16 November 2006

Milton Friedman RIP

Legendary economist Milton Friedman died aged 94 today. I have a great deal of respect for his free thinking and fearless challenge to the orthodox view.

Milton was born in Brooklyn and died in San Francisco. He is survived by his wife and two children. A nice round-up of the tributes here

Best quotes

"The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem" and one for Iain Dale

"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government".


Scrybe said...

I disagreed with a lot of his ideas, but I welcomed his contributions to political and economic debates as often intelligent and worthy of serious consideration. He was far from being one of those people one could easily dismiss where and when they disagreed with him. He brought something original and refreshing to the debate, and was a challenging thinker. For that I always had the utmost respect. Rest In Peace Milton Friedman.

Anonymous said...

A great man who will be missed. It is ironic that his death hould come at a time when his lessons are being ignored by Brown and Labour.

Anonymous said...

God bless you Professor Friedman!

Paul Burgin said...

Not among my favourite thinkers obviously, but someone who deserves to be respected as one among the greats like Keynes and Smith!

Peter Smallbone said...

I remember Ronald Reagan's quote on becoming US President:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

Evidence, if evidence were needed, of Friedman's influence. His thoughts and views will resonate on for centuries to come.

Stan Bull said...

"Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself"
A thought I have often recalled in my dealings with state companies in various parts of the Middle East.
His son, David D. Friedman is also, predictably, a great thinker.
And a prolific blogger too:

Anonymous said...

What I love about you neoliberals is how you love 'freedom' so selectively.

This would be the same Friedman who advised General Pinochet on economic policy as the good general was torturing and murdering his opponents would it?

m Still, no matter - at least he was a monetarist mass murderer.

Keep up the good work.

Jock Coats said...

Advice and implementation are two different things though Paul. Friedman I'm sure would have been appalled at the misuse of coercive power of the state in any guise, including in Chile. How to change that? Well, advise those same powers in an attempt to create the very economic freedoms that ought ultimately to undermine their political power that gave them the ability to oppress the freedoms of others.

Praguetory said...

Always say what you really think, here's what Paul really thinks.

Paul on his site says -

"Milton Friedman is dead. Good..."

"When one of the founding fathers of global neoliberalism croaks, all sane people breathe a sigh of relief. We have a big fucking mess to clean up thanks to him and his like. Can't be long now before Thatcher croaks it and then we have a brace. Nature will pick them all off in the end. I'm planning the party already."

Paul - the true lover of freedom. Now, piss off back to your Papua New Guinea tribe.

Manfarang said...

"In the long run we're all dead"
John Maynard Keynes

Anonymous said...

Only a self-proclaimmed immoralist like Keynes would have said that.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cop-out to me, Jock. Friedman was advising Pinochet - as was Thatcher, incidentally - after he had staged a military coup and begun to liquidate his opponents. He was not 'appalled' by this at all. He saw it as a useful stage on which to practice his monetarist experiments. Like Thatcher - and Reagan - he extolled 'freedom' but didn't practice it, unless it suited (or personally affected) him.

As for the flawed assumption that market economics and political freedom are necessarily complementary - in practice, quite the opposite is usually the case. I even write a book about this, as have many others, probably better than me. Worth reading some of them. If neoliberals would occasionally acknowledge that freedom of capital and freedom of people are not the same thing I would have a lot more respect for them.

As for you, Praguetory - both of your replies to me have so far consisted of insults. If 'wanker' and 'piss off' are the best you can do in terms of engaging in political arguments, then you rather do my job for me

Oh, and it's West Papua, by the way, not Papua New Guinea. The people there are being dispossessed, raped and killed in the name of export dollars - the world's biggest goldmine is situated on their stolen land. The free market at work once again. Still, they're fuzzy-wuzzies, so it probably doesn't matter, eh?

Praguetory said...

You rejoice in the death of one of the most influential thinkers of the last century then tell me that you are looking forward to celebrating Thatcher's demise. As I am a Tory this means you have started on the wrong foot for a political debate.

I will admit that I am not an expert on Pinochet's regime, but if you are into judging men by the company they keep etc - which is where you are coming from, I hope you will join me in condemning Ken Livingstone for his with Chavez, Castro and various Jihadists.

Or maybe you won't?

Anonymous said...

It's not about the 'company people keep'- it's about their deliberate encouragement of mass murder. It is beyond me how anyone who presumes to write about politics can be so ignorant about the people he chooses to celebrate.

