My latest article at Da Tech Guy Blog, Milton Friedman and the Sahara, Caracas and water is up! Find out what they all have in common.
Please read it and hit Pete’s DaTipJar.
Drawing by the fabulous Chris Muir of Day By Day.
In the early 1990s, Friedman visited poverty-stricken Mexico City for a Cato Institute forum. I remember the swirling controversy ginned up by the media and Mexico’s intelligentsia: How dare this apostle of free-market economics be given a public forum to speak to Mexican citizens about his “outdated” ideas? Yet when Milton arrived in Mexico he received a hero’s welcome as thousands of business owners, students and citizen activists hungry for his message encircled him everywhere he went, much like crowds for a modern rock star.
Well over 200 million were liberated from poverty thanks to the rediscovery of the free market.
Thanks to the generous support of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, HACER’s allies in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, the United States and Venezuela will join efforts to celebrate Friedman’s life and legacy for freedom around the world.
Steven Hayward remembers Milton Friedman
My all time favorite Milton story involves the time he was motoring in Europe, and noticed a large group of men digging in a field with shovels. Milton asked someone why they didn’t use a steam shovel or earth mover, and was told that digging with shovels was an employment measure, and if they used an earth mover it would put people out of work. To which Milton naturally followed up: “Then why don’t you give them spoons?”
No one converted Milton Friedman, either in economics or in his views on social policy. His own research, analysis and experience converted him.
As a professor, he did not attempt to convert students to his political views. I made no secret of the fact that I was a Marxist when I was a student in Professor Friedman’s course, but he made no effort to change my views. He once said that anybody who was easily converted was not worth converting.
I was still a Marxist after taking Professor Friedman’s class. Working as an economist in the government converted me.
What Milton Friedman is best known for as an economist was his opposition to Keynesian economics, which had largely swept the economics profession on both sides of the Atlantic, with the notable exception of the University of Chicago, where Friedman was both trained as a student and later taught.
In the heyday of Keynesian economics, many economists believed that inflationary government policies could reduce unemployment, and early empirical data seemed to support that view. The inference was that the government could make careful trade-offs between inflation and unemployment, and thus “fine tune” the economy.
Milton Friedman challenged this view with both facts and analysis. He showed that the relationship between inflation and unemployment held only in the short run, when the inflation was unexpected. But, after everyone got used to inflation, unemployment could be just as high with high inflation as it had been with low inflation.
When both unemployment and inflation rose at the same time in the 1970s — “stagflation,” as it was called — the idea of the government “fine tuning” the economy faded away. There are still some die-hard Keynesians today who keep insisting that the government’s “stimulus” spending would have worked, if only it was bigger and lasted longer.
This is one of those heads-I-win-and-tails-you-lose arguments. Even if the government spends itself into bankruptcy and the economy still does not recover, Keynesians can always say that it would have worked if only the government had spent more.
Although Milton Friedman became someone regarded as a conservative icon, he considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word — someone who believes in the liberty of the individual, free of government intrusions. Far from trying to conserve things as they are, he wrote a book titled “Tyranny of the Status Quo.”
Milton Friedman proposed radical changes in policies and institution ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve. It is liberals who want to conserve and expand the welfare state.
As a student of Professor Friedman back in 1960, I was struck by two things — his tough grading standards and the fact that he had a black secretary. This was years before affirmative action. People on the left exhibit blacks as mascots. But I never heard Milton Friedman say that he had a black secretary, though she was with him for decades. Both his grading standards and his refusal to try to be politically correct increased my respect for him.
My favorite Friedman clip: when he pops Donahue’s balloon,
A lecture by Milton Friedman,
“The great threat to freedom is the concentration of power.” Listen to it all:
“Life is an underpaid occupation.”
Brought to you via Mr. Bingley
Bret Stephens’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal,
How Milton Friedman Saved Chile
Milton Friedman gave Chileans the intellectual wherewithal first to survive the quake, and now to build their lives anew.
It’s not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick—and Haitians in houses of straw—when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down. In 1973, the year the proto-Chavista government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile was an economic shambles. Inflation topped out at an annual rate of 1000%, foreign-currency reserves were totally depleted, and per capita GDP was roughly that of Peru and well below Argentina’s.
What Chile did have was intellectual capital, thanks to an exchange program between its Catholic University and the economics department of the University of Chicago, then Friedman’s academic home. Even before the 1973 coup, several of Chile’s “Chicago Boys” had drafted a set of policy proposals which amounted to an off-the-shelf recipe for economic liberalization: sharp reductions to government spending and the money supply; privatization of state-owned companies; the elimination of obstacles to free enterprise and foreign investment, and so on.
In left-wing mythology—notably Naomi Klein’s tedious 2007 screed “The Shock Doctrine”—the Chicago Boys weren’t just strange bedfellows to Pinochet’s dictatorship. They were complicit in its crimes. “If the pure Chicago economic theory can be carried out in Chile only at the price of repression, should its authors feel some responsibility?” wrote New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis in October 1975. In fact, Pinochet had been mostly indifferent to the Chicago Boys’ advice until the continuing economic crisis forced him to look for some policy alternatives. In March 1975, he had a 45-minute meeting with Friedman and asked him to write a letter proposing some remedies. Friedman responded a month later with an eight-point proposal that largely mirrored the themes of the Chicago Boys.
For his trouble, Friedman would spend the rest of his life being defamed as an accomplice to evil: at his Nobel Prize ceremony the following year, he was met by protests and hecklers. Friedman himself couldn’t decide whether to be amused or annoyed by the obloquies; he later wryly noted that he had given communist dictatorships the same advice he gave Pinochet, without raising leftist hackles.
Could anyone please explain to me why we constantly hear the Left praise Cuba’s “excellent free healthcare”, while the Cuban regime is at least as deadly as Pinochet’s?
But I digresss,
As for Chile, Pinochet appointed a succession of Chicago Boys to senior economic posts. By 1990, the year he ceded power, per capita GDP had risen by 40% (in 2005 dollars) even as Peru and Argentina stagnated. Pinochet’s democratic successors—all of them nominally left-of-center—only deepened the liberalization drive. Result: Chileans have become South America’s richest people. They have the continent’s lowest level of corruption, the lowest infant-mortality rate, and the lowest number of people living below the poverty line.
Go read the rest.
Due to an unexpected family business matter I haven’t been able to post this week’s Carnival of Latin America, so I’ll add this week’s items to last week’s and post the Carnival next Monday. Thank you for your support.