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Milton Friedman dies at 94
November 16, 2006 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Milton Friedman has died. One of the most famous economists to come out of the Chicago school, his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom was a straightforward challenge to the predominant Keynesian model that government intervention was frequently necessary to prevent market failures, arguing instead that the way to true political freedom was through economic freedom. He was a devout monetarist and although conventional wisdom conflates conservatism with laissez-faire economics, he described his own philosophy as liberal in the Enlightenment sense of the word. His 1980 book Free to Choose, written with his wife Rose in conjunction with the PBS series of the same name, explained in layman's term his philosophy of how a truly free market works for the benefit of society.
posted by Doofus Magoo (123 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by orthogonality at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2006


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posted by Schlimmbesserung at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2006


Straight to hell.
posted by docgonzo at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


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posted by gyc at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2006


Bye bye Milton. 94! Not bad.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2006


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A fine post, Mr. Magoo.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:18 AM on November 16, 2006


WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:18 AM on November 16, 2006


Mr. Friedman, I'm wasn't a fan, but salute you nonetheless... looks like you've finally reached Pareto optimality.
posted by spiderwire at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2006


I nnever cottoned too much to Professor Friedman, myself, but thinking about him does remind me of the days when we used to have honest arguments with conservatives, instead of the infantile name calling we have today.
posted by psmealey at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


The progressive reduction in social mobility within the United States over the past few decades relative to northern European countries indicates that laissez-faire capitalism is less effective in empowering a modern democratic society than a society with effective social safety nets. It's difficult to value "freedom" if you're poor, and you have in increasing suspicion that your children will also be poor.

The experience of China, where a huge body of people seems to have given their assent to substitute autarchy for democracy in return for material advancement, also presents a problem for a theory that economic freedom delivers political freedom.
posted by meehawl at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2006


*I wasn't a fan / I'm not a fan... couldn't decide on the tense. Milton, at least you were a better writer than I, that's for damn sure. Proof that eloquence can change the world, if nothing else.
posted by spiderwire at 11:21 AM on November 16, 2006


Straight to hell.

Hell is Keynesian.
posted by three blind mice at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2006


I thought hell was Hobbesian...
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on November 16, 2006


What's up with MeFi today? Begrudgingly positive comments about Bill Buckley and Milton Friedman? Crazy stuff.

Well, disagreable or not Friedman deserves every ounce of respect thrown his way. Even lefties can celebrate the fact that he was instrumental in ending the draft.
posted by Heminator at 11:27 AM on November 16, 2006


Well, disagreable or not Friedman deserves every ounce of respect thrown his way. Even lefties can celebrate the fact that he was instrumental in ending the draft.

Yeah who the fuck needs a draft when you have enough poor people without a chance to earn a living wage who have the military as their best opportunity?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 11:33 AM on November 16, 2006 [3 favorites]


"everybody knows the dice are loaded"

Any idea that economic laissez-faire policies are either fair or helpful to everyone is just fantasy, and ignores real social disparities. Wealth implies that someone else is impoverished. Friedman was not just wrong. His philosophy was dangerous and morally bankrupt.
posted by geekhorde at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2006


Hell is Keynesian.

Rather, Keynesian policies tend to make things hellish.

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posted by sonofsamiam at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2006


Oh and Meehawl, the assumption that there is less social mobility in the U.S. relative to northern Europe is HIGHLY debatable bordering on WTF? Though, I have no desire to argue with you in this thread, I wouldn't assume that as a fact, let alone use it to denigrate the legacy of someone who understood economics far better than you or I.
posted by Heminator at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2006


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He had a cool license plate: MV = PQ. (Site doesn't load sometimes).

Anyone able to point me to lectures of his?

This is a good page, for agg'd info. He's the economist with strong views of the war on drugs, btw...
posted by rider at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2006


The experience of China, where a huge body of people seems to have given their assent to substitute autarchy for democracy in return for material advancement, also presents a problem for a theory that economic freedom delivers political freedom.

I wonder. If we can agree that the system (the global economy) tends toward equilibrium, I almost think that you have to throw the examples of both the US and China out, at least in the here an now. Both countries are benefiting(temporarily) from short term imbalances. The US from a mounting levels of debt to fund its growth, and China from its artificially depressed currency valuation. Neither of these conditions is sustainable in the long term.
posted by psmealey at 11:41 AM on November 16, 2006


I always felt that the conflict over laissez faire economics, and generally the notion that political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom, was rooted in the conflation of the individual's interests vs. society's. Societies interest lies in limiting the number of poor and improving quality of life of the poor. The individuals interest lies in having competiting supplies of labor with the attendant lower prices to pursue his economic goals.

In reality however, everything is fungible but wisdom.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2006


the surviving freemarketers in the Pinochet junta he so enthusiastically embraced are definitely mourning today.


ending the draft

a terrible idea, by the way.
posted by matteo at 11:43 AM on November 16, 2006


#: "Hell is Keynesian."

Hell is other economists.
posted by infidelpants at 11:45 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


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posted by dflemingdotorg at 11:46 AM on November 16, 2006


Wealth implies that someone else is impoverished.

