Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Drug Slaughter

Radley Balko’s got a list that’s entirely too long over at his place detailing several lesser known examples of the results of the heroic war against “drugs.”

And by “drugs,” I mean of course small time drug users, people who happen to live with drug users, people who live next door to drug users, and people who have the misfortune of having an address that looks similar to that of a drug user. If you happen to be any one of the afore mentioned people, that’s enough to get you killed in the pursuit of eliminating drugs from our society. But hey, it’s the price that has to be paid, right? Because those damn kids can’t be allowed to smoke marijuana and screw up their own lives.

By gum, it worked against alcohol, and it’ll work against drugs. Oh, wait…

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Ask Yourself

Ask yourself why you aren’t up in arms with a government that shoots 92 year old women in their home? Why do you still support a government that sentences Cory Maye to die for defending his property (his apparent crime is being black and living at the wrong address). How can you endorse a War on Drugs that results in such things while dramatically increasing violent crime in inner city neighborhoods, creating drugs like crack and ecstasy and continually resulting in greater and greater police powers for our government? Can you not see that we have given our government the power of a tyrant all in the quest to prevent someone else from taking heroin because we think it’s bad for them?

Mrs. Grundy wins, citizens lose.

The Case for Change

There are three groups of people within this nation of ours, generally speaking. You may not like it, but you are bound to fall into one of these broad categories.

The first group are those who think that things are generally okay, we just need to tune and adjust to improve where we’re headed. Most people who describe themselves as Republicans and a significant percentage of Democrats fall into this category. You are the folks who “just want Congress to do X”. X might be some sort of national health care or it might be tougher rules on drug crimes, or what have you. Think Hugh Hewitt or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Harry Reid.

The second group of folks are those who want dramatic change that involves the government in some fashion. You are convinced that if only we would empower our government to do something for us, we could have a wonderful life. For the most part, these folks are socialists (I know that’s not in fashion, they say “progressive” now, but I call a spade a spade) and want to empower a government that runs our lives for us. Think Jeffords or Kerry or Boxer. A smaller piece of this group thinks the government should be empowered to “make us moral”, the Jim Dobson’s of our political landscape.

The third group of folks, the smallest by far, also wants dramatic change that involves the government. They want to make government a much smaller part of our life, take power from government and return it to individuals. Think Milton Friedman.

I’m not speaking now to the second or third group in our political landscape. They both have a case for change in mind. In the latter case, I agree in some fashion. In the former case, you are tyrants whose approach has been tried in the past, it has been found wanting, and we have rejected it. Move to Cuba if you think that government control of individual choice is such a good thing.

That first group, probably 80% of the citizens in this country, is the group I’m addressing. So, the question is, why is change a good idea? You look around you and life is pretty good. You make a good income, have friends, are safe from crime and war. You’ve got it good, don’t you? So, why should you want dramatic change? Why remove the government from your life, when it’s doing such a fine job of making things work well?

I could make the moral argument. Humans have inherent rights and when government makes choices for you, those rights are usurped. Of course, except for a few folks, this argument carries no weight. You are happy with the government making those choices so long as they don’t intrude too deeply into your affairs. So long as you aren’t affected in your daily life (or think you aren’t), you don’t mind the government fighting a Drug War, intervening around the world with the military, deciding who you can and cannot see for your health care, regulating our economy and so on. So, although I could, I won’t make the moral argument.
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Another Police Shooting

This time in New York City. Apparently this dangerous menace to society’s crime was swiping an unmarked police car.

Officers shot three men who had just left a bachelor party held at a Queens strip club early Saturday morning, leaving the groom dead on the day of his wedding, said police, witnesses and relatives.

The shooting happened just after 4 a.m. around 143-39 95th Ave. in the Jamaica section of Queens, near Club Kalua, said Officer Kathleen Price, a police department spokeswoman.

It was not immediately clear what provoked the shooting, but the incident drew outcry from community leaders and family who demanded answers about how it happened. Paul Browne, chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, declined comment Saturday morning.

The man who died was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, said Sgt. Mike Wysokowski, another spokesman. The other two were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital nearby, with one in critical condition and the other stable. The three men ranged in age from 23 to 31 years old.

Relatives said the dead groom was Sean Bell, 23, a father of two.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell’s first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited to the ceremony and were flying in from all over the country.

