D2 on Milton Friedman

They\’re always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman. The more independent-minded ones will occasionally come up with a liberalish or fair-minded idea or two, but this is purely for display, not for ever doing anything about if to do so would run the risk of a higher rate of capital gains tax. The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks.

1. Vote Republican.
2. That\’s it.


In Oliver Cromwell\’s eloquent words, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.

This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.

Some hack, eh?

7 thoughts on “D2 on Milton Friedman”

  1. D2 usually writes in a way that seems designed to convince *himself* that he’s not just a partisan hack, but time after time he shows that that’s what he is.

  2. Is he saying that all right wingers are dishonest hacks or just Chicago libertarians? I thought D2 liked to skewer people making daft sweeping statements with straight faces?

    Friedman sounded pretty reasonable to me in that interview; I think I may be in the market for a second hand monetary policy, because I took Friedman’s words about wanting to be rid of the Patriot act as quickly as possible at face value, and his thoughts on the necessity of having to sacrifice some liberties as a sincere position.

    Is D2 complaining that ‘they’ bend to the Republican party line when push comes to shove? Is that because they want to see the party they prefer elected, or because they have an eye on their careers? Don’t these things happen on the left?

    God knows I don’t want to get into an argument with D2 on this, mainly because I know bugger all about Friedman’s views, public pronouncements and validity thereof, but that post smacked to me of painting your opponents as bad people, which I don’t like. (The alternative – that Friedman was a baddie, and D2 has just nailed it – I cannot evaluate)

    I like the Popper / Mill approach of looking for the best in your opponents arguments, something that’s hard to do if you proceed from the assumption that people you disagree with are ‘hacks’.

    Unlike other commentators on this site, I’m a D2 fan. But perhaps when he goes wrong it stems from a tendency to take the most ungenerous reading of his opponents’ arguments (and motives).

    I don’t know why I don’t just address D2, directly; he’s likely to be reading this. Hello D2. I’m making presumptuous personal comments about you on the basis of a few internet posts I’ve read, hope you don’t mind.

  3. oh hang on – on re-reading, I see D2 addresses my point, after a fashion, in the para starting “I wouldn’t mind, but …” of his post.

    Not sure what I make of that argument. You can be motivated by intellectual honesty towards group A, even if you don’t extend that to group B (inconsistent, and wrong though that may be, it doesn’t demonstrate the approach to group A is motivated by something else, does it?)

    And do we know that (whichever) communist intellectuals and whatever set of right-wing intellectuals he sees De Long and co being needlessly nice to, are equivalent in their qualities deserving niceness?

  4. Milton Friedman was one of the greatest economists and liberals (in the proper use of that word) of all time. Thanks for digging that note out Tim. It reminded me of the man we have sadly lost. RIP.

  5. D2 combines a level of self-righteousness rarely seen, even in the blogosphere – though it is Crooked Timber’s specialty – with a large pinch of slightly desperate self-justification which I imagine derives from his day job as a stock analyst with, I believe, Credit Suisse.
    I feel rather sorry for him.
    Though I probably feel sorrier for his clients and colleagues!

  6. Sorry if that came across as a bit rude.
    But is he really equating (in terms of worthiness of respect, or lack of same) Republicanism (as it were) and communism?
    Or did I read it wrong?

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