Huh? Come again Geekhorde? That's just plain fallacious. And stupid.
posted by Heminator at 11:47 AM on November 16, 2006


Any idea that economic laissez-faire policies are either fair or helpful to everyone is just fantasy, and ignores real social disparities.
Friedman would argue that those "social disparities" are more frequently caused by government intervention in the market.
His philosophy was dangerous and morally bankrupt.
Morally neutral, maybe. It's easy these days to equate laissez-faire economics with neoconservative "economic" policies that have little semblance to anything resembling coherence, but I believe that even a cursory examination of Friedman's unflinching belief in freedom (in the purest sense of the word) belies your assertion that his philosophies are somehow dangerous.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2006


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Although I'm a longtime leftie, I heard him give a talk while in college and was also impressed with his intellect. It always bothered me the way some of the free market ideas he advocated were so myopically appropriated by elements of the right wing for the advancement of their social agenda, e.g., school vouchers could have been a legitimate means of opening up a true market for education, which could have had benefits for all of society, but instead became a scheme to use public funds to subsidize private, religious-based education. Meh.

Anyway, even a leftie like me appreciates that this man cast a long shadow over economic policies for the most of my life (I'm 43).
posted by mosk at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2006



Any idea that economic laissez-faire policies are either fair or helpful to everyone is just fantasy, and ignores real social disparities. Wealth implies that someone else is impoverished. Friedman was not just wrong. His philosophy was dangerous and morally bankrupt.
posted by geekhorde at 2:35 PM EST on November 16


It was never supposed to be helpful to everyone. It was supposed to be helpful to those who want to excel in the market, i.e. make more money. It never claimed to eliminate social disparities - poor is defined relative to the rich. The richer someone becomes, the poorer someone else becomes in comparison.

If everybody was poor, nobody would be poor. The question is are the poor better off than the poor under other economic systems. It is difficult to argue that the poor in america are worse off than the poor in china, for example.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2006


let alone use it to denigrate the legacy of someone who understood economics far better than you or I

What? We can't denigrate his legacy in this thread? I thought that's what this was all about! So laissez faire, laissez aller, laissez passer, laissez denigrer! I won't even use a period in this post lest it gets misinterpreted as respect: That old bat gets to live to 94 and we have people without good health care because of this style of economics, we have shittier and shittier education, we have people working over forty hours a week and who are still poor, we have children who are poorly fed, people who are homeless, and we live in a world where we have far better organizing technologies than the whims of capitalism and the people who control capital; so we think it's wonderful that corporations can optimize a supply chain, and we get some perks from that, mostly more and more crap, but maybe that sort of aggressive systems thinking can be put directly to use for bettering people's lives -
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


the assumption that there is less social mobility in the U.S. relative to northern Europe is HIGHLY debatable bordering on WTF

Social mobility is the US is not bad for a western nation - it's about equivalent to France. But it's significantly far from the highest available. A lot of it has to do with health costs - it's reasonably easy to advance in the US but, with huge numbers of bankruptcies and loss wages stemming from a large pool of uninsured and under-insured people, there is a greater probability of many economic agents who have precariously advanced into the lower middle classes being knocked right back down again. The "middle barrier" in the US is not very porous. National health insurance has a lot do with increasing porosity here, and hence increasing inter-generational mobility. Subsidised access to college education at low or no cost is also a huge factor.

There is also growing evidence that America is less socially mobile than many other rich countries. Mr Solon finds that the correlation between the incomes of fathers and sons is higher in the United States than in Germany, Sweden, Finland or Canada.

Official or legally recognized class designations do not exist in modern western democracies and it is considered possible for individuals to move from poverty to wealth or political prominence within one generation. Despite this opportunity for social mobility, recent research suggests that Britain and particularly the United States have less social mobility than the Nordic countries and Canada.1 2

A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK.

Thus the picture that emerges is that Northern Europe and Canada are particularly mobile and that Britain and the US have the lowest intergenerational mobility across the European and North American countries studied here. The USA is seen by some as a place with particularly high social mobility. In part this is a consequence of using measures of class to estimate mobility (these will be affected by changes in the class structure over time).
posted by meehawl at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Neither of these conditions is sustainable in the long term.

In the long run, we're all dead.
posted by meehawl at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2006


£
posted by randomination at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2006


We can't denigrate his legacy in this thread? I thought that's what this was all about!

Well, if that's the case...

That old bat gets to live to 94 and we have people without good health care because of this style of economics

You simply don't know what the fuck you're talking about. American "free market capitalism" as actually practiced is INCREDIBLY FAR REMOVED from the free market theories of Friedman and like-minded thinkers, not unlike how Reel Genyouwine Socialism has yet to be practiced in any real way anywere.

Friedman was a constant critic of the anti-free market policies of the US, which are incessantly described as their diametric opposite by political shills and retarded knee-jerk leftists.

I'm glad you feel so good about being ideologically correct, though, perhaps it will get you through this time of mourning.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


In the long run, Milton Friedman is dead, at any rate.
posted by weston at 12:02 PM on November 16, 2006


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Wherever you are, Milton, here's hoping you finally get that free lunch.
posted by jonp72 at 12:02 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Me-------Friedman's grave
____^
Urine stream.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:03 PM on November 16, 2006


Nicely done Kingfisher. Now that you've got that out of your system, did it occur to you at any point that your opinion of capitalism is subjective? Also, never said nobody could disagree with Friedman or denigrate his legacy. But they should at least do it for intelligent well argued reasons rather than, say, your inarticulate moral outrage.

