I read the following review of Free To Choose by Vasper85 and wrote down the things I disagreed with.
I wrote this as I read your review. I didn’t even actually read it all through first because I found disagreements starting in your second sentence.
I tell you to read Free To Choose because the ideas are so complicated it takes a book. It cannot be explained over Twitter. Suppose you wanted to learn about Swedish culture, you couldn’t fit it into some tweets, you’d have to read a book. Note that libertarianism is is a much more complicated idea than objectivism. Friedman with his negative income tax is perhaps not a pure libertarian.
You make a mistake in calling Milton Friedman an “opponent.” He is one of the greatest men of the 20th century. On Twitter, your profile says that you are looking for a new economic system. Are you open-minded, or not? You can’t know if someone is an opponent until you know what they believe. Of course, unless you are against liberty, he is not your opponent. I worry I am wasting my time discussing something with you when you think that Friedman is the enemy. You might be logical and intelligent, but surely that is a warning sign that you aren’t trying to learn. In which case, why should I write down a response if you won’t learn from this either?
Anyway, you read the book and I’d like to read what you have to say, so here I go.
You say that greed is not a good way to run affairs. You are incorrect for two reasons:
1. The free market can’t judge greed, nor any other motivation. Who even knows what are all the motivations someone has to buy or sell a pencil or make the chainsaw? The government surely can’t measure emotions, only dollars. If you care about greed, become a priest, not a politician.
2. The point is to have government let people keep the fruits of their labor. Self-interest unleashes maximum potential in people.
Page 2. I am sure Adam Smith knew of corporations, cartels and monopolies. His focus was on monopolies in government, but it is the same phenomenon as with corporations.
I am finding disagreements with nearly every sentence. I’m not going to respond to every one.
TNC are not equally as tyrannical as governments. Corporations get their money from people voluntarily in the amount they want to spend. The customer is holding the credit card and chooses what products they want. With government, there is force. If you don’t pay your taxes for whatever “free” products they offer, or do the other stuff, you go to jail. So to equate TNC to a tyrannical government is to equate a gun and a credit card.
Hayek would not have you go backwards. It was the free market that made America the world’s only superpower. With more freedom, harnessing everyone’s potential, comes faster progress.
Page 10. Friedman’s analogy about the Soviet appliance you didn’t understand. Their situation is much worse. Perhaps he didn’t go into enough detail for you but if you don’t think the life for the average consumer in the USSR wasn’t much worse than life for a middle class person in America, you should learn about it more! I see from your next sentence that you don’t know this. Perhaps he assumes too much here. He spent a lot of time studying the USSR and it was in the news when he was writing his book. Anyway, this is not the meat of his arguments even so I’ll keep moving. His book will cover this also, although he discusses the US and Europe mostly.
Page 11. No one can make a pencil. The person who makes the chainsaw doesn’t also know how to harvest the rubber. You don’t read carefully enough and with enough imagination if you didn’t understand his analogy without more explanation.
Page 14. The consumer knows more than price. The competitors can buy each others products and learn from each other. The consumer can read articles about which product is better. His point is different, which is that price is a form of information that transmits things through the system. If gas prices go up, then people can use the train rather than cars to ship products. His point is that price is an important form of information, not that it is the only one.
Skipping a number of things I disagree with about advertising, Opec, military, whether he’s discussing human versus physical capital, whether price increases go against the social good, whether price determines the worth of a person, etc., etc but don’t want to bother with…
Okay I’ve now gone through and read the rest. I can say that you have a mix of missing the point, or sometimes arguing against a point he wasn’t making. In fact, a number of the things you wrote were responded to elsewhere in the book. What you should have done is made that list yourself as you were reading, and then go through it at the end and see if you can’t answer your own questions. You ask questions, and that is great, but you should go through your list of questions. I assure you that if Friedman were next to you, he could answer them and respond to any perceived flaws by you.
For example, having read through his book, can you not see how Social Security is a bad idea? Can you not see how vouchers for education for every child would be better? Can’t you see how big government leads to takeover by industry and corruption? You say he’s against orphans, which is nonsense. in his world there were many private religious hospitals that would take care of it. You don’t understand why charities haven’t taken over, and it is because government takes so much of the money away. You can’t really have private education when the government gets to your education money (by force of gun) first! And can’t you see how government schools haven’t provided as good a quality? You can argue for a hypothetical world of your own design, but what say you to the world that does exist that is created by government? Do you deny there are failing “free” government schools? You say MF doesn’t know what causes crime, yet he does. He was just giving additional causes such as subsidized public housing. There can be more than one cause.
