Arnold Kling

Milton Friedman, Hated Conservative

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Shortly before he died, Milton Friedman gave the Wall Street Journal an email interview.


China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.

Also, a friend lent me "The Power of Choice" on DVD. This is the new biography of Friedman, scheduled to air on PBS on Monday, January 29. Our local station, WETA, is showing it at 11 PM, which I guess tells you how thrilled they are about it.

The documentary's makers are putting together Milton Friedman Day on January 29th. There are events planned all around the country. Go to the web site to see what you might find in your area.

The film is nice. I have a few nits to pick. One is that it continues the "Commanding Heights" tradition of making it seem as though the central dispute between Keynes and Friedman was over the command economy vs. the market economy. But Keynes' solution to unemployment was not to nationalize the steel industry. It was to run a Budget deficit.

Another nit is that in talking about Friedman's contributions to economic research, the film talks about the permanent income hypothesis but not the natural-rate hypothesis (although the latter term is used by at least one person during the film). I think that the natural-rate hypothesis is the more dramatic example. Also, it had major policy impact. Finally, it provided a direct conflict with the conventional wisdom at the time, and the conventional wisdom clearly lost.

Where the film is strongest is in bringing out the supreme decency of Friedman's personality and philosophy, while reminding us just how hated he was. It is interesting to meditate on how someone's ideas and motives can be so distorted and attacked by political opponents.

When I come across an attack like Read This And See Why You Should Hate Conservatives, I realize that the basic psychology of the Left has not changed since Friedman's day.



COMMENTS (15 to date)
Nacim writes:

I just got a headache reading that DailyKos post. I have no idea how someone can so fully and utterly misunderstand and mischaracterize someone's ideas like I have just witnessed.

Vincent Clement writes:

I second Nacim's comment. This was nothing more than a rant from a biased and uninformed individual, who had nothing to offer in terms of alternatives or solutions. I feel like posting an article titled "Read This and See Why You Should Hate Ranters".

Brian writes:

I had no idea this film existed. I'll set my TIVO to record it-screw the 11pm showtime!!

mgroves writes:

I saw that it was a dailykos link and didn't even bother. Dissention, disagreement, and arguing are good things, but that site is just...

Urstoff writes:

The Daily Kos: you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Okay, so maybe that's hyperbole, but I'm simply astounded at not only how poor the poster seems to misunderstand pretty much everything he talked about, but also managed to be so angry about it. Anger like that isn't going to help anyone think well, and anger like that is only usually produced by people so sure of their position that they are immune to all criticism and rational thought.

Barkley Rosser writes:

When I first saw the title of this I thought it was going to say that Friedman hated the term "conservative," and that he preferred "classical liberal" (which I think he did), and that this would be like Hayek's famous essay, "Why I am not a Conservative" and Jim Buchanan's recent book, obviously following Hayek, entitled, _Why I am also not a Conservative." Instead we got some drivelly link to kos criticizing "conservatives." Duh.

Regarding the point about "command versus market economy," nationalization does not imply command, although they tend to be correlated. The UK engaged in widespread nationalization after WW II, but in contrast to Hayek's fears as stated in _The Road to Serfdom_, it did not become a command economy (although it had been one to a large extent during the war, as was the US economy, which engaged in no nationalizations). The categories of command capitalism and market socialism are meaningful categories and have existed, even if Janos Kornai has argued with some reason that the market socialism one is an unstable equilibrium.

Vincent Clement writes:

Urstoff: You dead on with your description of Daily Kos. I also agree that the anger in that rant was not very helpful. DWG rants about the free market, but seems to fail to realize that the internet would not be what it is today if it were not for the free market he apparently despises.

I have a son who has a number of special needs. It has been a three year battle with his public school to put in place a program/structure that meets his needs (not the needs of the teacher, educational assistants and any other staff). With the proper structure in place, our son is having the most successful school year to-date. It shouldn't have taken three years (and three principals) though.

I don't think we would be getting that kind of service if funding followed the student. DWG's solution would likely be to 'throw' more money at public education. That is no solution when the current system is inefficient, unresponsive to students needs and unaccountable to students and parents.

Cliff writes:

Among other things, the DailyKos piece commits a common enough bit of fallacious reasoning:

'I believe in policy X'
'My motivation for policy X is Y'
'You don't believe in policy X'
'Therefore your motivation is the opposite of Y'

And since motivation says more about character than a specific policy position, and 'my' motivation is of course good, the conclusion becomes 'your character is evil or hateable because your motivation is evil'.

Where, in this logic, remains any space for rational debate?

Dr. T writes:

I reread the original article and then read the rebuttal by Daily Kos. The Daily Kos article reads like a parody or an example of how not to write a well-argued rebuttal. It's bad enough that Mr. Kos openly hates conservatives, but he earns my enmity when he completely distorts and misrepresents conservatives' opinions to convince others to hate them.

John Pertz writes:

Has anyone ever paid attention to the Left's rhetorical strategy against the "FREE MARKET?" Many naive and well respected opinion makers on the Left constantly use the phrase "Free Market" to argue that so much of the world's problem are caused by this phrase. When in reality, the use of the phrase has absolutely no tangible meaning seeing as a "FREE MARKET" exists nowhere in the world or ever has at any point in human history. It is a rather clever debate tactic that is used to obfuscate the reader or listener, who has limited information on the issue being discussed.

The Right too has useless drivle of an earily similar nature to the KOS link. This kind of self assured hatred of the other side is so common amongst political people. I dont see much of a difference between that garbage and the bile spewing forth on right wing radio. BTW, I thought the Left was really into the whole "DEMOCRACY" thing whereby everyone has a voice and their opinion is recognized with at least a smidgen of respect?

Curt Gardner writes:

I just think it takes either balls or stupidity (or both) to title a post about how you 'should hate' some people and then talk about compassion!

Ajay writes:

I'm not sure why Arnold chose to link to some no-name blogger who happens to be hosted on dailykos. Others who have commented have misunderstood who he is, dailykos basically lets anybody sign up on their site and start a blog. Most of this material is ignored, as it should be, but the people who run the site occasionally pick some contributions and put them on the front page. Again, this guy has nothing to do with the kos of dailykos. There exist impassioned idiots like this guy on both sides of the debate. Arnold may have had his feelings hurt by this guy's venom but it does not help anyone to highlight such riffraff. A great irony of his writing is that he repeatedly accuses Arnold of lying and then lies constantly himself, or perhaps more accurately repeatedly makes definitive statements of what he thinks should be the truth while remaining utterly ignorant of the actual statistics. This is why he cannot supply any statistics to back up his points. While his attitudes about conservatives, markets, and poverty may be indicative of a more general attitude on the left, his post is more indicative of ignorant babbling than anything else. For that, we can find plenty on the right and left.

Barkley Rosser writes:

One thing to keep in mind about kos is that he is a former Republican. Never underestimate the ferocity of the convert.

Scott Scheule writes:

That's the first time I've read DailyKos. What amazing rancor.

I cling to the hope that shallow insults and vilification will not change minds.

Scott Scheule writes:

Ajay,

Thank you, I did not understand the Kos layout.

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