You take it as a given that Friedman's free-market capitalism has made things worse. Yet you don't make a case for this - many, many people disagree with you. Who should control capital if not markets? I think if you understood Friedman properly you might realize that he himself might agree that many of the corporate distortions of what should be open markets that make you so angry - and result in innefficent income distribution - are wrong.
posted by Heminator at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Good riddance.
posted by prost at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2006


geekhorde: Wealth implies that someone else is impoverished

No it doesn't. Not in the slightest. Not even one teensy tiny bit. This is a catastrophically bad misunderstanding of what wealth is. It's the fixed quantity of wealth fallacy, and its consequences have been terrible.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:08 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think if you understood Friedman properly

You know who else was not properly understood?
[SAINT]
Marx
Engels
Lenin
Lennon
Hitler
[/SAINT]
posted by meehawl at 12:10 PM on November 16, 2006


Thread needs a link to a succint Friedman critique on drug war, which he came to vehemently oppose very early for an American of his generation.
posted by bukvich at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Every suspect sonofsamiam that the freemarket policies have an early form that helps gather wealth and power that then uses the remains of the state to retain and strengthen that wealth and power, therefore making any true freemarket impossible? No one who has enough wealth is going to jeopardize it by giving away freedoms or cutting themselves off from benefits.

Now go off and mourn twice as hard for MF to make up for my dancing on his grave and kicking around PeterMcDermott's piss if it makes you happy.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2006


I'm sorry he died before he could experience the full unfolding of the catastrophic world wide consequences, although it has well begun, of the partial implementation by the last four US administrations of the incoherent and degenerate olla putrida he attempted to pass off as a 'theory' of economics.
posted by jamjam at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2006


I'm sure he'll be disappointed to find there are no free markets in Hell (or in Heaven, for that matter).

Alas, the Xtian universe, Milton, is fundamentally communist.
posted by Chrischris at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2006


Friedman was the architect of Thatcherism. As far as I'm concerned, the hole's yet to be dug that's deep enough to drop his carcass into.
posted by veedubya at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Enlighten me, then, Heminator. Please. But first here is my view, which is a little odd. I am a huge fan of the separation of church and state, but I think it is often misunderstood because people do not abstract it to a structural level. The church was a form of power, this is why it should never be conflated with the state. Now corporations have moved into that role, and we should rewrite rules of corporation and state involvement. However, I do not believe this can be done from within the current system -- what will happen as I described in my piss-and-graveyard-dirt-kicking post above, is that concentrated wealth is already bound with the state (via people, contracts, traditions, etc.) and can slowly turn the state towards its will. If the state, then whithers away, it will do so in such away that it does not protect people so much as property.

So maybe the MF does not see the current situation as the one he would like, but it was his ideologies and policies in the hands of lawmakers, lobbyists, corporatists, and shills, that gave us what we had today.

See, great man? Doesn't it look like I agree that his is? I've suggested this country is his legacy whether he dreamed it this way or not.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 12:23 PM on November 16, 2006


Crap. "Every" = "Ever" somewhere above.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2006


kingfisher: Free-market impossible?

Buddy, the free market IS the real world of economics. All the real action goes on under the table (drug dealers, illegal workers, prostitution, slavery, arms running, and the regular ol' cash economy) and any incentive systems set up to redirect its energy can ALWAYS be overcome.

Free market economics is not prescriptivist in essence, but praxeological. It is the science of human incentives and is valid on its own terms whether or not the fed or you or I or any economist or any politician like it.

Not a big MF fan myself, but it's pretty pathetic to see how clearly many mefiers couldn't care less about the guy's actual views.

it was his ideologies and policies in the hands of lawmakers, lobbyists, corporatists, and shills, that gave us what we had today.

Actually, not.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Leaving aside Friedman's theories on radically free markets, one must admit that his ideas on using monetary policy to control inflation appear to be effective. Though if oil prices shoot up again, they might get quite a strenuous test.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:30 PM on November 16, 2006


it seems to me that as far as his theories were put into practice, they had mixed results ... but then, his theories weren't really put into practice all that much ... one can argue back and forth about economics all one wants, but at the end of the day, life and civilization are about much more than economics and economic theory is inadequate to order them ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I don't think it is crazy to think that pursuing economic efficiency, freedom, and growth at the expense of equality is an immoral position. The case can be made that it leaves even the poor better off. Friedman lived a long time and had a huge impact. Some of that impact was allmost certainly negative. This goes hand in hand with having any impact at all. Friedmans philosophy was morally consistant, well thought out, and rarely solopsistic. That I agree with damn little of it does not make me happy to see him go.
posted by I Foody at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know who else was not properly understood?

ME.
posted by Heminator at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2006


hoverboards:

You're wrong. Wealth implies a system of value where A) someone has the leisure and power to B) make sure that someone else does all the work.