You ask many good questions, but I assure you they have answers. You seem to have read a lot. I can only suggest that you keep reading and thinking.
Your major focus is on income inequality, and we can argue more about that, but let’s look at the existing welfare state as a total disaster and repeal 90% of it. If a country goes bankrupt “helping the poor”, then it can no longer help the poor nor do anything else.
Anyway, there is a ton of stuff I disagree with but I will stop for now.
After I wrote a response to Vasper85′s review of Milton Friedman’s book, he wrote another reply.
Here are my thoughts.
Thanks for your response to my post. It was interesting to read what you had to say.
I can prove that libertarianism is much bigger than objectivism: Locke, Adam Smith, Bastiat, De Tocqueville, founding fathers, Edmond Burke, Von Mises, etc. Libertarianism is about the contours of limited government. This gets complicated when you want a welfare net, but not a welfare state — government funding for schools, but not government-run schools. Etc. I don’t know of Rand’s distate for libertarianism, but she is one! She might be other things as well, but she has so much common ground with libertarianism. She has created more libertarians than objectivists, etc. Sometimes people with a lot in common still bitterly fight.
I believe Friedman deserves a pedestal because of his work embodied in Free To Choose. However, the difference between opponent and putting someone on a pedestal is very far. Never consider yourself an opponent of freedom. Freedom is about you, about the individual. You might not fight for freedom yourself, but respect others that do.
I like using the word liberty because it is a good name for what is important to me and because a lack of freedom is one of the biggest problems, from Cuba to the US. I’m also a free software advocate, so being a libertarian and using the word freedom are natural for me. I consider freedom a very great word. I found a quote I put in my book from 1300 about how “Freedom is a noble thing”.
Hayek was writing about how the left twists the meaning of words, but that doesn’t mean we should quit using them. I don’t have memorized a good definition of liberty, but I know it when I see it. Obamacare is the opposite of what I would do. I would have focused on removing the third-party payee system, which increases liberty and quality and decreases price. I would privatize social security, not kill it. That is the libertarian solution. I think about it in terms of policies and ideas.
No one has perfect knowledge in a transaction. But in the free market, you have more knowledge, more choices, and money which also serves as a means of transmitting information. The bad restaurants go out of business. In the USSR, every restaurant was worse than just about any in the US. I think your focus on perfect knowledge is a distraction. I’m not arguing there isn’t something better than the free market, only that history demonstrates repeatedly, over the centuries, that liberty leads to increasing quality of life.
Greed is a term that others put on libertarians. I prefer self-interest. This is an example of Hayek’s point: the left use “greed” to demonize the individual. Remember, however, the dream of making a million dollars for yourself is much more exciting that making it for someone else. “Greed” gets you up in the morning. Is a million dollars greedy? I don’t even think the word greed makes that much sense. I think it is mostly collectivists who have framed the debate this way.
Corporations existed in the time of Adam Smith, in cities at least. Corporations are people. A corporate building doesn’t pay taxes, nor build products. Attacking corporations is just one step away from attacking people. Corporations are voluntary associations, unlike government which is mandatory.
I agree that TNCs are threatening, but less so because the consumer is holding the credit card. I don’t really think you appreciate how can you choose what school your children go to if the government taxes your money straight away? If you don’t like a government healthcare plan, what can you do? If you don’t like the foodstamps program? The only way to improve your government is to vote. I worry about the corporations so much less than the government, and you should too. People in Greece are rioting in the streets!
People love to point out that corporations and individuals are bad. That is how they many politicians have gotten elected over the millenia. They will put their boot on the throat of the evil ones. There is an industry of pseudo-economic books attacking corporations. In nearly ever case I can think of, the failing by the corporations was caused by a dumb government policy. The housing crisis in the US was caused by the government creating sub-prime mortgages. Etc. So I don’t focus on TNCs as a block. I don’t look at corporations as all the same. I only thing in terms of specifics, not as a collectivist group.
You don’t know everything about a supply chain, but you can know something. We live in an information age. Information moves faster than ever before. In any case, your theory is disproved by history. If you could go to a department store back in 1988 in the USSR, and one in the US, you’d see the difference and that information moves provably faster in a free market.
