A plea for more anthropology of ideology

by on November 29, 2007 at 10:36 am in Education | Permalink

I've been pondering Daniel Davies's attempted takedown of Milton Friedman, or for that matter Jon Chait's book on supply side economics, and so I slip beneath the fold...

What strikes me is that these writers, and also their counterparts on the Right, see so little need to adduce anthropological evidence to characterize other people’s views.  When it concerns the Laffer Curve, or global warming, or the correct measure of civilian deaths in Iraq, the concern is for the highest standards of evidence.  Yet the question of what other people "really believe" also can be treated in more or less sophisticated form, most of all with the tools of anthropology.  Web quotations are relevant, but there is no substitute for getting out there and speaking to those people, for a start.

I’d like to propose a new research convention.  Anytime a writer or blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof) really wants or means, I’d like them to list their personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration.  Davies presents Friedman as a shill for the Republican Party; I’d like to know how many (public or non-public) conversations he has had with Friedman about the topic of the Republican Party.  I’ve been present for a few, and while I’m open to feedback from Davies, my guess reading his post is that he hasn’t been there for any.  Yet he writes with a tone of certitude: "it’s clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn’t a party line Republican hack." 

Is it really true that "The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks. 1. Vote Republican.  2. That’s it."?  And Davies’s own quotation of Milton Friedman does not support his core claims; he simply asks us to believe that Friedman is lying.  I would ask Davies to apply the same standards of argumentation and evidence that he does to the Lancet study of Iraq or the many other topics he has written excellent blog posts about.

How many supply-siders has Chait talked to?  It might be a lot, but again I’d like to know.  Has he met with the people who write The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page?  How many of them?  How many leading Republican donors and strategists does he know?  Did they really chat with him, or were they in controlled "interview mode"?  How motivated are they by supply-side doctrine?  What did those say who weren’t so motivated?

How many intelligent pro-life Republicans do you know?  How many southern racist Republicans do you know?  Have they confided in you?  Do they trust you?  Do you really think you know what they believe?

I don’t mean to suggest that such anthropological research will always yield sanitizing answers.  Nor do I believe that the Left is worse in ignoring the anthropology of ideology than is the Right. 

It is sad that anthropological research has such a low status among so many smart people.  It is fashionable to open up data sets for replication.  So let’s do the same for research into ideology or even just proclamations about the ideology of others, especially those you disagree with.  Tell us how much field work you did, who you did it with, how much they trusted you, and what you wish you could have done but didn’t.  That is easy enough in the on-line world. 

1 josh November 29, 2007 at 10:58 am

My god! If Milton Friedman was able to argue that simply, persuasively, and logically about things he believed false; then he is a far greater genius than any of us could have imagined.

2 CT November 29, 2007 at 11:07 am

Yes. In the case of Milton Friedman, simply reading his two most famous popular works or watching one of the numerous interviews on YouTube should be enough to challenge the Republican hack theory of the man. It seems kind of obvious that if you’re going to write a book bashing a very highly respected economist, you should want to collect evidence of his hackery. If you don’t, aren’t you yourself committing a hack?

3 Ryan November 29, 2007 at 11:25 am

I agree with Rich Berger. After reading Daniel Davies’ post, I will purposefully avoid everything else he has written or will write. Anyone whose thoughts are warped enough to churn out a post as poorly considered and poorly argued as his cannot be taken seriously. It may take a lot of writing to garner a high level of intellectual respect, but it can only take one post to lose it. He lost it.

4 perianwyr November 29, 2007 at 11:30 am

It feels more like he trolled the everliving christ out of some people.

5 washerdreyer November 29, 2007 at 11:36 am

Rich – Because he’s smart and consistently entertaining.

CT – I think you’re confusing Davies (who wrote a blog post about a famous economist) and Chait (who wrote a book about supply-side ideology).

6 Justin November 29, 2007 at 11:44 am

An interesting idea, Tyler, but isn’t there the very real chance that we end up promoting anecdotes and gut feelings over the things that people actually say to the public? After all, the primary way that people in political circles matter is by either voting a specific way, when they have the power, or influencing the public. All of that is more or less open to view without anthropological evidence. (None of this is meant to comment on your disapprobation for the Daniel Davies post, just the general proposal).