I'm not implying that the total amount of 'wealth' is finite. Not at all. It's a social construct, and as such, kind of imaginary. But it's a social construct based upon assumptions of social disparities.

and Doofus Magoo:

Morally neutral is morally bankrupt, in my book. Call me an idealist. I don't give a fuck. But I'm comfortable making that moral judgement on anyone who believes that a representative government has no place in alleviating, in any way, the suffering of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Even if the until recently Republican dominated Congress and the Republican Whitehouse in America were half-assed in any attempts to reduce government intervention or oversight of economic issues, it's clear that they have tried. And it's also clear that it's largely because of the intellectual influence of this man.

And you know what? It hasn't worked. It's not working. Things are ok for a lot of people in America, but they're not great, and things definitely aren't getting any better for the vast majority of people.
posted by geekhorde at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Another difference between Milton [Friedman] and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper." (Robert Solow, 1966)
posted by TweetleBeetleBattleBookie at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


And seriously, Mehawl - only two volleys before you equate Friedman and Hitler?
posted by Heminator at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2006


To clarify, for your 'wealth' to have meaning, there has to be someone else poorer than you willing to take some of this 'wealth' in exchange for goods or services.

Implied disparity. Poverty. It's inherent in the entire concept.
posted by geekhorde at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2006


only two volleys before you equate Friedman and Hitler?

Sure don't we all have a little bit of Hitler inside of us?

Know what else might have worked? Bonapartism!

I actually equated Vlad Lenin with John Lennon. Welcome to humour - I hope you enjoy your trip.

Seriously though. It's easy to say about any great person's singular idea: but it was so brilliant in theory, only the practice turned out to be flawed. It's been used by marxists and troskyists to explain the obvious failure of the Soviet Union compared to the pristine brilliance, the snowflake-like purity, of Marx's original idea of the withering away of the State.

Apparently now, it's also a good out for Milton.

You know there's a town in the UK called "Milton Keynes'? It has concrete cows, grazing. Don't have a cow.
posted by meehawl at 12:53 PM on November 16, 2006


To clarify, for your 'wealth' to have meaning, there has to be someone else poorer than you willing to take some of this 'wealth' in exchange for goods or services.

Only if 'wealth' is a scalar value, when in reality it is more like a vector plus a (funky, non-mathematically nice) utility function taking that vector to a utility vector.

What you say implies that there is never any economic transaction that does not contain the implicit threat of force.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:55 PM on November 16, 2006


geekhorde, there's nothing wrong with some people being richer than others. Me being poor does not make you rich, and vice versa. If you want to argue that overconcentration of wealth might be a bad idea, I'm all ears, but the idea that poverty is caused by wealth disparity is just really bad economics.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


As sonofsamiam alluded to, it's easy to forget these days that there is a long history of "conservative" economic thought that can stand on its own as a coherent, logically consistent whole. The fact that modern Republicans (who have no right whatsoever to call themselves "conservative") have appropriated the elements of its philosophy that will serve their immediate short-term interests should not tar its legacy or influence. Blaming Friedman and his ilk for what passes for economic policy in the Bush administration is like saying communism doesn't work and pointing to Stalin as the proof -- it's a non sequitur at best, intellectually dishonest at worst.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2006


On disparity, Barney Frank said, in a lecture broadcast on WBUR on Sunday night, something like "I am a capatalist, and therefore I support inequality."

The sheer fact that people possess different amounts of stuff is not worth getting worked up about from a policy perspective. Only from a jealousy perspective, or some ahistorical, anti-psychological ideal that everyone should want and have everything the exact same would the sheer fact of difference be upsetting.

Now, the level of disparity, or more narrowly the policy choices we make that lead to benefits for some groups at the expense of others, is worth caring about passionately.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2006


Brilliant sumbitch he.
Dot.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2006


I remember the day Milt Friedman and I went to the track. He went gangbusters on this philly named Teryaki Lady who was carrying 15 to 1 odds. Maybe it was all the weight that caused the damn horse to pull up lame at the quarter mile. They probably turned her into dog food after that race. Milt was crestfallen; I'd never seen him so cut up. He'd lost two grand on the race, but that wasn't anything new. He couldn't pick a horse for shit. But Milt loved his Teryaki Lady. He was never quite the same after that. Later that day, walking through Pike's Market on the concrete washed clean of fish guts, Milt drew the ticket stub from his jacket, and turning the slip between his fingers, he look away and said, "Let's go get some hookers tonight, kid."
posted by dirtylaundry at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I encourage those wishing to increase their understanding of Friedman's ideas (especially those arguing against their understanding of his ideas) to watch this video interview with him: google video or available for download at archive.org

While I haven't formed much of an opinion either way, he makes his arguements very coherently. As far as I can tell the simple version is that government is a basically inefficent mechanism for distributing wealth and resticts freedom, because it moves money and power from indivduals to uncaring, wasteful and politically motivated persons.

Now I like my NHS (for all it's faults), so I have some arguement against my limited understanding of his theories, but his basic idea is certainly worth hearing out.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


.
posted by enrevanche at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2006


There's a lot more Friedman videos on google video actually, for those looking to learn more. In this video he explains more about his version of liberalism (I haven't watched yet though).

It's also notable that his basic belief is in individual freedom in a very tangible sense, quite unlike the murky, undefinable version that is thrown around so much these days.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2006


matteo: [ending the draft] a terrible idea, by the way.