I don’t worry about deregulation because I see the free market as a symphony and the government as screwing things up, as sand in the motor. Deregulation will generally cause there to be more competition, which will cause prices to decrease and quality to increase. We need some simple and basic regulations, and that is why this is complicated.
Yes, the US was never a purely free market, but the reason it became a superpower is because it was the “land of opportunity”, which is basically about freedom. If you read Adam Smith, you can read about how the British government way back in 1776 managed the economy, and this slowed progress. America wasn’t a success because of the tariffs. They arguably didn’t help much and might have even hurt. But the big picture is about freedom – political and economic.
We aren’t waiting to address the poor. That is what vouchers, and a negative income tax, etc. are all about. It is about moving our system of government provided to government paid-for only for the poor. The Medicaid system provides worse quality than private insurance. We can spend the money, let’s spend it well and spend less so we can cut taxes and get more people working. We never forget about the starving, we just don’t want to have the government grow all food, which is the logical extreme of the left’s position. The goal is maximum freedom so people can live their lives with good quality at low prices. That is the job of government. The purpose in people’s lives is up to them.
It sucks to live for the government. I knew someone in Denmark who wanted to take some of his retirement savings and buy a boat. He couldn’t. They send him a small check every month, and he can’t spend it how he wants. It isn’t his money. In fact, they can change his number at any time. In the private sector, you’d go to jail for this.
I believe we require industrial civilization. I agree that Friedman assumes this and I do too. You talk about Hayek taking us backwards, but it turns out you want to. I love the Internet and the things big teams (corporations) bring me.
With regard to your clear-cut analogy. Private corporations talk about sustainable forestry, and have for decades. It is best to have private lands because it encourages people to take care of it over time. See public housing versus private housing as an analogy. I do agree that there are examples where corporations have an incentive to hurt the environment, and we can create a few regulations, but we don’t need as many as you’d think. The idea of companies dumping toxic waste are long gone.
The military waste isn’t as much as you think. The US can afford a military, it is about 3% of GDP which is typical. We do live in a dangerous world — been to Syria or Somalia recently? We can have a more efficient military, but I worry more about failing schools, and generations of kids trapped, etc. than this. There is also an argument of peace through strength. This theory is that spending money will prevent evil people from going to war because they know they’d lose. I repeat that it is social welfare programs that are bankrupting the US, not the military. Social Security is $600B / year, which is bigger than the military, and it is just one program! And many states are going bankrupt and they don’t pay the military budget.
It is not beside the point that Social Security is a mess. It is the law, it is reality, and we need to fix it. Reality is never beside the point, especially when it is bankrupting the US. He explained that we need to fix it, and gave some ideas how. A plan can also serve as a way to rally people, as a goal and a means. His ideas on how to fix our existing government is why Friedman is such a great man. I think his book serves as a blueprint for a much better world, with better quality of life, no debt, more people working, happier, better educated, etc.
Vouchers will increase choice and competition and lower costs. You apparently don’t know that there are many kids in cities (not rich suburbs) where the costs are $24K per year yet people still fail. It isn’t a matter of budget cuts, there haven’t really been any. A government can always argue if they tax more and spend more life will get better, but it is just an old lie.
Private schools are not better because of the money. It is for other reasons. They have many studies which show that even when the amount spent per student is the same, private schools are better. They have data going back decades in the US proving this.
The root incentive for corruption comes from big government. The best way to minimize corruption is to minimize government which maximizes competition. Remember the example Friedman told of the railroad industry regulators getting taken over by those from the industry which pushed policies that helped incumbents in the rail industry and hurt challengers? The lesson there is that the problem is the government getting taken over by corporations, not the corporations themselves. If the government doesn’t have the power, it can’t get taken over. That is the only way to deal with the problem in a systemic way. We can’t stop big corporations from acting in their own interests. Big government gives them advantages over the others. The small government free market is also more fair. It will mostly remove the advantages the big governments have! It solves your worries but in a different and better way.
