With each passing week that the assault against global capitalism continues in Washington, I become more nostalgic for one missing voice: Milton Friedman's. Imagine what the great economist would have to say about the U.S. Treasury owning and operating several car brands or managing the health-care industry. "Why not?" I can almost hear him ask cheerfully. "After all, they've done such a wonderful job delivering the mail."
In the midst of this global depression, rotten ideas like trillion-dollar stimulus plans, nationalization of banks and confiscatory taxes on America's wealth producers are all the rage. Meanwhile, it is Milton Friedman and his principles of free trade, low tax rates and deregulation that are standing trial as the murderers of global prosperity.
The myth that the stock-market collapse was due to a failure of Friedman's principles could hardly be more easily refuted. No one was more critical of the Bush spending and debt binge than Friedman. The massive run up in money and easy credit that facilitated the housing and credit bubbles was precisely the foolishness that Friedman spent a lifetime warning against.
Milton's ideas on capitalism and freedom did more to liberate humankind from poverty than the New Deal, Great Society and Obama economic stimulus plans stacked on top of each other.
At one of our dinners, Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: "You don't understand. This is a jobs program." To which Milton replied: "Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it's jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels."
But in the energy industry today we are trading in shovels for spoons. The Obama administration wants to power our society by spending three or four times more money to generate electricity using solar and wind power than it would cost to use coal or natural gas. The president says that this initiative will create "green jobs."
I recently phoned Rose Friedman and asked her what she thought about the attacks on her husband. She was mostly dismayed at how far off-course our country has veered under President Obama. "Is this the death of Milton's ideas?" I hesitantly asked. "Oh no," she replied, "But it is the death of common sense."
Friday, May 29, 2009
Steve Moore has a nice article in today's WSJ that reminds us of the great legacy of Milton Friedman. It's a real shame that liberals are still trying to blame free markets for the crisis we are now exiting, when in fact it was government intervention in free markets that screwed everything up. I was lucky enough to meet Milton and I attended quite a few of his talks. His brilliance was awesome. Excerpts from Steve's article:
Posted by Scott Grannis at 8:09 AM