“I can’t really express myself. It’s a numb feeling,” Porter said. “I still don’t want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened.”

There were no reports that any officers were wounded in the incident. As many as eight officers may have been involved, but it was not immediately clear what roles each played, Wysokowski said.

Denise Ford, who said her son was one of the surviving shooting victims, said the men’s car hit an unmarked police vehicle. Two cars inside a large area covered by police officers Saturday morning appeared damaged. But police on Saturday did not immediately confirm that one of them was an unmarked department car.

“All I know, they was celebrating,” Ford told reporters at the scene Saturday morning. “The guy was getting married today.”

When I was in driver’s ed, I was taught that whenever I hit a car accidentally I exchange insurance information with the other driver. Apparently, New York’s bravest are taught when one of their cars are hit, to shoot the driver and the passengers of the car that hit it. Of course the cops aren’t talking to the press about this incident. It’s hard to see at the first media reports how to see this shooting is justified.

If this is a case of cops simply snapping when one of their cars were hit, then the NYPD seriously need to check their hiring procedures to keep those who can’t handle stress out of the force. If this is going to be a typical internal affairs investigation where the police are going to stall and try and coverup the actions of these eight cops, then the citizens of New York and Americans in general need to be outraged.

UPDATE: It appears the more we know about the circumstances of the shooting, the less it appears justified.

Mr. Bell’s car then backed up onto a sidewalk, hit a storefront’s rolled-down protective gate and nearly struck an undercover officer before shooting forward and slamming into the police van again, the police said.

In response, five police officers fired at least 50 rounds at the men’s car, a silver Nissan Altima; the bullets ripped into other cars and slammed through an apartment window near the shooting scene on Liverpool Street near 94th Avenue.

Apparently, the three guys had a bit too much to drink at their bachelor party and hit the unmarked police van and swerved all over and hit the police van again. Now if someone hit my car and I got out and emptied the gun I had on me, I would be arrested and charged with manslaughter and it would have been classified as an act of road rage. But something tells me that these five cops won’t be arrested and charged with manslaughter or even fired from the NYPD.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Shooting shows need for reform

Instapundit has some information that is worth reading on the shooting involving Kathryn Johnson, including some observations by Radley Balko:

According to the Atlanta assistant chief of police:

1) The search warrant was in fact a no-knock warrant.

2) Police claim there was an undercover buy at the residence. The seller was apparently a man — obviously not Ms. Johnston.

3) “Suspected narcotics” were seized from the home, and have been sent to a crime lab for analysis. The assistant chief wouldn’t say how much of the suspected narcotics they found.

4) He also wouldn’t speculate if Johnston herself was involved in dealing drugs, or knew if drugs were being dealt from her home, saying only that both were “under investigation.”

5) He maintains that despite the no-knock warrant police still announced themselves before entering, though he acknowledged moments later that the announcement came as police were battering down the door.

It isn’t at all difficult to see how a 92-year old woman may not have heard or comprehended the announcement.

A reader reminds me that the incident is pretty similar to a police shooting in Alabama this past June, where an innocent, elderly man was shot when police forced entry into his home while looking for his nephew. The man — who had done nothing wrong — also mistook the officers for criminal intruders, and met them with a gun. Fortunately, he survived.

Even assuming the controlled buy, the incident still illustrates the folly of these raids. Paramilitary tactics don’t defuse violent situations, as police groups and their supporters sometimes claim. They create them. They make things more volatile for everyone — cops, suspects, and bystanders. Does anyone honestly believe that Ms. Johnson would have opened fire had a couple of uniformed officers politely knocked on her door, showed her a warrant, and asked if they could come inside?

Violating the sanctity of the home with a violent, forced entry — all to enforce laws against consensual acts — simply isn’t compatible with any honest notion of a free society.

This situation is similar to the Cory Maye case in Mississippi, except Maye didn’t get killed, a police officer in the raid did.

The biggest issue at hand is is the use of “no-knock” warrants (more at Wikipedia). This woman lived in a less than great neighborhood, she had bars on her doors and the fact that she was 92 years old…I cannot fault her for opening fire when she heard someone trying to come through her door. I also cannot fault the police for returning fire.

I can fault the Supreme Court though. Earlier this year the court decided that the use of no-knock warrants was constitutional. I told myself when I read the ruling, “people are going to die because of this.”