7 Micheal Blowhard November 29, 2007 at 11:49 am

Great posting.

Wasn’t/isn’t Krugman guilty of this kind of thing all the time too? I remember how his wrap-up about Milton Friedman included some references to Friedman’s supposed “intellectual dishonesty.” Woulda been nice if he’d raised his points (whatever they were) to Friedman’s face when the guy was still around to respond to him.

So maybe sometimes cowardice plays a role in the way people carry on like this?

8 Ben November 29, 2007 at 12:06 pm

I think Jonathan’s comment hits the nail on the head. It seems that TC’s suggestion is the kind of “Why not just ask the dolphins?” approach to human behaviour that economists (and most of all Milton Friedman himself) are rightly suspicious of.

9 josh November 29, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Dsquared:
“Tyler might have taken the trouble to find out whether I was partly joking, or writing polemically, or whether I meant that post to be taken as 100% representative of my final, considered view of Milton Friedman.”

How the hell do you want it to be taken? As 73% representative?

“They’re always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman.”

“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;”

Oh I get it. Your partly joking. That’s partly hilarious. By the way, this comment should only be taken as 34.6% of my representitive beliefs.

10 Jeff H. November 29, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Strange that we’ve settled on this equilibrium considering it would seem to make arguments far more convincing if we followed Tyler’s suggestion.

I find myself naturally wanting to defend Southern Christian conservatives when I hear them criticized–not because I necessarily agree with them, but because I grew up with them and know them well enough to appreciate the nuances in their views, so the evidently ill-informed caricatures bother me. At the same time, this personal (or anthropological) knowledge would allow me to make far more rigorous and persuasive arguments against them if I so chose.

Good post.

11 josh November 29, 2007 at 12:29 pm

“If you can find anything in that post where I even speculate about what Milton Friedman believed in his heart of hearts, I will edit it.”

“when Milton Friedman was put in a situation where saying what he thought would be electorally damaging to the Republican Party, it was the Republicans which won, repeatedly..”

That was easy. You provided it one sentence below.

12 Sebastian Holsclaw November 29, 2007 at 12:39 pm

“a dozen some attempted take-downs of d^2s post, and noone has really bothered to respond to his point.”

Wasn’t his point that Friedman is always a hack?

13 josh November 29, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Unless you’re psychic, there are two ways you could know what he thought:

a) he said it.
b) you’re speculating

If he didn’t say it, you’re speculating about what he believed in his heart of hearts, aren’t you?

What are people supposed to do with the knowledge that your post is not 100% representative of your views? We don’t even know you.

14 Brad DeLong November 29, 2007 at 12:48 pm
15 dsquared November 29, 2007 at 12:54 pm

I’d also note that being a hack isn’t the worst thing in the world – it just means that you’re a bit of a hack. Paul Sweezy was a terrible hack for consistently changing what he said when the CPUSA party line changed in response to Moscow, but he was nevertheless a good economist and (I am told) a nice bloke. It’s bad to be a hack, but it’s just one personal failing that can certainly be offset by other qualities.

16 Rich Berger November 29, 2007 at 1:00 pm

So yoyo-

What was his point? Friedman didn’t denounce the Patriot Act or the Iraq War? Republican shill, QED! Friedman signed letter praising Bush fiscal policy – apparently not true – letter specifically opposed Kerry proposals. No QED there.

Double-D’s stuff is minor league. If you want to admire professional duplicity, check out Paul Krugman’s piece on Friedman from the NY Review of Books – at least he makes a few claims that can be tested.

17 Bernard Yomtov November 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm

[Friedman], like all of us, was/is forced to vote for the percieved best option, or lesser of two evils if you prefer. I’m not willing to condemn Friedman, or anyone else for that matter, for supporting one party over another.

It’s not a question of voting for one party over another because one prefers its policies, overall. It’s a question of endorsing specific policies one knows to be unwise because that will help the party you prefer.

This is all the worse when someone of Friedman’s stature does it because in so doing he passes up an opportunity to steer policy in a sounder direction.