Liberal fascism ftw!
posted by spaltavian at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2006


The truly great contribution of economic absolutism is that it trumped the ideological distraction of religion and skin color to include the amount of money one has, allowing almost everyone to know what it feels like to be ill-fated.
posted by Brian B. at 1:46 PM on November 16, 2006


government is a basically inefficent mechanism for distributing wealth and resticts freedom, because it moves money and power from indivduals to uncaring, wasteful and politically motivated persons.

who aren't individuals? ... or caring? ... or careful? ... and isn't the majority of economic power in our society vested in corporations, who are NOT individuals?

sorry, but this explanation is sorely lacking
posted by pyramid termite at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2006


and isn't the majority of economic power in our society vested in corporations, who are NOT individuals?

Yes, and this is a SERIOUS problem for free-marketeers. The modern corporation is a resource-gobbling algorithm which runs, automatically, on a human substrate. Free market types disagree with each other vehemently on how to fix the problem. The role of the corporation in the free market is, I think, one of the biggest unresolved issues in libertarian discourse.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2006 [5 favorites]


or your 'wealth' to have meaning, there has to be someone else poorer than you willing to take some of this 'wealth' in exchange for goods or services.

I think you are thinking of "money", which is a social-construct claim to wealth.

Classicly, wealth is simply goods that increase utility, eg. furniture, cars, roadways, the roof over your head.

The problem with laissez faire stuff IMV is that we /all/ can't be independently wealthy. Somebody's got to clean the johns at the end of the day. We have enough productivity now such that the back half of the success curve can and should enjoy a relatively high standard of living wrt healtcare, education, public recreation, trasnportation convenience. If this means the top 5% of this country only control 80% of the wealth instead of 90%, then so be it.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2006


sorry, but this explanation is sorely lacking

I probably shouldn't have bothered, it was merely an ad-hoc summary of a video I just watched, on a complex political philosophy I am somewhat ignorant of. I have no real arguement or opinion on the matter, but I find his ideas stimulating so I tried to share (apparently unsuccessfully) what I understood of his ideas.

who aren't individuals? ... or caring? ... or careful? ... and isn't the majority of economic power in our society vested in corporations, who are NOT individuals?

I shall attempt, perhaps unwisely, to redress my earlier poor communication. My understanding is that Friedman's philosophy is that government should exist soley to protect individual liberty, and in defence of the nation. This mean justice and military, nothing more.

His fundamental point is that people look after themselves better than the government can; that government interference should exist only to ensure disputes between individuals and business' are settled justly. Otherwise, you are moving money and power from careful individuals, who watch their money and may choose to care for others, to uncaring, wasteful, politically motivated bureaucrats and corruptable polticians.

In this sense, I suspect he might argue that less government provides less opportunity for corruption and waste, so that individuals, and not corporations ultimately have more power. If I understand correctly, he believes simply that less government affords greater social justice.

But I stress I'm just trying to represent an interesting idea I haven't pondered seriously for a while. This video I linked above explains all this in his own words, so I suggest watching that, rather than listening to me.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


"You're all a bunch of socialists!"
- Ludwig Von Mises to Milton Friedman and friends at the Mount Perlin Society

Really, you gotta give the man some credit: he was a Nobel Prize Winner who was in favor of legalizing pot. Hell, he wanted EVERY drug legalized.

Really, RIP Dr. Friedman.
posted by champthom at 2:37 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Straight to hell.

Hell is Keynesian.

I thought hell was Hobbesian...


I'm pretty sure Hell is Calvinist.
posted by Sparx at 2:57 PM on November 16, 2006


I was really hoping to get some love for the Pareto-optimality joke. Instead the thread degenerates into amateur economist hour, again.

Friedman did enough damage while he was alive. Let's just let it rest for a day rather than do his posthumous dirty work for him, huh?
posted by spiderwire at 3:28 PM on November 16, 2006


Friedman committed flagrantly and assiduously the one unforgivable modern sin: crass stupidity, which in his case manifested itself as complete and utter failure to grasp a simple physical theory which was essentially complete in the late 19th century, and which can be formulated and comprehended using very little mathematics beyond algebra, and which must be the basis for any rational economics in a finite world. He simply did not understand or take into account, or even really acknowledge the existence of, thermodynamics.

So how is it that this economist who fell face down and couldn't get up virtually at his first theoretical step became the darling of Reagan and Thatcher? Very simple; he enabled their politics, therefore he must be correct. In this he is quite similar to geneticist T. D. Lysenko, who flourised under Stalin for identical reasons, and whose genetics was pure foolish wishful thinking, but no sillier than Friedman's economics.

Reliance on Lysenko's genetics was a prime factor in the decline of Soviet agriculture; if you want to know what disaster relying on Friedman's cracked economics has brought us to the verge of, read Jared Diamond's Collapse.
posted by jamjam at 3:33 PM on November 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


he modern corporation is a resource-gobbling algorithm which runs, automatically, on a human substrate. Free market types disagree with each other vehemently on how to fix the problem. The role of the corporation in the free market is, I think, one of the biggest unresolved issues in libertarian discourse.