Of course there is always the underlying issue of the drug war. Which is an issue I try to avoid with my non-libertarian friends. Most of them seem to believe that legalization is approval. I’ve always said that the Libertarian Party needed to moderate it’s stance on the drug war, if not shut up about it. The shooting of Kathryn Johnson should be an eye opener, it has been for me. We need an open and honest debate of the facts and put every possible solution on the table as means to fix the problem and save the lives of innocent individuals that are caught in middle.

Is Iraq Winnable?

In a recent Slate article, Christopher Hitchens lays into James Baker, head of the Iraq Study Group. Hitchens: “Baker was quoted as saying, with great self-satisfaction, that nobody ever asks him any more about the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power in 1991.”

In 1991, for those who keep insisting on the importance of sending

enough troops, there were half a million already-triumphant Allied soldiers on the scene. Iraq was stuffed with weapons of mass destruction, just waiting to be discovered by the inspectors of UNSCOM. The mass graves were fresh. The strength of sectarian militias was slight. The influence of Iran, still recovering from the devastating aggression of Saddam Hussein, was limited. Syria was—let's give Baker his due—”on side.” The Iraqi Baathists were demoralized by the sheer speed and ignominy of their eviction from Kuwait and completely isolated even from their usual protectors in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing. There would never have been a better opportunity to “address the online casino australia root cause” and to remove a dictator who was a permanent menace to his subjects, his neighbors, and the world beyond. Instead, he was

shamefully confirmed in power and a miserable 12-year period of sanctions helped him to enrich himself and to create the immiserated, uneducated, unemployed underclass that is now one of the “root causes” of a new social breakdown in Iraq. It seems a bit much that the man principally responsible for all this should be so pleased with himself and that he should be hailed on all sides as the very model of the buy viagra statesmanship we now need.

Whether or not you were in favor of toppling Saddam, the fact is: he’s gone and we’re there. So, the question now is: can we win? Can the U.S. and coalition forces quell sectarian violence enough for the fledgling Iraqi government to establish and maintain peace?

It seems that the newly elected Democrat House and Senate, and very likely, the Bush administration, are eagerly awaiting the recommendations of the ISG, which is expected to call for regional diplomacy (read that: negotiations with Iran and Syria). I wonder, though, what they hope to gain from such negotiations. Does anyone really think that Iran or Syria is interested in assisting the West; that they’ll suddenly tolerate liberalism and modernity and how to save money on car repairs allow Iraq become the “democracy” that Bush envisions?

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Simon Says: How Many More?

(with apologies to Heather Alexander)

Without warrants, truncheons swing
Wanton shootings’ piercing ring
No one knocks, they barge ahead —
Another innocent lies dead.

Midnight nightmare, bloody hand
All of us must take a stand
Sound the call, take up the cry
How many innocents now must die?

“Follow orders as you’re told” —
That should make your blood run cold
Protest till you die or drop
This trampling of rights must stop

There’s no reason, there’s no gain
No knock searches are insane
Let not one excuse pass by
How many innocents now must die?

Guard your children, do not fail
Send these bullies off to jail
Write the Congress, join the fight
And they won’t come by in the night

Use your vote and use your head
Make these no-knock searches dead
Raise the flag up to the sky
How many innocents now must die?

Dawn has broke, the time has come
Never more let mourning come
Never more let innocent die
Let that be your battle cry

Midnight nightmare, bloody hand
All of us must take a stand
Sound the call, take up the cry
How many innocents now must die?

Without warrants, truncheons swing
Wanton shootings’ piercing ring
No one knocks, they barge ahead —
Another innocent lies dead.

Lawless nightmare, bloody hand
All of us must take a stand
Sound the call, take up the cry
How many innocents now must die?
How many innocents now must die?
How many innocents now must die?
HOW MANY MORE MUST WE SEE DIE?

>;-(

An Unhappy Thanksgiving

As most of the country chows down on turkey, ham, lamb and sits down to watch football or various Thanksgiving parades, I feel sad and I’m not in the celebratory mood. I find myself on this day that celebrates capitalism and individual liberty reflecting about how far our country has gone from the ideals our Founding Fathers laid out for us.

For example, I think Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison are rolling in their graves about the coming higher wage controls that will be imposed by the new majority in Congress.

I don’t think they would be too pleased either with the outrageous national debt and the unfair and burdensome tax code that we have now.