18 DanC November 29, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I do remember hearing Milton speak. He didn’t like political labels and if pushed would say that his views were more Libertarian. Milton did not have a political party agenda, he had a vision of how the world should work. (Or please explain his relationship with Senator Paul Douglas). He would also tell all who would listen that he was not pro business or pro any group – he was in favor of competition and the benefits that flow from that competition. He was not interested in helping political parties beyond supporting people who shared his vision. Above everything Milton was about keeping control in the hands of the individual, we should be Free to Choose without excessive control from government or business.

19 Stuart Buck November 29, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Conservatives could say that the quest of liberal thought throughout the ages has been the search for a higher moral justification for envy. That sort of hyper-reductionism, however, would be unfair.

20 Luis Enrique November 29, 2007 at 1:19 pm

And doesn’t he really say in that interview that he’s not going to talk about the Patriot Act specifically (consistent with avoiding an uncomfortable issue where his views diverge from the Party Line), but that in general the war will involve a small curtailment of freedoms, but the sooner it’s finished the better.

In the post Brad started off by criticizing, the writer seemed to imply that the Patriot Act was the sort of idea the Chicago boys had in the wings, waiting for a crisis to usher in.

I fail to see how you conclude Friedman was “actually for” the Patriot Act (but you may yet provide more evidence).

21 yoyo November 29, 2007 at 1:32 pm

well D^2 is here now, so you could ask him. But most of the posts, especially the first bunch, are of the hero-worshiping sort, that inner moral qualities matter. My reading of the original post is that public acts are what matter in evaluating public figures, and those indicate there are a large number of right wing intellectuals who only pretend to dialogue in good-faith. Consider Cowen’s “anthropological” way of looking at people’s views. The main thrust of that is to give right-wing opinionaters the continual benefit of the doubt; but in political debate such openess is foolish.

22 josh November 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm

D2,

Do you have a link to the letter. I found this:

http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_comment/release_bc04_economists.html

signed by Friedman, denouncing Kerry’s proposed economic agenda, but it doesn’t mention Bush. Is there another letter?

23 j November 29, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Actually, Tyler’s post runs contrary to what economists generally argue, that you shouldn’t base your judgements on someone based on what they say but on how they behave. What happened to the notion of cheap talk? Its costless for libertarians (or any group) to stay they are distinct from Republicans. But when push comes to shove, if they end up donating their money to the Republican party every time I consider that a data point and draw inferences accordingly. Indeed, the entire field of economics passes judgements on people by writing down their utility functions (ascribing motives) and drawing inferences based on revealed preferences, not based on what people say.

And if we really are going to make this about Milton Friedman, he was famous for saying a model is only worth anything if it has predictive power. Chait’s and Krugman’s political views had a hell of a lot more predictive power than their critics’.

24 Luis Enrique November 29, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Lemmy,

yes – it’s consistent with him being a party hack, and privately against the Patriot Act. But if I read it correctly, that interview was cited by D2 as evidence he was for it.

‘course, I may be missing something.

25 Charlie November 29, 2007 at 2:04 pm

“He did, in fact, sign the 2004 economists’ letter in support of the Bush fiscal policy.”

“Yes, I used method a). Friedman did (as Brad DeLong correctly noted) say regularly and publicly that Bush’s fiscal policy was a disaster, in 2002 for example. Then in 2004, he signed a letter endorsing it”

“It wasn’t just a general endorsement of the Republican Party here. It was a specific statement that the Bush fiscal policy was good for America and would help shrink the size of the tax burden.”

We all try to redefine arguments in ways beneficial to us, but the letter isn’t a support of the Bush fiscal policy, it is just an endictment of Kerry’s, “We, the undersigned, strongly oppose key aspects of the economic agenda that John Kerry has offered in his bid for the U.S. presidency.” And it goes on like that, there is no mention of Bush in the letter.

So your argument is Friedman attacked Bush’s fiscal policy and then supported it. But your evidence is Friedman attacked Bush’s fiscal policy and then attacked Kerry’s fiscal policy. So it seems you have not shown what you were attempting to show.

“Similarly, a statement that the Patriot Act was a relatively small and probably temporary imposition on civil liberties. These were definite, false statements that were inconsistent with what he said in other times and places.”

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.

Cavuto: “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?”

Friedman: “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.”

