OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy



Thursday, November 16, 2006 :::
 

R.I.P. Milton Friedman

One of the most influential economists and thinkers of the 20th century has died. And while it's natural for people to believe he was just another apostle of the free market (which is undeniably true), there was more to "Uncle Milty" than supply and demand:

Mr. Friedman had enormous impact on economic policy though he never had a formal job in a government administration after World War Two. His opposition helped lead to the end of the draft. He was an adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He has been closely associated with school vouchers and other applications of free market principles to policy issues.

On a personal note, many years ago, Friedman critiqued a paper I wrote on drug policy. He was complimentary and scathing at the same time (interesting and well written, but too much on the theory and not enough on the human cost of the drug war -- I learned the lesson well).

We shall not see his like again.

More Food for Thought

As expected, the posts on Friedman are mounting quickly and some of them are though provoking indeed. Like this open letter from Friedman to then Drug Czar Bill Bennett:

In Oliver Cromwell's eloquent words, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

Or this snippet of a Friedman interview from 2005 on the War:

“War is a friend of the state,” Friedman said. It is always expensive, requiring higher taxes, and, “In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do.”

And on a former hobby-horse of mine, term limits:

I have no magic formula for changing the self-interest of bureaucrats and members of Congress. Constitutional amendments to limit taxes and spending, to rule out monetary manipulation, and to inhibit market distortions would be fine, but we're not going to get them. The only viable thing on the national horizon is the term-limits movement. A six-year term limit for representatives would not change their basic nature, but it would change drastically the kinds of people who would seek election to Congress and the incentives under which they would operate. I believe that those of us who are interested in trying to reverse the allocation of our resources, to shift more and more to the private markets and less and less to the government market, must disabuse ourselves of the notion that all we need to do is elect the right people. At one point we thought electing the right president would do it. We did and it didn't. We have to turn our attention to changing the incentives under which people operate. The movement for term limits is one way of doing that; it's an excellent idea, and it's making real progress. There have to be other movements as well.

There are and will be, thanks in no small part to Milton Friedman.



::: posted by Norman Leahy at 11/16/2006 1 comments





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"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

"Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese!" -- Montgomery Burns

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