I don’t know of the Jan Wong story and I’m not interested in anecdotes. I can say that NHS is worse than the US. There is no unlimited credit card in healthcare in any government system. In the NHS, the politically connected get better care. What is the cost of an MRI? How can the government set prices? Government can easily kill off the private medical research industry. Obamacare adds new taxes to device manufacturers. The left assumes that all the inventions have already been made and they are going to redistribute them. Their stupid ideas could put most of the medical device manufacturers out of business. There will always be problems in any system, the free market less than the others. Healthcare in the US was also much better than the USSR. Healthcare in the US can get better — we need to create better government regulations. The most important thing to do is to remove the third-party payee system. That distorts the whole market and has caused the healthcare inflation over the decades. Obama doesn’t even talk about that problem, the Republicans understand it and think about it.
Friedman doesn’t have any moral blindspot. He has provided a safety net. The family is another one, so are churches, so is a negative income tax, so are vouchers, etc. To talk positively about the importance of one is to not ignore the importance of others. And, BTW, studies have shown that children of single-mothers are more likely to go to jail, so while you talk of his blindspot, I’ll point out that you may have it as well. One of the best ways to help children is government policies that support families. I suspect in your thinking about policies, you’ve thought about it as the government and an individual, like Obama’s Julia. That is collectivist and evil. The government can destroy families!
Crime is not primarily because of inequality. And to the extent that is true, most inequality is caused by big government. Cuba has a massive amount of inequality! Bill Gates’s MRI is the same as the one I can get. In fact, there is evidence that it is tyranny that causes crime. The black market was what prevent the Soviet Union from collapsing earlier — everyone was a crook. In any case, Friedman doesn’t want anyone to starve. Public housing projects cause crime much more than inequality.
This is much more than just cutting the military. That is really the only specific proposal you can suggest after all this reading and writing?
I worry about corporations externalizing things onto the government. Obama does plenty of that. Dodd-Frank and Obamacare are examples.
The founding fathers would be considered libertarians given today’s lingo. They spent a lot of time making the US federal government as small as possible. They knew they need a list, but their list is small. That is what makes the Constitution different. Their major influences, Locke, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, etc. are called libertarians today. I’m too lazy to look them up, but I think that is what you’ll find. All those powers you list are the few ones they considered important.
I don’t really think about Objectivism. To me, the ideas are important, but obvious. I’ve never thought everyone working for the government was the way to run a country. For those who don’t accept this premise, her philosophy can be interesting, but that is not me. I see objectivism as a building block of libertarianism. Okay, now that people agree we need laissez-faire, what should those policies look like? That is a question that has kept my interest for a lot longer.
I don’t take complete ownership of her philosophy. She’s a writer, she’s worth reading. You don’t have to agree with everything. There are people who like my book, but don’t like everything. The left likes to demonize people and they did it to her. She is very influential to many, but many haven’t read her because they’ve only heard bad things.
I understand the benefit of voluntary cooperation. My book talks about the Linux kernel. This is freedom for you so you can do voluntary cooperation. The government takes away those opportunities.
Collectivist is evil. Liberty is not. Liberty is incorrectly called evil, and collectivist is rightly so. Is that not the message of Rand’s books? You might be right that primitive societies worked find with their communal action, but this is outside my interest, and they were also very free so most things were probably voluntary cooperatives.
People do fight wars for freedom and democracy. I realize that doesn’t happen that often, but it did in World War II, for example. So it would make sense that those words were used, they were appropriate. Your statement about the evils of Germany seem to be totally lacking in facts. My complaints with Germany started with their Night of the Long Knives goes to their invasion of Poland, and ends with their death camps. You seem to be totally missing the evil of Germany and I find that scary.
Friedman explained that you can supplement social security with a negative income tax.
I use greed because it is a shorthand. I also don’t like using the same words over and over. Acting in your own self interest is definitely not always greedy. It would only be greedy if you always acted in your own self-interest. And the points is that a government can’t know if you are being greedy, so it shouldn’t worry about this issue. Greedy doesn’t mean stealing. Knowing whether someone is stealing doesn’t require knowing teir motivations. It is scary to have government studying your motivations.
Greed is brought up by the left as a way to create a more collectivist society. They pit one class against another and call anyone who isn’t poor as greedy. This is all part of their emotional lie and the argument they make for why they should have power.
