Milton Friedman did not write Capitalism and Freedom as an economist. He elaborated Hayek’s claim, that Socialism would lead to Communism and Nazism, into a Bibliolatrous theology based on a farrago of supposition, as I will illustrate. Mainly he supposed, and conjectured, and presumed, and thought it reasonable, that anything the government does seems to be a threat to Freedom, by which he mainly meant explicitly Laissez Faire Capitalism for the rich, and only sometimes anything for the rest of us.
And then he assiduously preached his new economic Genesis Gospel across the country, attracting a huge following for whom those suppositions became Articles of Faith, needing no evidence. Many converts were, in fact, the sorts of Biblical Creationist Evangelicals/Southern segregationists whom Nixon and then Reagan assiduously courted for the Southern Strategy and Voodoo Economics.
One of the most important economic consequences of all this is that Rs have sold themselves a bill of goods called Starve the Beast, with roots going back centuries to enslaving Native Americans and Africans, and forward to Red states being the poorest and most benighted in the country. It is a deal to give the richest people and corporations unconscionable tax cuts in order to bust the budget, so that Republicans could hypocritically shed crocodile tears over those deficits, blame them on Democrat Librul “spending”, and try to force cuts to social programs. With the result that everything worthwhile gets cut in the states they control.
Poker players say if you don’t know who the chump at the table is, it’s you. But these people glory in playing themselves for chumps.
The Republican Starve the Beast program was named under Reagan, as an extension of Voodoo Reaganomics, and handed over to Grover Norquist to propagandize further. But it started among Republicans with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, helped along by Milton Friedman’s delusions of adequacy. Then the Devil Incarnate in this cult, George Soros, and several others, named it Market Fundamentalism in the 1990s.
Friedman started out as a very good, indeed Nobel-Prize-winning technical economist (see Further Reading, below), but turned unwittingly to the Dark Side, as we have seen Constitutional lawyers Jonathan Turley and Alan Dershowitz do more recently.
Friedman claimed to be a Classical Liberal, in the mode of the Free Market Whigs. They took up Adam Smith’s attack on protectionist tariffs, especially on corn (Britspeak; wheat in the US), with great effect. Unfortunately they became doctrinaire, in defense against their Conservative Mercantilist opponents, and refused to provide any government aid to Ireland in the potato famine.
This has nothing to do with the current meaning of “Liberal” in the US, of course. I will call Friedmanism by a more suitable name, Libertarianism.
One who holds that anyone of any importance can do anything
that does not harm anyone who matters, in any way that we
And then we can be Libruls, because we wear all of their insults as badges of honor, like Dark Brandon and Bidenomics. And as usual, whatever they scream and carry on about, we can do more of it.
A Tip-of-the-Tongue Taste of Supposition
I didn’t have to look hard in the book PDF to find these.
- If economic power is joined to political power, concentration seems almost inevitable.
- I do not have the detailed knowledge of educational history that would be required to answer this question definitively. A few conjectures may nonetheless be useful…
- …we should not be so naïve as to suppose that deep-seated values and beliefs can be uprooted in short measure by law. (True. The evidence is that it takes generations, and is now working on the children of the Deplorables.)
- I am taking it for granted that the minimum requirements imposed on schools in order that vouchers be usable do not include whether the school is segregated or not.
- …it seems to me desirable to state the rule in terms of the behavior of the stock of money. My choice at the moment would be a legislated rule instructing the monetary authority to achieve a specified rate of growth in the stock of money.
- …the undeniable truth that State help kills self-help.
- I am led to the view that it cannot in and of itself be regarded as an ethical principle; that it must be regarded as instrumental or a corollary of some other principle such as freedom.
- …there is great danger that the scheme would turn into a political football.
- a presumption or prejudice in favor of individual liberty, that is, of laissez-faire.
- It is clear...I believe...Naturally,…of course...
AKA heresies to his acolytes.
- Universal Basic Income/Negative Income Tax
One way to achieve this result is for government to engage in equity investment in human beings.
Bidenomics in a nutshell. Let’s do it.
Friedman sold Nixon on the plan as a way to get rid of other social programs. Rs ignored it in droves.
