Okay. I figured I was going to have to explain my deliberately provocative remark.
The productivity of labor has been rising steadily for millennia, both as a consequence of the invention of laborsaving devices (such as the saw, the hammer, the shovel, the spinning Jenny, the power loom, the wheel, the cart, the automobile, locomotive, and so forth) and as a consequence of the increased skill of workers. But in the capitalist system that Friedman celebrates and thinks of as the apotheosis of human development, the lion’s share of the benefits of this increase in productivity goes to the legal owner of capital in the form of profit. So it is that although productivity in the United States has risen by 400% since the 1950s, working men and women – or at least those of them who can find jobs – still work 40 hours a week or more, many of them compelled to take several jobs simply to pay for a decent life.
Suppose an automobile production plant in which 1000 employees work is automated, so that more cars can be turned out with only 200 employees. Any rational capitalist will invest in the automated machinery, dramatically reduce the workforce, and pocket the increased profits, while the lucky 200 who get to keep their jobs are trained on the new machinery and continue to work 40 hours a week. An alternative way of responding to the automation would of course be to divide the workers into five shifts, each of which would work two weeks on and six weeks off (very much like the workload of professors at elite private universities, but never mind that.)
Friedman cannot really imagine a world organized to benefit the workers rather than the capitalists so he makes jokes. Obviously, the rational solution would be to hire all of the men whose labor would be required to dig using shovels, then invest in steam shovels, and reduce the number of hours each man is required to work by 80 or 90% while keeping their wages unchanged.
No, Milton Friedman was not stupid, at least as intelligence is ordinarily measured in our society. He was quite quick-witted. Nor was he ignorant, at least he was not ignorant of the things one was required to know in order to become a professor of economics at a great private university. Quite the contrary. Was he cruel? I do not know. Did he have a dog? Was he nice to the dog?