The unique Daniel Davies writes:
D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: This is such a big heap of partisan right-wing bullshit that there must be a pony in there somewhere! Just before this slips down the grating; Brad DeLong waves the waggy finger of disapproval at anyone who slurs Milton Friedman's name by suggesting that the US PATRIOT Act is of a piece with the shmibertarian tendency to turn a blind eye to authoritarianism as long as it cuts the rate of capital gains tax.
One would imagine from this that Milton Friedman approved of the Un-Patriot Act--which he most definitely did not. Unlike Hayek, Friedman believed in individual liberty and autonomy first, and order and hierarchy second if at all.
tsk those liberals and their always poisoning the debate! Why can't they leave principled old Uncle Milton alone.
But hang on ... what did Friedman actually say about the US PATRIOT Act?
DA: In a time of war, how do we maintain our freedom?
MF: We don’t. We invariably reduce our freedom. But that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent reduction. As long as we really keep in mind what we’re doing, that we keep it temporary, we need not destroy our freedom.
DA: Are you concerned that some of the measures we’re taking now to fight the war, like the Patriot Act, may be more than just temporary?
MF: It’s not clear. The Patriot Act is a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to get involved in that. But I think that on the whole, this war is small enough relative to our economy that it is not going to be a serious impediment to our freedom. But the sooner we can get rid of it and out of it, the better.
DA: Do you agree with President Bush that the actions in Iraq were necessary as a part of our war on terrorism?
MF: I think you can argue either side of that. Where I do feel strongly, is that having gone into it, whether we should have or not, we must see it through.
DA: Even if it costs some of our freedoms?
MF: There’s no way to avoid a burden on your freedom. The costs themselves are a burden on your freedom. The restrictions that are necessary in order to get rid of the terrorists are a burden to your freedom. So there’s no way in the short run to avoid a restriction on your freedom. But if we’re going to avoid a permanent reduction in freedom, we have to see this war through
In other words, he was in fact for it, and if that bit about "the sooner we get rid of it, the better" fooled you, then I've got a
second hand bridgek% monetary policy rule for you to buy.
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.
- Vote Republican.
- That's it.
Why are American liberals so damnably obsessed with extending intellectual charity to right wing hacks which is never reciprocated? It reaches parodic form in the case of those tiresome "centrists" who left wing American bloggers are always playing the Lucy-holds-the-football game with. Oh, but their politics are sooo centrist! They're practically 50% of the way between Republicans and Democrats! Yeah, specifically they're right-wing Democrats in non-election years and party line Republicans any time it might conceivably matter (note that here, two years after the White House ceremony at which Friedman apparently "spent most of his 90th birthday lunch telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster", here he is signing a letter in support of more of the same).
I wouldn't mind, but it's clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn't a party line Republican hack (which he was; he was also an excellent economist, which is why he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, not the Nobel Prize for Making A Sincere and Productive Contribution To The National Political Debate, which he would not have won if there was one). If it was just pure scholarly decency that made Yank liberals so keen on recognising the good qualities even in their political opponents, then you'd expect that they would also be quick to recognise the good qualities, analytical insights and so on in prominent Communist intellectuals. And do they? Do they fuck. I won't link to the Paul Sweezy obituary, because I think everyone involved agrees that this wasn't Brad's finest hour, but it certainly wasn't atypical.
Of course the explanation's quite sensible. American liberals kiss up to Friedmanites and kick down on Reds because they're still, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, scared of being red-baited. One of the enduring reasons why I regard JK Galbraith as a hero is that practically alone among mainstream commentators of the era, he by and large refused to play this game.