- “There have been some exceptions. The expressways crisscrossing the country, magnificent dams spanning great rivers, orbiting satellites are all tributes to the capacity of government to command great resources. The school system, with all its defects and problems, with all the possibility of improvement through bringing into more effective play the forces of the market, has widened the opportunities available to American youth and contributed to the extension of freedom. It is a testament to the public-spirited efforts of the many tens of thousands who have served on local school boards and to the willingness of the public to bear heavy taxes for what they regarded as a public purpose. The Sherman antitrust laws, with all their problems of detailed administration, have by their very existence fostered competition. Public health measures have contributed to the reduction of infectious disease. Assistance measures have relieved suffering and distress. Local authorities have often provided facilities essential to the life of communities. Law and order have been maintained.”
Yes, yes, but what else have the Romans done for us?
Monty Python, Life of Brian
- Volunteer military.
- Opposition to the War on Druggies [sic; my name, not Friedman’s], which Nixon’s people later admitted was founded on lies.
- “…the best way to [deal with pollution] is to impose a tax on the cost of the pollutants.”
I will not refute these laughable fantasies here in detail. Real economists have falsified each of them with evidence rather than supposition. Krugman and Reich do so all the time, including on Twitter/X.
You can ask Google and Wikipedia and various economics Web sites for the pros and cons of any of them.
- “As it developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the intellectual movement that went under the name of liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society. It supported laissez faire at home as a means of reducing the role of the state in economic affairs and thereby enlarging the role of the individual; it supported free trade abroad as a means of linking the nations of the world
together peacefully and democratically.”
- “Those of us who were deeply concerned about the danger to freedom and prosperity from the growth of government, from the triumph of welfare-state and Keynesian ideas, were a small beleaguered minority regarded as eccentrics by the great majority of our fellow intellectuals.”
- All government intervention in markets threatens essential freedoms. Hence Reagan:
Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.
- “By relying primarily on voluntary co-operation and private enterprise, in both economic and other activities, we can insure that the private sector is a check on the powers of the governmental sector and an effective protection of freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought.”
- Keynesian Monetary Policy—Economic mythology.
- "democratic socialism"—A plan “to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements.”
- Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. It cannot be caused by rising commodity costs or rising wages.
- The Fed caused the Great Depression. It was not caused by the 1929 market crash.
- Regulation is necessarily corrupt.
- The government should support education, but not control it—thus vouchers for all.
- “…the highly graduated income tax constitutes a serious impediment to the efficient use of our resources… “
- Flat tax at 23.5%.
- No government income redistribution via graduated taxes.
- Social Security violates the freedom of workers, who should be able to invest their own money as they please.
- “There is no way to justify our present public monopoly of the post office.”
- Corporate charitable contributions should not be deductible. They are an imposition on shareholders, who have a right to pure profit.
Friedman did not say here that profit is the only ethical concern of corporations, and that corporations can do no wrong. But his acolytes do, including Supreme Court Justices.
- Friedman, Milton (1968). The Role of Monetary Policy. pp. 215–231. ISBN 978-0333594520. Argues that there is a natural rate of unemployment, and going below that rate necessarily produces inflation.
- A Theory of the Consumption Function (1957) ISBN 1614278121.
- A Program for Monetary Stability (Fordham University Press, 1960) 110 pp. online version ISBN 0823203719
- Capitalism and Freedom (1962), highly influential series of essays that established Friedman's position on major issues of public policy (excerpts)
- A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960, with Anna J. Schwartz, 1963; part 3 reprinted as The Great Contraction
- "The Role of Monetary Policy", American Economic Review, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Mar. 1968), pp. 1–17 JSTOR presidential address to American Economics Association
- "Inflation and Unemployment: Nobel Lecture", 1977, Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 85, pp. 451–472. JSTOR
- Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, with Rose Friedman, (1980), highly influential restatement of policy views
- The Essence of Friedman, essays edited by Kurt R. Leube, (1987) (ISBN 0817986626)
- Two Lucky People: Memoirs (with Rose Friedman) ISBN 0226264149 (1998) excerpt and text search
- Milton Friedman on Economics: Selected Papers by Milton Friedman, edited by Gary S. Becker (2008)
- Milton Friedman (1991). The War on Drugs. America's Drug Forum. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- Wood, John Cunningham, and Ronald N. Wood, ed. (1990), Milton Friedman: Critical Assessments, v. 3. Routledge.
- Jones, Daniel Stedman. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (2nd ed. 2014)