A: I’d say no. Although we do have something of a spectrum of countries … we have everything from North Korea to Cuba to other countries — that have strong government controls over almost everything — to countries that are far freer, such as the United States, Hong Kong and some European countries. But even the freest countries have far more government control than the society described in my book. Although it is interesting when you look at these indexes of economic freedom that the countries that are the freest tend to be the more prosperous, [and] the countries that are the least free tend to be the poorest.
Q: In “Free America” you paint the media as an insignificant institution. Who would keep a watchful eye on the private organizations?
A: There would be media that would give people information about the choices they face in the marketplace. If you look at any newspaper, most of the stories have to do with politics [and] government. But without government and without politics, the role of the media would be dramatically different.
Q: How did your time at the Federal Reserve influence the way in which you wrote this book?
A: It influenced it a lot. Not because I’m an anti-Fed person— I’m not. I really enjoyed my time at the Fed, and the people I worked with were brilliant people, all well-meaning people. The problem [with the Fed] is that it has somewhat of an impossible job. It’s supposed to be the central planner for our monetary system, and we’ve learned over the past several decades that central planning doesn’t work very well — that markets work better. If we had competitive money supply, I think that would be much better than having a monopoly in the Federal Reserve. But, given all that, I think they do a remarkable job of managing that monopoly. I just think that markets would do a better job.
Q: Which department would you eliminate first?
A: Probably the usual ones that come up — the Department of Education can be handled by states and local governments or private schools, which would be even better. The Department of Commerce, a lot of what they do could be done by private markets. These things are small. The real money is in the entitlement programs, and those must be reformed or we’re in very, very serious trouble.