Milton Friedman was knowingly complicit in mass murder and torture. You seem to imagine that the fact you haven't bothered to find out about this makes it OK, or somehow not very important. If that's your position, don't presume to write about 'freedom.' This is real peoples' lives we're talking about. Have you ever met any of the people Pinochet tortured or exiled? I have. They could tell you, and Milton, a few things about 'freedom.'

I try not to stick myself into political boxes, unlike you, so I'm afraid that naming a few lefties and then assuming I support them is going to get you nowhere. I'm an admirer of Ken Livingstone's brave attempts to curb traffic in London, for example. I object to his stance on market housing and some other key issues.

I do however, reject any feeble attempts to equate Chavez with Pinochet. You probably know as much about the the latter as the former, but one was a mass murderer, the other isn't. Quite a key difference.

I admire Chavez's aim to introduce some degree of economic justice into one of the most unequal and miserably poor countries in the world. I don't admire his style or some of his past actions. I note, however, that he has won more elections and referenda than President Bush, and by larger margins.

The world is quite a complex place. Simplistic left-right stuff and unthinking obeisance to political idols tends not to cut it.

Praguetory said...

Did I take the line Milton Friedman the man whose every word and action is beyond reproach? I praised his free thinking and challenge to the orthodoxy - isn't that your bag, too?

I want you to write a piece on how Milton Friedman was "complicit in mass murder and torture". Prepare your case and convince me and my readers. So far, you have done nothing of the sort. Just give us a link.

NB - I note you didn't defend Castro or the jihadists.

Anonymous said...

This just gets funnier and funnier. Why the hell should I defend Jihadists? Or Castro? What makes you think I have any time for them? I'll tell you what - your black-and-white thinking, that's what. I'm not a Tory, so I must be a member of the SWP. I don't like Pinochet, so I must like Stalin. Jesus.

If you 'want me to write a piece' I'm afraid you'll have to commission it. I'm a working journalist and I only write for nothing when the cause is worthy.

But I can recommend this as a good overview. You may also reflect on the fact that the Friedman/Hayek 'shock therapy', when applied to Chile, actually failed. As it did pretty much everywhere in fact (PS: this does make me a Marxist).


Anonymous said...

I meant to say 'does not' in that last line, of course. Though it could have been a Freudian slip, I suppose.

Praguetory said...

So you couldn't rise to the challenge. In fact, it appears that he is "a monetarist mass murderer" based on a 6 day visit to Chile in an advisory role.

My point re the jihadists and Castro (who I don't expect you to defend) is that these are the friends of the current mayor of London. I am suggesting that you should reserve your bile for the living politicians casuing damage.

I concur with Friedman's view that he has been deliberately "tarred and feathered" by the likes of you, Paul. There is no evidence to support your wild charges.

Anonymous said...

No evidence? Goodness. I'm not sure quite what more you'd need. But then I suspect you'd made your mind up before you read the piece. 'A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest', I suppose.

I'm happy to condemn Livingstone, incidentally, for his disgraceful cosying-up to homophobic Islamists. I'm happy to condemn George Galloway for his friendship with Saddam Hussein and the Socialist Workers Party for pretty much everything they do. No worries.

The difference between you and I seems to be that I'm happy to condemn those of any political stripe who turn a blind eye to - or actively collaborate with - oppression. You seem to limit your condemnation to those on the left - ie, those whose politics you don't like.

This may be unfair, if course. So let me ask you if you condemn George W for his invasion of Iraq, or his support of the Venezuelan coup attempt against Chavez? Any problems with Reagan's previous financial support for Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? Anything to say about Thatcher's position on apartheid?

Go on: show me your principles are not just about taking sides.

Praguetory said...

Personally, I was very disappointed that Saddam wasn't removed in Gulf War 1 after he had invaded a nation, committed genocide at home, shelled Israel and committed environmental vandalism on a massive scale. Notwithstanding, I'm happy to condemn Bush as his Iraq project was ill-conceived and poorly justified. In my opinion Putin and Chirac come out worse as after signing 1441, they hypocritically (and corruptly) didn't follow through thus providing Saddam with the chink of light he needed to brass it out. Gulf War 2 is a complicated story, but has been a disaster as it has made the world a much less safe place. Of course, it has become harder to support the Iraq project when nothing is done in African warzones.

Hindsight is marvellous re Reagan and Bin Laden etc. Even if his means were questionable at times, history will judge that Reagan was successful in strategic goals in a fashion that Carter or similar Presidents could never have been on the world stage.

As for Thatcher, she was during her Premiership the target of terrorists on home soil. There is a context for her approach in South Africa. Her stance was consistent and I do not accept that she was an obstacle to change - but I am open to other views.

But re Friedman, I still do not see any resembling a smoking gun.

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