I don’t think they would be pleased that our universities have become centers for the suppression of the freedom of free speech and freedom of thought.

They would not be pleased at the corruption that infests Congress.

They would be irate about a 92 year old woman named Kathryn Johnson who was killed by plain clothes policemen who broke down her door. The handicapped ramp should have been a clue this probably wasn’t a crackhouse and there were innocent people inside. But no, instead the three pigs decided they wanted to be heroes and they decided to conduct a no knock raid on the house. The woman, who had a legally licensed handgun for protection because she lived in a high-crime neighborhood, thought that these three men in plain clothes were impersonating police officers and trying to break in. She reacted as many other honest and law abiding people would in this situation, she defended herself and her property. She shot all three pigs, unfortunately, they’ll live and they’ll probably be hailed as heroes. They cops returned fire, killing her.

This Thanksgiving while most Americans stuff themselves, the Johnson family will be making funeral arrangements to bury the latest victim of our War on (some) Drugs and the militarized police forces. The Johnsons have lost an aunt, a grandmother, and I’m sure a woman that was beloved by all who knew her. A woman that should be in the prime of her life, instead lost her life in one of the most brutal ways possible. Justice for Kathryn would be the three policemen facing at the very least a hearing and possibly criminal charges for their actions; but it looks like we’ll have to settle for getting rid of no-knock raids.

This Thanksgiving, we need to rededicate ourselves to fighting, through political activism and reporting on their misdeeds, these wannabe tyrants whether they rule from Washington D.C. or own the local level and fight to restore our lost liberties. We need to pressure the media to give this story the proper attention it deserves. The media is reporting that police politely knocked on Kathryn Johnson’s door and just started firing and the cops were defending theirselves. In fact, the supposedly conservative Fox News Channel had a panel discussion on today’s Live Desk where all five panelists, including the supposedly objective reporter Julie Banderas, called for a ban on keeping privately owned firearms inside homes and sited this shooting as a reason.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving and remember to be on guard for liberty, for its enemies are numerous and powerful.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

The Bosses Are Dead! Long Live The Bosses…

There was a change of power last week in Washington, but the bosses remain the same: the guys with money:

Democrats’ Victory Is Felt On K Street

The Democrats’ takeover of Congress this month has turned official Washington upside down.

Labor and environmental representatives, once also-rans in congressional influence, are meeting frequently with Capitol Hill’s incoming Democratic leaders. Corporations that once boasted about their Republican ties are busily hiring Democratic lobbyists. And industries worried about reprisals from the new Democrats-in-charge, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are sending out woe-is-me memos and hoping their GOP connections will protect them in the crunch.

Wow, that must be rough. All that money they’ve spent to buy influence, and now some of those beneficiaries are out of office. So what are they going to do?

But interest groups, in general, are not concerned about the changes the election has brought. “We lost many friends in this election,” said Steven C. Anderson, president of the Republican-leaning National Restaurant Association. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t make new friends, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Yep… They’re going to spend more money make new friends.

But really, who is surprised? Washington is all about one thing: wielding power. We’ve allowed our government to wield enormous power over all aspects of life in the nation, through exceptions and loopholes in the tax code, through regulation, and through outright pork-barrel spending. That power attracts people who think they can benefit from it, and they’re willing to spend large sums of money to ensure that power will get them even greater sums in the future.

The reversal of fortunes in Washington will, as the article points out, give certain groups a quicker route to the reins of power than others. Labor and environmental groups will have an easier time getting things done than business groups, particularly in the oil or pharmaceutical industries, who the Democrats have pilloried for the last several years. But make no mistake, even those industries out of favor will get their say, because they’re speaking a language Washington can understand: green.

But don’t you worry, the Democrats have vowed to address the problem!

Despite this focus on gaining access to authority, Democratic congressional leaders have expressed disdain for their predecessors’ fealty to “special interests.” That is why they are planning an elaborate assault on lobbyists during their first week in session. Through changes in laws and in House rules, Democrats hope to ban lobbyist-provided gifts and travel to lawmakers and to create an Office of Public Integrity to oversee the disclosures that lobbyists must make about clients and fees.