Well, Jesus, SOSI, this is what I am talking about. The only thing I would add to it is that in the current situation the corporation also has a strong hold on the state and they use it to reinforce their power, preventing a true free market.

it was his ideologies and policies in the hands of lawmakers, lobbyists, corporatists, and shills, that gave us what we had today.

Actually, not.


Do tell. His name was often invoked for current economic policy, and even if it was not what he had in mind or wanted, it was turned to the needs of the people that appropriated it. Think Lenin and Marx as a more extreme, but well known, example. There is no way what happened in USSR was true Marxism, but it flew under Marx's flag. And I recall the MF freak flag flying high in the 80s.

Oh, it might help you before responding to reread that phrase in the hands of and if you don't get it, read it again. And if that doesn't work, google it.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2006


This is my favorite "burying the wrong corpse" argument ever. Since there is a real corpse.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:39 PM on November 16, 2006


One last thought before crashing (I am way to the east of where I normally am).

I am reading 1984 now and was going along in it between my early posts and those above. It struck me that Orwell wrote a dystopia MF would understand, and that they are roughly from the same era, though Orwell went out in his forties (belated . for him). And this is a dystopia of the state that promises to do everything for the people. Through means of central control acts as if it is doing just that. But we have a different threat today, and maybe MF is outdated, and that is the nexus of the corporation, state, military and corporate-controlled media (mapping pretty well to the four ministries). It is not as bleak and gray as Orwell's Oceania, but one could take the current situation and write a parallel novel where the enemy is not a distorted form of socialism, but is instead a distorted form of free market capitalism.
In other words, MFs theories, might have been born in a reaction to the same currents Orwell responded to. And maybe that threat is no longer the greatest threat to our freedoms.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


jamjam: You accuse Friedman of crass stupidity for not incorporating thermodynamics into his economic theory. I did a quick bit of Googling, and couldn't find any discussion of 'thermoeconomics', as it is apparently known, from reliable sources. Even Wikipedia says it is "considered by most to have little relative intellectual value."

Please could you point me in the direction of some reliable sources (i.e. not some random with a blog) about this?
Note that this is not a snarky sarcastic question, I would actually be interested to read more.

If you're going to accuse a Nobel Prize winner of crass stupidity, it seems fair for me to ask you for some sources to back it up.
posted by matthewr at 4:00 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'll take a bunch of anonymous MeFi posters over a Nobel prize winner any day.

/snark
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:22 PM on November 16, 2006


.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2006


this is a dystopia of the state that promises to do everything for the people

I thought that was Huxley and Brave New World.

IngSoc seems to have been an "solution" to the "problem" of how deal with world of increasing wealth and productivity by diverting as much of the economy as possible into defence spending and an endless expensive occupation of border regions between the superstates. Within 1984, the ruling elites were terrified that a well-fed, well-educated populace would eventually find no need for its rulers.

If you look at the context of when 1984 was written, the UK electorate had recently kicked the Conservatives out of government just after WW2 because Churchill et al wanted to keep the wartime rationing program going as long as possible. Whereas Labour had promised to set up the welfare state and the provide for every subject in the UK. The Tories were claiming that "England" was going soft and could not afford to molly coddle its people with butter so soon after the war. The argument in the public sphere between the "State Will Provide" and the laissez-faire people was fierce, and going back and forth. Labour was being accused of bringing in communism by the back door.
posted by meehawl at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2006


Just out of curiosity, how does the anti-Friedman crowd feel about his support for the negative income tax?

I've heard from some quarters that its not really feasible, but its far from morally bankrupt.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:24 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Boy, a lot of people in this thread seem to prefer an emotional response to economics rather than actually trying to understand.
Who needs facts when you've got feelings, I guess...
posted by nightchrome at 5:30 PM on November 16, 2006



ending the draft

a terrible idea, by the way.


I am rather glad it is not your decision then.
posted by thirteen at 5:31 PM on November 16, 2006


"Boy, a lot of people in this thread seem to prefer an emotional response to economics rather than actually trying to understand.
Who needs facts when you've got feelings, I guess..."

And there, in a nutshell, is why economics deserves the name "dismal science" - it misunderstands basic human decision making.
posted by hank_14 at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I raise my glass of baijiu to uncle Milty, here in the world's largest planned economy/fastest growing economy as the Chicago schoolers drive the US economy farther and farther down into the toilet. Way to go douchebag.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:25 PM on November 16, 2006


It's kind of funny that Friedman's most impactful (on a day-to-day basis) contribution to economics came from his WWII-era work on the "Pay As You Earn" (PAYE) system that allows governments to deduct tax from your earnings before you get to see a red cent of it.
posted by clevershark at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2006


If Milton Friedman wasn't one of the good guys, there are no good guys.
posted by iconjack at 7:32 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2006


Friedman's most impactful (on a day-to-day basis) contribution to economics came from his WWII-era work on the "Pay As You Earn" (PAYE) system

thus, in spite of all the talk about strengthening the individual and his freedom of action against an overbearing government, he achieved exactly the opposite

can we say co-opted? ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2006


Pollomacho writes "world's largest planned economy"

If China is a "planned economy" then I'm the frickin' Earl of Buckinghamshire. That's market-driven chaos at its best, sir.


