Milton Friedman Part 1

Friedman critiques society using an ideology centered around enhancing individual liberty. Not only does he contradict this value, but he does not show coherently why his solutions fix the problems or even show why liberty is desirable.

1. Individual liberty is is not a virtue on its own, but for specific reasons. Ayn Rand would argue freedom is desirable for the expression of the ego and human greatness. If freedom created monsters this would perhaps not be an ideal. However, Friedman does not say why this is a value but yet holds individual freedom as the basis of his ideology.
With no vision, there is no way to validate whether his methods produce the desired results.

2. He contradicts his vision. the book is based on individual liberty which is undermined by statements such as…”drawing a line between providing for the common social values required for a stable society, on one hand, and indoctrination inhibiting freedom of thought and belief, on the other hand is another of thse vague baundaries that is easier to mention than to define.”
– This is precisely the point. Is a stable and orderly society more important than individual liberty? One cannot have things both ways. He plows on [concerning education] “The gains from these measures must be balanced against the costs… most of us, however, would probably conclude that the gains are suffiiciently important to justify some government subsidy.”
-The greatest good for the greatest number is not compatible with individual liberty. In addition this raises questions on how does one judge the costs and the gains? Slippery slope. Does goverment subsidized health care have a substantial gain? If one uses his reasoning, most social programs are indeed, justified.

3. Often his vision is of negating and using false positives. The flaws in Stalinism are used to uphold free market capitalism – rather than by virtue in its own right. He does not show that his theory actually promotes his cause – only that top down communism does not.

Economics versus politics:
Argues eloquently on the need for dispersion of power – separating governmental and economic power. He doesn’t make the connection that political decisions can also be a community process and one that people should be intimately involved in. Instead, his opinion of politics is informed by the top down approach. “Economic power can be widely dispersed…But can there be more than one really outstanding leader, one person on whom the energies and enthusiasms of his countrymen are centered? There seems to be something like a fixed total of political power to be distributed.” This disconnect and misunderstanding is shown throughout the book. For example – schooling. Yes, i agree that a president should not dictate schooling standards. But if a corporation dictates standards, the effect is the same. The solution is not to transfer political power to priviate companies, but to decentralize political power. Communities should create their own schools. I see Friedman’s main flaw of individual liberty is that he connects freedom as freedom to buy, rather than freedom to create. Is this really a choice? So as long as choice A is not AS bad as choice B, people will choose A. This does not make it a positive value. just not as bad. our buying habits do not create excellence – but rather a product slightly better than someone elses. He measures excellence only by comparison to something else, rather than achievment on its own terms. This is why Ayn Rand dislikes Friedman.

‘Friedman critiques Stalinist/Communism by pointing out “in order for men to advocate anything, they must in the first place be able to earn a living”. We are in complete agreement here. One might make the giant leap to understand why poverty renders people unfree. So by his own definition, one might conclude that the definition of freedom is the ability to earn a decent living is fundamental to individual freedom. Not so fast. Logic shall prevail here:
“In a capitalist society, it is only necessary to convince a few wealthy people to get funds to launch any idea, however strange, and there are many such persons, many independent foci of support. And, indeed, it is not even necessary to persuade people or financial institution with available funds of the soundness of the ideas to be propagated. It is only necessary to persuade them that the propagation can be financially successful..”
My freedom therefore does not depend on my own productive abilities, but rather how succesfully I can convince someone else. This theory places someone else’s judgement (rational or not) above whatever abilities and talents you posses. Freedom?

Last, but not least,he supposedly believes that in a free society, forcing someone to do something against their will is wrong.
“To the liberal, the appropriate means are free discussion and voluntary co-operation, which implies that any form of coercion is inappropriate.” I critique this not in theory, but in practice. If one does not practice what they preach, they can rightfully be called a hypocrite. He was a special advisor to Pinochet. There is nothing i can find that supports why he would do this. He does not believe the ends justify the means. Why then, did he advise a dictatorship to impose economic policy? This is the same for any and all free trade agreeements i have come across. Although most have little additions that do not make them free trade (i am getting ahead of myself) if they are imposed by force, this is contradictory to the supposed value of liberty and inappropriate coercion.


About Musings over Coffee

Fitness enthusiast. Love to travel, mess up recipes, ponder random things, get riled up about the news, all of which nearly always coinciding with one of my favorite things in the world: Coffee.
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