Office of Public Integrity? Orwell would be proud. If you believe the Democrats are going to make meaningful change, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. As an aside, they’re planning to also address earmark reform. For more on that, I recommend heading over to QandO, where McQ highlights these changes. I’ll give you a hint… McQ is explaining that expecting lawmakers to enact meaningful reform is like asking foxes to guard the henhouse… Or asking Teddy Kennedy to guard the liquor cabinet.

Why was I apathetic about the midterm elections? Because I know for all my complaints about pork-barrel spending, neither party is going to address it. For all my complaints about ethics and the “culture of corruption”, neither party is going to change it. My current pick for president in ’08, Newt Gingrich, constantly reminds people in speeches that “real change requires real change.” Neither party is willing to give us real change, because that might interrupt the gravy train. Meet the new boss, just like the old boss.

(Enjoy this post? Digg it!)

Happy Thanksgiving, Love Congress

Our masters in the District of Corruption have decided to give us a Thanksgiving day present. One of the political heirs of Barry Goldwater, Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ), exposes this gift.:

Mesa, Arizona, Nov 22 – Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona’s Sixth District, today highlighted pork projects contained in the Agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006.

This week’s egregious earmarks: $234,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation, $600,000 for cranberry production conservation in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, $1,497,000 for potato research, and $500,000 for the Corn Growers Associations in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.

“I’m sure that taxpayers aren’t giving thanks for the cornucopia of pork this year,” said Flake.

Happy Thanksgiving, now bend over.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

An Open Letter to a Most Illiberal Liberal

To a liberal of my acquaintance:

It’s not your core values I disagree with; it’s pretty much every
concept you have about how those core values should be applied and
executed.

You seem to make all your judgements about the truth of something, not
by the actual facts, but the motives you assign to the people telling
you about it. Additionally you seem to ascribe nefarious, or malicious motives,
to anyone who disagrees with you.

I believe that you are wrong in almost every detail about political,
social, economic, and environmental law, governance, policy, and
actions. This does not mean I am stupid, ignorant, evil, selfish,
greedy; or otherwise; however because you ascribe positive motive and
intelligence to yourself, it logically follows (within your own mind),
that anyone who disagrees with you must either be ignorant, stupid, or
have negative motives.

This is perhaps the ultimate form of intellectual arrogance; though it runs rampant
on both the far left and the far right.

I must say, I don’t consider you to be FAR left; you’re far closer to the
middle than many I know; and I acknowledge that in general you have
good intentions. I simply believe that almost nothing you propose,
support, or believe in would have good results (or rather, good results
worth the tradeoffs required to get them).

Intentions don’t matter very much in the real world; results matter. Bad
intentions with good results are better than bad results with good
intentions. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason, is better than
doing the wrong thing for the right reason (not that either are the best alternative).

Doing the wrong thing, for the right reason; is far worse than doing nothing at all.
I don’t understand why leftists and other authoritarians don’t seem to
recognize this basic fact of life.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Hello all…

First let me say thanks to Brad for allowing me to post here. This is a blog that has been a regular read for me for a several months now and I’m honored to be given the privilege to post here.

As Brad has said, I have my own site, JasonPye.com, which is a blog which is generally focused on my home county and Georgia politics. I live in a very “red” county and my blog has become a source of news to my community, so it’s hard for me to get into libertarian and capitalist philosophy. I also contribute to Peach Pundit, a blog dedicated to Georgia politics.

I look forward to posting here so I can get more into libertarian philosophy in current events.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go watch the third season of Bullshit! that came in the mail today.

Comrades, I Hereby Declare the Revolution

A revolution? Comrades? But this is a classic liberal blog, isn’t it? In a word, yes. And it will remain so. I use the word “comrade” in it’s older sense, not the socialist meaning of egalitarianism and absolute equality of class, but in the fraternal sense. We are comrades, brothers and sisters seeking liberty.

But, a revolution? Yes, a revolution. Not a violent one, I don’t advocate that. A revolution in thought, a continuation of the Liberal revolution that began in Scotland nearly 300 years ago.

Who am I and why am I posting here? You may recognize the name and the quote that I chose to introduce myself with. Like Heinlein’s celebrated novel, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, I am a construct, a false front. This is a nom de guerre, appropriate to a revolutionary. I’m a concerned citizen, a believer in liberty, a classic liberal following in the footsteps of giants. Men like Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and Milton Friedman. I have no illusions that I am their equal, that I will start revolutions in thought and theory on par with theirs. Perhaps, though, I can sway one of you out there to see the value of liberty and the danger of collectivism. And you can touch one person yourself. And so on. And we change some portion of the world.

