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Milton Friedman on Jobs

Libertarian Economist


Fair employment practices interfere with individual freedom

Fair employment practice commissions that have the task of preventing "discrimination" in employment by reason of race, color, or religion have been established in a number of states. Such legislation clearly involves interference with the freedom of individuals to enter into voluntary contracts with one another. It subjects any such contract to approval or disapproval by the state. Thus it is directly an interference with freedom of the kind that we would object to in most other contexts. Moreover, as is true with most other interferences with freedom, the individuals subjected to the law may well not be those whose actions even the proponents of the law wish to control.
Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p.111-115 , Nov 15, 1962

Free choice in employment should be treated like free speech

The counterparts to fair employment is "fair speech" rather than free speech. In this respect the position of the American Civil Liberties Union seems utterly contradictory. It favors both free speech and fair employment laws. One way to state the justification for free speech is that we do not believe that it is desirable that momentary majorities decide what at any moment shall be regarded as appropriate speech. Precisely the same considerations apply to employment. Is it any more desirable that momentary majorities decide what characteristics are relevant to employment? The ACLU will fight to the death to protect the right of a racist to preach racial segregation. But it will favor putting him in jail if he acts on his principles by refusing to hire a Negro for a particular job.

The appropriate recourse of those of us who believe that a particular criterion such as color is irrelevant is to persuade our fellow to be of like mind, not to use the coercive power of the state.

Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p.114-115 , Nov 15, 1962

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Page last updated: Mar 15, 2014