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    The most articulate advocate of freedom.

    The most articulate advocate of freedom.

    I’m not one for commemorating anniversaries and dates. And, even if I was, I can’t attach a date to most of my important revelations and discoveries.

    That being said, I do have an exception.

    Milton Friedman died exactly five years ago today. I remember this well because I had never heard of him until word of his death rippled across the news. Out of curiosity, and with no greater aspiration than to find out who this Friedman fellow was, I picked up my father’s copy of the New York Sun on the evening of November 17th and went straight to the obituary for Dr. Friedman.

    The piece itself covered what I had heard on the radio and in the news, but it included a point that I didn’t recognize: “Milton […] was methodically demonstrating how market-oriented thought was more humane than any charity — not to mention welfare.”

    It was funny for me to see the word “humane” in an obituary about an economist. From my understanding, economists were the puppeteers behind economic growth and the Federal Reserve. They dealt with numbers and graphs; where was the humanity in that? Politicians were the ones fighting for freedoms and humanity, the economists were just there to make sure it was bankrolled.

    Or at least that’s what I thought. The funny line that contradicted my understanding led me to purchase Capitalism and Freedom, which was the beginning of my acquaintance with the Friedman canon and my abandonment of most political wisdoms. I had not thought to question the conventions put before me until I read Friedman’s arguments against things like licensure and the public school system. To resolve government dysfunction, Friedman advocated a third path; a marketplace. (Or, as Friedman wrote, “A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it … gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”)

    Before reading Friedman, I doubt I could have defended my political sympathies with anything other than talking-points and a few quotes from Adam Smith. I didn’t think much about politics because I was fairly certain nobody could be right. From my understanding, each politician was pledging for what was essentially the same end: a peaceful and prosperous country. The Republican Party seemed more willing to sacrifice individual rights in this pursuit and the Democrats were more willing to deter investment and economic growth. I did not know how to understand policy except in terms of trade-offs. Learning about market forces, economics and the incentive structure of our government led me to believe that there are solutions to the political and economic difficulties that each politician waxes on every election season. The problem is that it’s rare to find someone brave enough to implement them.

    Milton Friedman led me to think about politics in terms of human freedom and subjective values, as opposed to a two-party dichotomy. I’m happy to celebrate his life and my liberation today. 


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    qbookscpa | November 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Welcome, Kathleen. Capitalism and Freedom had the same effect on me way back in college in the 70s.

    Lately I’ve taken to writing down, word for word, his response to Phil Donahue, referenced above. He makes it look so easy:

    I love “I think you’re taking an awful lot for granted[, Phil]. Where in the world are you going to find these angels who would run things for us [based on merit]?
    [Deliberate pause while Phil sputters and the audience murmurs approval]
    “I don’t even trust YOU to do that!” (said with a broad smile!)

    Congratulations to you Kathleen and isn’t it remarkable how effective Milton Friedman was: even in dying, he changed you, another sloppy thinking pseudo-Democrat like I once was, into a classical “liberal” aka Libertarian-Republican.

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall | November 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Wow, it’s hard to imagine it’s already been 5 years. I remember how sad I was when I heard the news he’d passed. He was a giant.

    I was lucky to grow up watching Firing Line with Bill Buckley, Free to Choose with the Friedmans, reading columns by Thomas Sowell, and the book “Wealth and Poverty” by George Guilder. All by the time I was 20. The most freedom loving president in the post WWII era, Ronald Reagan, became president when I was 18. I often say that because the worldview these men influenced me at such a relatively young age, and it made so much intuitive sense (especially after taking a couple of economics classes in college), that liberalism/statism/socialism never had a chance with me.

    Here’s one of my favorite Friedman videos where he explains how thousands of people pursuing their own self interest in voluntary exchanges of goods and labor was necessary for the creation of a pencil.

    R.I.P. Dr. Friedman

    BLBeamer | November 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Amen, Professor Jacobson. He was a truly great man. For proof, just look at those who despise him.

    TeaPartyPatriot4ever | November 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Katheen McCaffrey, congratulations, on your rebirth, and or awakening, to the real world of Freedom and Liberty, and the Free Market Economy, aka, Capitlaism.. Why do think that real conservatives, support the free market economic system of capitalism, because we support Individual Freedom and Liberty, as it is linked together.

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