So, citizens, lend me your ears, for I have things to say, things I hold dear. Things of deep importance if we are to retain those small amounts of liberty that our masters in Washington have decided are meet for us to keep. I intend to share my thoughts on the nature of the individual, the society, the government, the rights of man. And we will see if I can change the world in some small way.

p.s. You might want to keep an eye out for my pal Simon Jester, I hear he may get into the swing again as well.

Announcements

All,

I’d like to welcome two new contributors to The Liberty Papers. The first is Jason Pye, who currently hosts his own blog, and will now be contributing here. The other is Adam Selene, who does not currently have a personal blog, but has been around the blogosphere for a while and will be an excellent addition. So to the both of you, welcome!

UPDATE: One more to come… Simon Jester will be joining us soon.

Another Victim of the Drug War

Sad day here in Atlanta…

Woman, 92, killed in police shootout

A 92-year-old Atlanta woman is dead after she opened fire and shot three undercover narcotics officers serving a search warrant on her home.

At a news conference Tuesday night, Atlanta assistant police Chief Alan Dreher said the unidentified woman was alone in the house when the officers arrived and announced themselves. He said the shootout erupted when they were refused entry and broke down the front door.

The three officers were wounded and were all listed in stable condition Tuesday night.

The woman died of gunshot wounds in her home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

While police did not name the woman, Sarah Dozier identified her as her aunt, Kathryn Johnston, who kept an old pistol in the high-crime neighborhood.

But I’m sure this 92-year-old woman was a big-time dealer, huh?
» Read more

The Legacy Of Milton Friedman III

In article at Reason, Brian Doherty makes the point that, as the article’s title puts it: It’s Milton Friedman’s World, We’re Just Living In It.

When celebrated public intellectuals of Nobel-prize-winning heft die, the newspapers are packed with encomiums on their brilliance and importance. It isn’t always obvious, though, where the rubber of their lofty scholarly words hits the road of our day-to-day life. With Dr. Milton Friedman, winner of the 1976 Nobel in economics, most celebrated figure of the Chicago School of economics, author of the 1980 nonfiction bestseller Free to Choose, seeing his (invisible?) hand in the workaday world isn’t all that hard.

If you or your children have not been forced into the armed services in the past three decades—which you haven’t—thank Friedman. He was the intellectual sparkplug for the Nixon-era Gates Commission that convinced Nixon a volunteer army is both workable and the right thing to do.

If the dollars in your pocket are worth somewhere close to what they were a year ago, not 8 percent or more less, thank Dr. Friedman. His work as an economist convinced Federal Reserve chiefs, after the grim late 1970s dominated by stagflation (high inflation combined with recession), that we should strive to keep money supply growth low to restrain both inflation and unemployment. While the world’s central banks haven’t followed every technical detail of his plan, the old and destructive belief that government can tax and spend and inflate our way to prosperity is gone, and Friedman is why.

And that’s not all, Doherty lists a whole host of public policy issues where Friedman’s influence has shaped the world we live in:

Who should decide where our kids go to school, and who should control the money used to pay for it?

(…)

Who should decide what we can eat and how we enjoy ourselves?

(…)

Who should decide how we get to spend our money?

(…)

Who should decide the value of currencies in relation to other currencies—national governments, or the decentralized decisionmaking of all economic players?

In other words, Friedman was much more than an economist. He was a thinker, and his ideas will have influence long after he’s gone, if we choose to listen to them that is:

To the extent that we choose to heed Friedman in the future, we’ll have more even choices we can make for ourselves–and be richer for it.

I can’t think of a more fitting legacy.

Previous Posts:

The Legacy of Milton Friedman
The Legacy of Milton Friedman II

The Legacy Of Milton Friedman II

In dueling columns in the Washington Post, Michael Kinsley and Robert J. Samuelson take differing views on the legacy of Milton Friedman and what his ideas mean for us today.

First up, Kinsley claims that, Friedman’s legacy notwithstanding, there are some things capitalism just can’t do:

Capitalism is brilliant at setting the price of potatoes. But how good is it at setting the price of a large company? To all appearances, the stock market is capitalism operating under near-laboratory conditions. Financial markets deal almost entirely in electronic blips. Supply and demand can chase each other around the world with no actual goods to get in the way, and prices can adjust constantly and instantaneously. Yet the prices set in financial markets are patently wrong.