Again the evidence falls short of the claim. Claim: MF says Patriot Act is probably temporary, when it obviously isn’t. Evidence: MF says Patriot Act should be kept temporary. The other claim is a bit more interesting, Claim: The Patriot Act was a relatively small imposition on civil liberties. Evidence: MF says this war is small relative to the economy and not serious impediment to our freedom. I will let you all evaluate the last claim and evidence, if you are willing to let war substitute for Patriot Act and freedom substitute for civil liberties, in which case, the claim first part of the claim is true. The second part of the claim revolved around MF not believing at the time the war was a small infringement of liberty. That is clearly not shown by DD (though could be true).

MF could be a hack, but you certainly didn’t show it. And the fact that you had to pretend evidence supported your argument when it obviously doesn’t makes your argument appear weak.

26 John Pertz November 29, 2007 at 2:11 pm

The thing I always noticed about Friedman is that he was very much into big ideas, trends, and concepts. While most assuredly a dogmatic libertarian, Friedman rarely delved into the nitty gritty of politics. His work as an economist did not center around tarnishing the careers of others or tearing into who they “were” as a person. No, Friedman, though political, was very much an intellectual who had little concern for the banal political back and forth that so greatly concerns the right and left in this country. If I were to judge the lives of Friedman and Davies by their scholarship, I would easily conclude that Friedman was the far greater human being. Naomi Klien and Davies should do a better job of arguing against the ideas and policies that Friedman promoted, instead of playing children in the sand box.

27 mickslam November 29, 2007 at 2:19 pm

“Bush-Cheney ’04 today announced 368 of the nation’s leading economists from 44 states have signed an economic statement denouncing John Kerry’s economic proposals. The group boasts six Nobel laureates, including recent winner and Professor of Economics at Arizona State University Edward C. Prescott, as well as six former chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. America ‘s economists recognize that President Bush’s pro-growth policies and across-the-board tax relief are the right policies for sustained growth – and they are urging voters not to turn back with John Kerry’s tax and spend agenda.

Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia University Business School and former Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said: “Ideas and response to events are the tests of economic leadership. President Bush’s focus on raising long-term growth using well-timed tax cuts, opening markets, and seeking to limit regulatory and litigation costs has furthered the global economic expansion. The administration’s leadership in the War on Terror, the management of terrorism risk, and restoring investor confidence also limited potentially damaging downturns of confidence. Senator Kerry’s recipe of limiting job creation by raising tax rates on entrepreneurs and our most successful global companies, while radically expanding the size and scope of government will limit future economic growth and lead to increasingly grim fiscal choices.”

And Milton didn’t know this was propaganda and would be viewed as implicit endorsment of the policies of the Bush administration? It strains any reasonable interpretation of his actions, especially knowing that Milton was consciously and explicitly a public intellectual – that he even wrote the classic “Capitalism and Freedom” is a demonstration of his awareness of the responsibilities of public intellectuals.

I don’t underestimate his or my intelligence like others here do with “its only against John Kerrys plans, not for Bush economic policy” He knew what he was doing. I know what he was doing.

Sorry Tyler, this “observation” was a tool to get people to slag on libruls.

28 Rich Berger November 29, 2007 at 2:24 pm

DD-

No, you are embarassing yourself. E.g, you stated “He did, in fact, sign the 2004 economists’ letter in support of the Bush fiscal policy.” Then, you do a rowback by citing the press release instead. I doubt he authored the press release, too.

But on a lighter note, there were over 50 replies to this post in less than 2 hours. Tyler, anytime things get slow, quote DD.

29 dsquared November 29, 2007 at 3:04 pm

[Did Friedman sign or even ever see the press release before it came out? ]

hahahaha!

Can anyone help me with a crossword clue?

“Signs partisan statements without reading them” (4). I’ve got H blank C blank.

30 josh November 29, 2007 at 3:08 pm

“Signs partisan statements without reading them”

The press release, D2, not the actual letter. He did not sign the press release.

31 Diversity November 29, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Milton Friedman was a human who thought, wrote and spoke a lot. Therefore he was not fully consistent. Whether, as I suspect, he was less incosistent than most of us is a proper matter for detailed scholarly analysis. What I am sure of is that disagreeing with him is highly fruitful.

