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An Interesting Statement by Milton Friedman

June 10, 2015

It is summer, and I am working on my third book, this one on school choice (e.g., vouchers, charter schools). (For those who might be concerned that I do not know how enjoy summer, I also lounge in the pool almost daily and intentionally schedule visits with friends so that I do not become a crazy, book-writing hermit crab.)

The late economist Milton Friedman is considered to be the “father of school choice,” and so, I am including information on Friedman my school choice book.

While working on my chapter on Friedman, I came across a 1995 interview that Friedman did with Reason magazine senior editor Brian Doherty.

In that interview, Friedman offers the following advice to those who would work in economic policy. However, his words take on fresh meaning in our current atmosphere in which those influencing educational policy are financially dependent upon wealthy individuals and organizations with clear education-privatization agendas:

Throughout my career, I spent most of my time on technical economics. This policy stuff has been a strict avocation. If you really want to engage in policy activity, don’t make that your vocation. Make it your avocation. Get a job. Get a secure base of income. Otherwise, you’re going to get corrupted and destroyed. How are you going to get support? You’re only going to get support from people who are ideologically motivated. And you’re not going to be as free as you think you’re going to be.

There you have it: The plight of the handsomely-paid, education-privatizing minion who might protest the above statement but who in reality cannot publicly veer from the ideology of his or her funding source.

There is no free thought (and no resulting free action) when someone advocating a particular stance is paying another to advocate that stance.

Yes, the puppeted might express their doubts privately– but to do so publicly would bring the ideological gravy train supporting them to an inevitable end.

And for most in corporate reform, the gravy is everything.




Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

both books

From → Charters, Ethics, Vouchers

  1. He who pats the piper calls the tune. It has ever been thus.

  2. Jon Lubar permalink

    If you want more on the disingenuous corruptness of Friedman that points out the pathetic hypocrisy of his above quoted statement, then look into the Buchanan Hearings where Friedman was raked across the coals for his complicity in manufacturing Libertarianism at the behest of what was then called “big business”.

  3. When Friedman says policy wonks (like me, and most of us) should get a job first to support our “avocation,” I assume he did not think teaching and educating is a real job since it generally pays so little. He (and Ayn Rand and her acolytes) could not conceive of anyone dedicated enough to choose teaching and writing about Public Policy for a minimal cash payout, to be as worthy as the Bonfire of the Vanities Wall Street bunch who will lie, steal, and manipulate, to their own greed-motivated advantage. Yes…guess that is the libertarian philosophy.

  4. Joyce Reynolds-Ward permalink

    Friedman and his son David are/were strong advocates of “unschooling.” Just a FYI.

  5. Excellent! I look forword to reviewing it, as I did — quite favorably — your last one. Edd Doerr (

  6. Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    fresh and intriguing but also unsettling insights into (architect of neoliberalism and godfather of Shock Doctine) Milton Friedman on policy economics… could he have been describing his own relationships within the corridors of power?

  7. I’ll be especially interested to see your conclusions on this topic. I think it may be the way of the future, given Common Core.

  8. On February 5, 2015 the right-wing American Enterprise Institute had a conference with panels called “Is the ‘new” education philosophy good for schools? Examining foundation-funded school reform”.

    I have a post on my blog about the conference.

    I concluded my post:

    “Moderator Frederick Hess at the end of panel one made an off the cuff comment (at 51:00 in the video) which summed up the bottom line for these people.:

    “They (venture philanthropists) may not be as powerful as they think they are in terms of shaping what happens in the nation’s schools and classrooms, but they’re very powerful in terms of us being able to feed our families and being able to do the research and analysis we like to do.”

    In other words, there is no real passion, no real belief in what they are doing; they are looking at spreadsheets and each others position papers….and they are just in it for the big bucks.”

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