That is not my opinion. Well, yes, it is my opinion. But it is not only my opinion. It is held by America’s financial leaders, though they don’t put it quite that way. Actually, it is close to a provable fact. The free market cannot be setting the right price for financial assets such as shares of stock because often there are different prices with equal claims to be the product of free-market capitalism. They can’t all be right.

Here’s the problem with Kinsley’s argument right off the bat, and it’s one that Friedman would surely picked up on himself; how, exactly, do you determine what the “right” price for a share of stock is ? How can you say that the closing price of, say, General Motors on the AMEX yesterday was somehow wrong ? Quite clearly, you can’t unless you claim that you have knowledge to that of the combined knowledge of buyers and sellers in a free market, which is precisely what anti-market liberals like Kinsley believe.

On a better note, Samuelson takes a look at what Milton Friedman has contributed to the world:

[Friedman] belongs on any list of the 100 most important people since World War II. In some ways, the conversion of China to a market economy, the conquest of double-digit inflation in the United States and elsewhere, the decisions of countless governments to sell (aka “privatize”) nationalized industries — these developments and many more could be traced to him. There was no more ardent or articulate advocate of free markets and personal liberty than Friedman.

And Friedman’s legacy goes beyond politics to the very science of economics itself:

Friedman, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, made three huge scholarly contributions. First, he helped explain the Great Depression. Until the publication in 1963 of “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960,” co-written with Anna Schwartz, the Depression was cast as an extreme example of capitalism’s instability. Not so, Friedman and Schwartz said. The Federal Reserve caused the Depression through mistakenly tight money policies that led 40 percent of U.S. banks to fail. Though this story has been amended and extended, it remains the central explanation for the Depression.

The second contribution, made in 1967, was to show that there was no convenient “trade-off” between inflation and unemployment: Governments could not, as many economists then believed, choose a slightly higher inflation rate (say, 5 percent) for a slightly lower jobless rate (say, 3 percent). Trying to hold unemployment at unrealistically low levels would produce ever-higher inflation, he argued. That’s what happened. Inflation went from 1 percent in 1960 to 13 percent in 1979. Finally, Friedman debunked the theory that as nations got wealthier, people would spend less and less of their incomes; that was once thought to doom affluent societies to stagnation.

Perhaps Mr. Kinsley needs to be speaking with his fellow columnist.

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The Legacy Of Milton Friedman

The Legacy Of Milton Friedman

A trio of articles at TCS Daily takes a look at the legacy of Milton Friedman, who passed away last week at the age of 94.

First, Martin Fridson writes about Friedman’s style of gentle persuasion:

Many people become unhinged at the mention of Milton Friedman’s name because they consider it synonymous with “conservatism.” If they were ever to read his actual opinions in Capitalism and Freedom, they would be surprised to discover how far he diverged from a host of dogmas commonly attributed to conservatives.

(…)

The most fitting way to honor Milton Friedman’s memory would be for his detractors to decry him, and for his admirers to extol him, for his actual beliefs, as opposed to their form-fitted notions of what he believed. There is no lack of controversy in Capitalism and Freedom‘s proposals, even without the baggage attached to them by supporters and opponents over the past 45 years.

Next, Arnold Kling argues that Friedman’s ideas won the public policy debate not because he was more persuasive, but because he was right:

Overall, the historical record shows that individual choice works well. Government expansion, whether justified by paternalism, regulatory protection, or the collective good, consistently is over-promised in terms of theoretical benefits and delivers adverse unintended consequences in practice. Milton Friedman won debates because he was on the right side.

Finally,  Tim Worstall discusses how Milton Friedman helped him buy a house in Portugal:

So, for something as entirely trivial as that, my ability to purchase a house in Portugal, I’d like to thank Milton Friedman. For he changed the terms of the debate, changed how we talked about the rights of the governors and the governed. Instead of the default condition being ‘prove to us the governors why we should allow you to do this’ it has become ‘you prove to us the governed why we should not be allowed to do as we wish’. An advance in freedom and liberty, I hope you will agree, and one that I have a sneaking suspicion that Milton Friedman would be much prouder of than any piece of academic research or even of some (or all) of the many richly deserved honors that were showered upon him.

I’m sure he’d agree.

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