I'll say it again: inflation has been under control for the past two decades because of Freidman's ideas.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:43 PM on November 16, 2006


inflation has been under control for the past two decades because of Freidman's ideas

Inflation follows oil.
posted by meehawl at 8:28 PM on November 16, 2006


If China is a "planned economy" then I'm the frickin' Earl of Buckinghamshire. That's market-driven chaos at its best, sir.

It's sort of like how Woodstock was a planned concert.
posted by spiderwire at 8:46 PM on November 16, 2006


Look at the beggar now. It's that some of them stay little boys so long. Sometimes all their lives. Their figures stay boyish when they're fifty. The great American boy-men. Damned strange people. But he liked this Milt now. Damned strange fellow. Probably meant the end of cuckoldry too. Well, that would be a damned good thing. Damned good thing. Beggar had probably been afraid all his life. Don't know what started it. But over now. Hadn't had time to be afraid with the buff. That and being angry too. Motor car too. Motor cars made it familiar. Be a damn fire eater now. He'd seen it in the war work the same way. More of a change than any loss of virginity. Fear gone like an operation. Something else grew in its place. Main thing a man had. Made him into a man. Women knew it too. No bloody fear.
posted by Cassford at 8:51 PM on November 16, 2006


I am in the middle of a large research paper now and inflation does not follow oil. There is a large body of research out there looking at this with some very different, sophisticated models looking at oil and inflation. Yes for a time inflation did follow oil but it did so in an asymmetric fashion and does so at a very limited correlation to what it once was. So simply stating "inflation follows oil" is erroneous. When we were more manufacturing based this was the case but the economy adjusted and is the risk is weighed into most business decisions it seems. There are other factors that influence inflation more heavily than oil.

That said, shouts out Friedman. I think he was fundamentally right in a lot of concepts, though a more nuanced viewing of what he said would come up with a seemingly contradictory viewing.
posted by geoff. at 9:13 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


No it doesn't. Not in the slightest. Not even one teensy tiny bit. This is a catastrophically bad misunderstanding of what wealth is. It's the fixed quantity of wealth fallacy, and its consequences have been terrible.

When notions of exchange and value are agreed upon by maintaining a certain level of scarcity acceptable to the powers that be, you can bet that wealth means that someone, somewhere will be impoverished.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:38 PM on November 16, 2006


Inflation follows oil.

That graph makes it look more like oil lags behind inflation. Which is curious.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:43 PM on November 16, 2006


Long's "Liberal FAQ" is an interesting exercise ... but he cherry picks his evidence just like a conservative.

The sooner we can get away from constructing these extensive, abstract ideological strongholds, the better. No one cares about the fine print except ideologues, because we can clearly see real problems that need addressing now.

Humans have conclusively proved that they can be clever. They have yet to prove that they can survive that cleverness.
posted by Twang at 10:50 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


There'll be tears in the streets of Milton Keynes today.
posted by biffa at 12:47 AM on November 17, 2006


No sleep for the wicked or their minions. No dot for Milton.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:31 AM on November 17, 2006


simply stating "inflation follows oil" is erroneous

As erroneous as saying that inflation is controlled completely by shaking a monetarist medicine stick at it?
posted by meehawl at 5:17 AM on November 17, 2006


Blazecock: When notions of exchange and value are agreed upon by maintaining a certain level of scarcity acceptable to the powers that be, you can bet that wealth means that someone, somewhere will be impoverished.

Wheras in the absence of wealth, everyone is impoverished.

That must be why Marx called it primitive socialism.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:59 AM on November 17, 2006


.

I am saddened by his passing. What is sadder is that such a tremendous advocate for freedom is considered by Americans to be "wicked", "morally bankrupt" and "stupid".

I suppose the State will have its champions. Apparently for the world to improve we need more governmental interference, more regulation.

I couldn't agree more with iconjack, if Milton Friedman isn't one of the good guys there are no good guys.
posted by BigSky at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


I couldn't agree more with iconjack, if Milton Friedman isn't one of the good guys there are no good guys.

This is what I've learned as the "Friedman phenonmenon." It was during a conversation when someone dropped his name as the solution to environmental problems and toxic waste. That's when I realized it was the religion to kill us all. Today I know it as a formalism, which can be described as any faith in the $ymbol$ over the substance. No less of a mistake than communism. His book should be reprinted as "Free to Choose?"

Having said that, I would like a negative income tax to replace welfare. I think Friedman proposed this, then withdrew support not for his excuses, but because he realized it was inconsistent with his emerging fan base that used his ideas as a flame of class hate and as an excuse to cut taxes and borrow the spending. So the legacy of anti-government will be our economic burden and we didn't fully calculate this, and we still deny it by worshipping the folksy charm of Reagan despite his massive deficit spending under a loose monetarism (to quote Dick Cheney, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.")
posted by Brian B. at 8:37 AM on November 17, 2006


I suppose the State will have its champions. Apparently for the world to improve we need more governmental interference, more regulation.

Spoken like a good citizen employee entrepeneur. I suggest you take yourself to Mogadishu or Baghdad--places where the lack of governmental "interference" you so heartily endorse are playing out daily. There's good money to be made thereabouts, I hear, provided you aren't too, um, squeamish...
posted by Chrischris at 9:32 AM on November 17, 2006


Wheras in the absence of wealth, everyone is impoverished.