I regard Milton Friedman as one of those theorists who successfully changed practical men’s way of thinking. He regarded those who made some attempt, however confused, to follow through his ideas as worth his support in principle. At the same time, he usually was advising them how to do a better job of putting his ideas into practice. That again is a proposition calling for detailed scholarly analysis (just as his ideas are worth very serious analysis and criticism).

Detailed scholarly analysis is the nearest you can get to good anthropology when the subject of study is no longer available for dialogue.

The idea that Milton Friedman was any sort of hack is a proposition calling for a belly laugh.

32 Barkley Rosser November 29, 2007 at 3:25 pm

I never met Milton Friedman, nor did I ever hear him speak. I also have not followed closely
exactly which petitions he signed or exactly which politicians he supported and when. It does
seem that most of the time he tended to support Republicans over Democrats, when he made a Public
Choice (so to speak,:-)), but I also know that he turned down numerous invitations from various
presidents (all Republicans, I think) to actually hold any government positions, at least partly
because he wanted to be Free To Choose to criticize them and their policies when he felt like it,
which I believe he sometimes did.

I have heard it from people in the University of Chicago Economics Department, or formerly from it,
that at a personal level Friedman was always perfectly friendly, civil, and open-minded to one and
all, irrespective of their ideologies or political or economic views or arguments. This was a sharp
contrast with certain other people in that department, with one frequently mentioned in this regard
in a more negative way being Stigler.

Also, many of his libertarian views, including even those in economics, were not ones supported by
Republicans particularly. I remember well one of my former professors who lectured in a class on
Friedman’s criticism of AMA-supported licensing of doctors. One of the students in the class, whose
dad was some bigwig with the AMA, went to the governing board of the university to demand that this
professor be fired for advocating “communist ideas.”

Finally, to Bruce Charlton: I know former libertarians who have gone left, at least for awhile…

33 mt57 November 29, 2007 at 3:27 pm

The proposed reserch convention makes a lot of sense — unless you are trying to sell a general audience book. I think a lot of what lies behind the recent substandard work of Chait, Krugman and Naomi Klein etc. is that simply they are trying to sell books. The likely audience for their books is people who have a certain point of view. They buy the book to reinforce that view. If you can’t deliver that, because you’ve learned by conscientiously adhering to intellectually honest methods, that the view is overstated and inaccurate, you won’t make it worthwhile to publish and market the book. “Disaster Capitalism: A Mixed Verdict” or “The Uncertainties of a Liberal” aren’t going to fly off the shelf. It’s no different and actually even worse on the right — Bill O’Reilly books, Anne Coulter books, Clinton hatchet jobs, etc.

34 Thomas November 29, 2007 at 3:54 pm

This is just sad. DD, have your silly fight with Brad, but there’s no reason to trash Friedman in the process.

As for the bit on the letter, I take it you now retract the claim that “It was a specific statement that the Bush fiscal policy was good for America and would help shrink the size of the tax burden.” Because that’s clearly not supported by the text of the letter. Not even the worst sort of hack would keep up with that line. Let’s see how bad you have it.

35 Ryan November 29, 2007 at 4:19 pm

DD, I really hope your site does not have any readers, except those looking for a good bit of satire.

Twisting facts and warping them to fit your ideological bent is one the greatest forms of intellectual dishonesty.

36 Sebastian Holsclaw November 29, 2007 at 4:32 pm

“Before anyone gets any further with this “it wasn’t supporting Bush, it was just attacking Kerry” nonsense (as if attacking Kerry in a two-horse race against Bush wasn’t supporting Bush!), perhaps they’d care to read the press release accompanying the statement, which clarified the matter by saying “America ‘s economists recognize that President Bush’s pro-growth policies and across-the-board tax relief are the right policies for sustained growth”. Or for that matter, the article “What Every American Wants” in 2003. You’re embarrassing yourselves.”

This is interesting. I distinctly remember you complaining that the press release surrounding the Lancet report on Iraqi ‘excess deaths’ should not be taken as evidence for the substantive views of the report. Do I need to bother to look that up, or would you care to distinguish the point?

As a general point, press releases are not the same as the underlying substantive document, and someone who signs off on a substantive document rarely has anything to do with the press release (they are generally written after the substantive document).

