Milton Friedman, Hated Conservative
By Arnold Kling
Shortly before he died, Milton Friedman gave the Wall Street Journal an email interview.
China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.
Also, a friend lent me “The Power of Choice” on DVD. This is the new biography of Friedman, scheduled to air on PBS on Monday, January 29. Our local station, WETA, is showing it at 11 PM, which I guess tells you how thrilled they are about it.
The documentary’s makers are putting together Milton Friedman Day on January 29th. There are events planned all around the country. Go to the web site to see what you might find in your area.
The film is nice. I have a few nits to pick. One is that it continues the “Commanding Heights” tradition of making it seem as though the central dispute between Keynes and Friedman was over the command economy vs. the market economy. But Keynes’ solution to unemployment was not to nationalize the steel industry. It was to run a Budget deficit.
Another nit is that in talking about Friedman’s contributions to economic research, the film talks about the permanent income hypothesis but not the natural-rate hypothesis (although the latter term is used by at least one person during the film). I think that the natural-rate hypothesis is the more dramatic example. Also, it had major policy impact. Finally, it provided a direct conflict with the conventional wisdom at the time, and the conventional wisdom clearly lost.
Where the film is strongest is in bringing out the supreme decency of Friedman’s personality and philosophy, while reminding us just how hated he was. It is interesting to meditate on how someone’s ideas and motives can be so distorted and attacked by political opponents.
When I come across an attack like Read This And See Why You Should Hate Conservatives, I realize that the basic psychology of the Left has not changed since Friedman’s day.