Or, perhaps, no one is impoverished. But my point stands, I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2006


Just when I thought my faith in humanity (and by extension, metafilter) couldn't sink any lower, this thread rolls around.

The man was a genius who expanded the bounds of human thought. His ideas may have been perverted and used wrongly, they may even have been wrong, but that does not make the man any less brilliant.

Blaming Friedman for, well anything is like blaming Newton for every death by gunshot or Diesel for asthma.

It is our job as a society to take the sum of all we have and put it together in a way that makes all of our lives as good as they can be. If we have failed to do so it is our fault, not that of words on a page or the man who put them there.
posted by Skorgu at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


I love the crackpots on both ends of this nutty spectrum; Baby lets all get together and just do it until we're all some shade of post-Keynesians.
posted by dobie at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2006


Skorgu: Blaming Friedman for, well anything is like blaming Newton for every death by gunshot or Diesel for asthma.

As uncalled for, off base, and obnoxious as some of the attacks on this thread have been, your comment is not quite right either. Friedman was a economic theorist and a political commentator with a particular point of view. He argued against the 1993 Clinton tax plan, claiming that it would harm the economy. Economics ain't Newtonian physics; the systems are too complex, and people are less predictable and rational than atoms.

I disagree with him about the Clinton tax plan (a courageous stand, I know), and he can fairly be criticized for it. That said, the fact that I disagree with him about a lot of stuff doesn't necessarily mean that I think he should burn in hell.

Blazecock: Yep, in the absence of exchange, we all eat tree bark equally, and we're all rich and we're all poor.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:46 PM on November 17, 2006


ibmcginty I may have put it a bit strongly, but I think my point stands. Friedman was, at his most involved, a commentator. Whatever his stance, views or theories, he is no more responsible for the fallout that may have arisen from those thoughts than Newton, Diesel, Einstein, Curie or an number of other notable theorists.

We (as a community) could have a fascinating argument about the validity, suitability, stability or even out-and-out wrongness of his theories, but none of that would come even close to blaming events on one man's view of the world.
posted by Skorgu at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2006


Yep, in the absence of exchange, we all eat tree bark equally, and we're all rich and we're all poor.

That's just a bit too disingenous a comment for me, I think, since we were very clearly discussing wealth, which eponymously defines inequity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 PM on November 17, 2006


No, there has been much disagreement on that point, and besides, as Heywood Mogroot says, wealth is defined, economically, as anything that has utility and is cabable of being exchanged or taken. Everyone can be wealthy, with some wealthier than others, and this does not necessarily mean that some are impoverished.
posted by Snyder at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2006


I think that virtual economies offer some insight here.

In Norrath, more equality permits freer markets. This may provide the most important lesson of all from the EverQuest experiment: Real equality can obviate much of a democratic government's intervention in a modern economy. Many of our own government's current policies—progressive taxation, securities regulation, social insurance—are aimed at offsetting some form of inequality. If EverQuest is any guide, the liberal dream of genuine equality would usher in the conservative vision of truly limited government.
posted by Brian B. at 6:02 PM on November 17, 2006


Jeff Madrick on Friedman.
posted by Brian B. at 6:32 PM on November 17, 2006


"If EverQuest is any guide, the liberal dream of genuine equality would usher in the conservative vision of truly limited government. "

So genuine equality might lead the state to, as it were, wither away?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:06 PM on November 17, 2006


only if it's genuine equality between nerds and elf sluts with big hooters and scanty apparel ... which might cause certain other things to wither away if there's too much one handed playing ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:58 PM on November 17, 2006


the EverQuest experiment

In EverQuest (and other MMOGs), pretty much everyone of consequence is a homicidal sociopath, able to inflict violence on others at will. Which, as others have pointed out, resembles quite closely situations that prevail in certain areas of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, etc where the State has "withered away". People evolved modern government to protect themselves from a feudal aristocracy consisting of the rule of strong men mediated through violence.
posted by meehawl at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2006


This thread is simply amazing. What a bunch of KnowNothing assholes.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:42 AM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


yeah, steve, that's a GREAT way to educate people ... what would we do without your enlightenment?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:21 AM on November 19, 2006


This thread is simply amazing. What a bunch of KnowNothing assholes.

It's the mystics who are starry-eyed about Friedman, and they indignantly react as though he was a demigod, his words sacred. The rest of us see it in practical terms as either a formalistic faith in money to regulate itself, or as a giant Trojan horse that presents monetarism as freedom (meaning of course that freedom must be bought, which is a de facto form of slavery). The Friedmanites not only misrepresent equality, seeing it through monetarist glasses as communism, they also miss the point, pretending that freedom is based on something other than equal rights and opportunity. Theirs is a terminal freedom of choice only, not the freedom of thought to expand the choices. It is a cult mentality they hope will save them, but will save them from equality.
posted by Brian B. at 9:30 AM on November 23, 2006


Missed the news the other day....sorry he's dead, but he knew as much about the way the world really works as any other sycophant to the rich....nada.

This thread is simply amazing. What a bunch of KnowNothing assholes.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:42 AM PST on November 19


Speaking of nadas....
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:49 AM on November 24, 2006


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