37 Charlie November 29, 2007 at 4:41 pm

This is actually getting quite funny, watch what DD does on this one:

“[Because that’s clearly not supported by the text of the letter.]

It clearly is. “America’s economists recognize that President Bush’s pro-growth policies and across-the-board tax relief are the right policies for sustained growth – and they are urging voters not to turn back with John Kerry’s tax and spend agenda.” The only response to this appears to be to accuse Glenn Hubbard of monstrously exploiting Milton Friedman’s signature to falsely claim his endorsement; if Hubbard did perform this act of perfidy, none of the signatories ever complained.”

It seems obvious to anyone reading this that DD is showing that Hubbard says the quote “American economists…blah, blah,” but in fact, that quote is from “Bush-Cheney communications” the author of the press statement. The statement goes on to quote Hubbard who says, “Ideas and response to events are the tests of economic leadership. President Bush’s focus on raising long-term growth using well-timed tax cuts, opening markets, and seeking to limit regulatory and litigation costs has furthered the global economic expansion. The administration’s leadership in the War on Terror, the management of terrorism risk, and restoring investor confidence also limited potentially damaging downturns of confidence.”

So we have Hubbard stating something he believes (presumably) that has nothing to do MF. We have “Bush-Cheney” saying something about “America’s economists support Bush’s pro-growth policies and across the board tax cut” which is actually a statement MF would probably agree with, but that many economists wouldn’t agree with. So of all the economists that should stand up and disagree with being generalized this way, MF probably wouldn’t be one.

But how did DD imply MF was supporting something he obviously didn’t agree with. Well, to do that we have to change “pro-growth policies and across the board tax cuts” to fiscal policy. Fiscal policy includes spending. It’s funny that even the B-C people aren’t willing to say, “economists support Bush’s fiscal policy.”

This is a serious pattern of abuse and misuse of evidence. I actually think a person could put together a reasonable case that MF was a hack. But rather than not ably make that case, DD greatly undermines his own credibility by consistently misusing evidence.

38 A Tykhyy November 29, 2007 at 4:49 pm

[Given that DD cites one example that supposedly supports his thesis, how many counterexamples do we need to supply to undermine his argument? One, two, three, or how many?]

*If* there is even one established example, no amount of counterexamples will suffice. This is analogous to Soviet dissidents — give in to the system once and you lose credibility in the dissident circles. Even though most dissidents understand that you must take care of your family etc. and respect your choice, you would likely become “un-handshakeable”.

39 Sesh November 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm

But, doesn’t actual data (numbers) betray ‘revealed preference’s of people without need for any anthropological observations?

May be it won’t help that much when analyzing opinions about someone’s opinion of someone else’s ideas!

40 Holy S November 29, 2007 at 5:03 pm

D2, why do you keep implying that Friedman threw his support behind the campaign press release? Evidence?

And as for your charge that Friedman never publicly contradicted Republican Party orthodoxy, you mean like his stance on the war on drugs? Nixon’s economic policies? Selected elements of Reagan’s protectionism?

Strawman.

41 politicalfootball November 29, 2007 at 5:18 pm

The measure of whether or not someone is a “Republican shill” is whether or not he shills for Republicans – a thing that is done, by its very definition, in public. It is a common belief in Republican circles these days that believing the right thing in private makes up for publicly doing the wrong thing. Frankly, I don’t care what Colin Powell, for instance, says at cocktail parties, it’s what he said when he was influencing policy that matters. (And, of course, unlike the Republicans, I don’t much care what Bill Clinton did in private, except to the extent that it influenced his public behavior.)

42 happyjuggler0 November 29, 2007 at 5:27 pm

spent his ninetieth birthday party at the White House telling George Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster.

It was and is a disaster, at least if you believe smaller government is better than bigger government. Reason being that he is/was spending way too much, and in fact increasing the wedge so that spending is “scheduled” to increase even more in the future.

Also the original tax cuts in 2001 were Keynesian in nature, which as Friedman points out in his article are something he generally thinks is a stupid way to go about things.

This is not at all inconsistent with either the petition or the tax article.

By the way fiscal policy is about both taxing and spending, just in case anyone is confused. This is not mere semantics, and goes to the heart of the issue, at least as far as Milton Friedman is concerned, and is something Friedman has long written and talked about. It is the spending that is the problem, not the taxing nor the borrowing.

