(From my comments to a Vice Chancellor’s lunch in Perth, March 7 2019)
“Today, our Mannkal Foundation’s team values greatly this opportunity to being part of a joint venture between business and academia.
When I group academia together with business people, I remember the wise comments from Professor Milton Friedman from the 1980s. He said;
“You must separate out being pro free enterprise from being pro business. The two greatest enemies of the free enterprise system, in my opinion, have been, on the one hand my fellow intellectuals and on the other hand, the big businessmen – for opposite reasons.”
Milton Friedman went on to explain that we are all in favour of freedom for ourselves but opposed to freedom for everybody else.
From academia it is freedom with respect to research projects and they use academic independence as a ‘tariff barrier’ but when it comes to the rest of the community, academics are generally in favour of government committees telling us how many service stations, or whatever, there should be in each suburb and so-on.
Similarly, with business people. Generally, you can’t get a business person onto a podium who doesn’t utter some generalisations about the desirability of the free enterprise system but when it comes to their own business that is something else, particularly when it comes to the taxi industry, the number of liquor shops or the number of airlines, etc.
Most of us, by nature, seek to operate from a ‘sheltered workshop’, free from the disciplines of competition. It has always been so and will always be so.
Friedman also despaired of businessmen ever becoming exponents of the free market, as they rarely match the intellectuals of the Left. He scoffed at the dozens of chairs in ‘Free Enterprise Studies’ endowed by well-meaning millionaires. “They are routinely captured by opponents of markets.”
Both sides of our joint venture partnerships, academics and business people, should be mindful of all this, when we join forces.
With mutual and honest acceptance of these idiosyncratic, lovable and minor ‘character defects’ on both sides, we can achieve much together, and I’m sure that we all agree; there is much to be achieved.
Our Mannkal Foundation welcomes the opportunity to play our small part and work along with you in this challenge.
Thank you for being with us today.”