how you get change that undercuts special interest legislation, David Boaz says, “Mancur Olson’s book The Rise and Decline of Nations made it look like you have to lose a war.”

Interesting discussion around the 1:03:00 point about whether Milton is right that changing the personnel in government doesn’t work. David Boaz gives the Alfred Kahn counterexample.

One argument Milton uses a couple of times in his talk and in the discussion has less force than it used to: he objects to taxing poor and low-income people to help middle- and higher-income people. Given the way the federal tax system has evolved, poor people pay no income tax and even lower-income people pay little or no income tax. It’s a little different at the state level.

Note: The picture in the featured image is from that day. Milton is at the head of the table, Hannes and David Boaz are on the left, with Hannes closest to Milton, and I’m on the right. I assume it was Sally who took the picture. In those days, I don’t think we had timers on cameras and, even if we did, no one had bought a tripod.