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Freedom's Point Man PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Monday, 04 December 2006
AFF Sentinel Vol.3 #35
 "It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements."

The author noted that some people thought it possible to use elements of Communist economic arrangements (this was 1962) and still "ensure individual freedom through political arrangements."

Milton Friedman said that belief "is an illusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible, and that in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom."

Friedman saw economic freedom as a goal itself. Further, economic freedom "is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom" (Capitalism and Freedom, University of Chicago Press, 1962).

As an economic freedom group, AFF marks the passing recently of Friedman, 94, one of the world's foremost champions of economic freedom. Friedman believed that it takes both economic and political freedom to maximize a country's potential.

His influence was worldwide. The conversion of China to a market economy, the conquest of double- digit inflation in the U.S. and elsewhere and countless governments privatizing national industries are examples traceable to Friedman, economist Robert J. Samuelson said ("Friedman's Ideas Were Ahead of the Times," Gazette, 11/21/06).

"There was no more ardent or articulate advocate of free markets and personal liberty than Friedman." Those concepts were "wildly out of fashion" when Friedman first championed them in the 1950s, Samuelson noted. The Great Depression had spawned suspicions of free markets. Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom held that "economic freedom was not just good economics; it was a ?necessary condition for political freedom.' Free markets favored individual choice and creativity."

Some of Friedman's ideas we have adopted, some we're still debating - school vouchers, the all- volunteer military and personal accounts for Social Security - Samuelson said.

The Economist reminded us of other activities Friedman's book listed as inconsistent with a free market country's government: minimum wages, farm price supports, tariffs and import quotas, detailed regulation of industries, mandated government retirement and rent control ("A heavyweight champ, at five foot two," 11/25/06).

Samuelson noted some of Friedman's key economic contributions, including the central explanation for the Great Depression (the Fed's contraction of the money supply) and the true relationship between inflation and unemployment (trading inflation for more jobs doesn't work; unrealistically low unemployment causes inflation).

Keynes believed that fiscal policy - government spending and taxes - was the way to control and stabilize the economy. Friedman said monetary policy (interest rates and the money supply, "monetarism") was the right way. It was Friedman who tutored Reagan that inflation was essentially too much money chasing too few goods, Samuelson said.

"Ironically, Friedman began his career as a believer in both Keynesian economics and in the liberals' vision of the world with which it was so compatible. Yet, in the end, no one did more to dethrone both," Thomas Sowell said ("Freedom Man," Wall Street Journal, 11/18/06).

"Friedman sought to minimize government and maximize individual freedom," as opposed to the "readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable," Jacob Sullum, Reason magazine editor said (Gazette, 11/26/06).

"Coherence is something conservatives could have learned from Friedman, who emphasized that freedom is indivisible."

Samuelson noted Friedman wasn't always right. He thought cutting taxes would curb government spending. We guess he overestimated Congress.

"As the central figure in the ?Chicago School' of economists, Friedman over the years sent forth into the world ... a stream of economists who influenced the thinking, and in some cases the policies, of countries all around the world," Sowell said. His students, speeches and writings, "spread his ideas through successively wider circles of people, who passed these ideas on to others, many of whom may never had known where these ideas originated."

"Above all, Friedman believed in the power of ideas ... relentlessly pushed his main ideas, although they were outside the political and intellectual mainstream. Competing ideas proved unworkable, inferior or wrong," Samuelson concluded.

Time proved Friedman right.

Fall AFF 2nd Anniversary & Beyond Fund Drive.

We need your check today or your visit to our website where you can use a credit card to make your contribution during our fund drive. If you prefer, send your check, made out to Agribusiness Freedom Foundation or us at the address at the bottom of this newsletter. We are heading into a Farm Bill debate which could shape the future of cattle and beef marketing, industry structure and world trade for decades. Please join with us and help make sure our independent voice is there.

To everyone who contributes the suggested minimum amount, as a "thank you" gift, AFF will send a copy of Riding for the Brand, a terrific novel that paints the picture of what the beef industry could be like in 25 years - or sooner. Author Jim Whitt's short, entertaining book shows how real beef industry people could get there.

The recent elections have made the road ahead more challenging than ever. Please help us preserve your freedom to innovate and adapt to the 21st century consumer. Thank you.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 15 December 2006 )
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