Some poor become rich in a free system. It is possible here. My father was poor, and he became a doctor. In the left’s world (Cuba), the only way to become rich is to get into power. In America, the poor have flat-screen TVs and air conditioners. Definitions of rich and poor are almost useless when talking about how to create a government. I don’t divide the society up into classes and then create policies. Everyone dies broke, and the rich will spend their money on other things and make other people rich people. Innovation brings new wealth to a society. Classes are a leftist political construct and I suggest you forget about it. It is generally a distraction when it comes to most government policies. Obama claims to want to help the poor, yet he’s made more of them. Romney is supposedly against the poor, but his free market policies would decrease the number of poor and give them a better quality of life (lower taxes, lower energy prices, etc.) Even the rich in the USSR lived worse than many poor in the US at that time.
Corporations are people. A building doesn’t pay taxes nor build products. Corporations are just voluntary cooperatives. They deserve respect for the people who are in them, and their customers. You have a contradiction in your support for cooperation, but being against corporations.
I see nothing wrong with corporations wanting profit just like I see nothing wrong in my wanting a salary. It takes profits to invest in new products. It is profits that lead to progress. You would like to kill progress!
The problem in Greece aren’t the bondholders. You always have the leftist perspective on history. I can also recommend you read Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man. The problem is the government spent a bunch of money it didn’t have. The bondholders didn’t spend any money!
You can decrease the power of government, and therefore the influence of corporations on government. You just pass laws. Once a system is privatized, the “evil” corporations have less power. With smaller government, there isn’t anything for them to exploit. And furthermore, the problem now is generally bad government, not bad corporations. Why is energy expensive? Because Obama is against drilling, nuclear energy, coal, etc. The prices go up not because the corporations are evil, but because the government is restricting the supply.
Libertarians don’t have a backwards view of environmental policy. We believe that if get rid of the government educating and providing healthcare for everyone, it can focus on the few big issues like the environment. This is something that crosses states so it is a federal issue. We want an EPA, just a smaller one.
Your understanding of history is incorrect, and is exactly the anti-capitalist perspective. I don’t know what else you’ve read, but I can say you are mis-educated.
The financial crisis was caused by bad regulation, not deregulation. Your words about globalization I disagree with. We want private insurance. You seem to think there is only government or paying out of pocket, and you forget private insurance.
We don’t have to slash benefits to privatize social security. A private system will have a greater rate of return over time. You have the facts backwards, as usual.
I’m finding tons more things I disagree with, but I’m going to focus on just a few of the issues.
Sustainable forestry is in action by private corporations. I live in Washington, and we have it here. Talk might not have been the best word as it could imply no action which I didn’t mean. I just meant that sustainable forestry is the big topic of modern forestry. The government can insist on making something sustainable, but let the private sector figure out how. Etc. Corporations can get smarter and more environmentally friendly over time. Note it takes profits to be able to spend the money to make something environmentally friendly. So when you suggest you want to kill profits, you are also killing environmental progress.
There weren’t really private pensions before Social Security. At least not as sophisticated as now. It was in 1935 that it was created. It has definitely crowded out private programs and given a lower rate of return. It has hurt the poor more than it has helped them! They pay into this system and it sucks compared to the private pensions, which the rich have as well. It also serves as a means for politicians to keep themselves in power. Vote for me, I’ll protect Social Security. I can suggest you re-read Free To Choose at some point in the future. There is a lot to absorb. He spent a lot of time on SS.
I’m for peace through generosity and strength.
There are case studies of cities with failing schools. Check out the DC system as one of the best examples which I think spends $27K per student. Friedman gave examples in his book although they are old now. They are also corrupting schools, many government schools don’t give grades anymore!
I find a reference to Howard Zinn. A-ha, that explains my theory that you have a leftist perspective of history. His work is filled with half-truths. I’m sure if Friedman were to read it, he’d find tons of things wrong. I did. I can recommend you consider everything you “learned” as suspect.
In Cuba, there are the poor people, and there is the government class.
Public housing causes crime because when no one owns something, there is no incentive to take care of it. It has nothing to do with the class, it has to do with this fact of human behavior.
Removing the profit motive would be a disaster. I can say that you need to keep thinking until you realize that.
You have a long way to go, and that is because you’ve read a bunch of stuff that has told you lies and corrupted your mind.
I just read Vasper85′s latest. It was interesting to read, but I found it full of things I disagreed with. The mistakes are sophisticated and a flood of ideas come to mind. I can only say keep reading. There is a conspiracy against liberty in higher-education and you are a victim. My book discusses this topic at the end. I mentioned Shlaes above, and I’ll add Whitacker Chambers Witness. Here is a good reading list: http://marklevinshow.com/sectional.asp?id=32484