43 dsquared November 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm

[And as for your charge that Friedman never publicly contradicted Republican Party orthodoxy, you mean like his stance on the war on drugs? Nixon’s economic policies? Selected elements of Reagan’s protectionism?]

Nixon in particular is a wonderful example of my point. Friedman regarded him as “the most socialist President that the USA ever had” and disagreed with him on nearly every point of economic policy. But nevertheless continued to serve on his Council of Economic Advisers, never spoke out against him in campaigns, never resigned, in general continued to support the Republican cause.

44 8 November 29, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Democrats: much higher spending, higher taxes
Republicans: higher spending, lower taxes

Friedman: “and this is why I say second, my general policy is to be in favor of a tax cut at any time, for any reason, for any excuse. To be in favor of a tax cut, not primarily because it will stimulate initiative and inventiveness but in order to keep down government spending.”

Government can go into debt, but only so far. Eventually it has to raise taxes or hold down spending. Which party is more likely to hold down spending? As bad as Republicans have been, understand that most, if not all of Bush’s spending bills were opposed by Democrats because they didn’t spend enough!

Friedman chose the lesser of two evils.

As for the PATRIOT Act, if anyone thinks President Gore or President Kerry would have acted substantially differently, I have a bridge to sell you. Friedman was pretty clear: you lose your freedom if you fail to fight the enemy and you’ll lose freedom when the government fights the enemy. You can always repeal the government after the war, but if the enemy wins you’re out of luck. Again, the lesser of two evils.

45 8 November 29, 2007 at 5:48 pm

It is a common belief in Republican circles these days that believing the right thing in private makes up for publicly doing the wrong thing.

This is the source of anger between conservatives and Republicans, liberals and Democrats.

46 politicalfootball November 29, 2007 at 5:54 pm

But upon reflection, Bob, I have to add are you kidding me? I do, of course, have extensive personal experience with Republicans. If you feel this is an unfair characterization of “the Republicans” from your personal anthropological experience, I’d be curious to hear about it.

Mostly, though, I think you and Cowen are using “personal anthropological experience” as a dodge to mask your unwillingness to confront actual public statements.

47 Barkley Rosser November 29, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Dsquared,

Ooooooops!!! You should have carefully read my post above.

Repeat: Milton Friedman never accepted any invitation from any Republican president to serve
in any official governmental capacity. That includes Nixon’s CEA. He never resigned from it,
because he was never on it.

48 Bob Montgomery November 29, 2007 at 6:01 pm

For this purpose, you may assume that I have none. For the reasons I describe, I disavow the need to have any.

I’m not really sure what to make of this – “I don’t need to actually interact with those people because they’re all bastards.” Umm, how do you know that what you describe is true since you have no interactions with them?

What strikes me is that these writers, and also their counterparts on the Right, see so little need to adduce anthropological evidence to characterize other people’s views.

49 John Emerson November 29, 2007 at 6:11 pm

If someone thinks of George W. Bush as a lesser evil, not only in 2000 and 2004 but even today, isn’t that evidence? It would seem especially incumbent on people who supported Bush in the past to oppose him publicly now, at least f they want to clear their good names. (I’m not talking about Friedman specifically, obviously, but the more general question.)

Someone who opposes Bush also has some serious choices to make next fall, because most of the Republican candidates (except Ron Paul) look like Bush-squared.

50 Bob Montgomery November 29, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Mostly, though, I think you and Cowen are using “personal anthropological experience” as a dodge to mask your unwillingness to confront actual public statements.

I think Tyler makes a good point that when making blanket statements about groups’ thoughts/desires/hopes (like your statement about all Republicans) you should back it up with something. “the Republicans” are millions of people across the US and to badmouth them all because their leader(s) behave badly is dishonest and a poor argument.

Anyway, Tyler makes a good point but he, for some reason, attached to his good point a poor example; Davies’ attack on Friedman, which is not mostly a statement about a group’s thoughts, but rather a statement about a particular man’s thoughts, which can be mostly surmised from his writings.

51 MattXIV November 29, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Under Clinton, all libertarians, many Republicans, and a fair number of Democrats opposed Clinton’s encroachments on civil liberties, but none of the Republicans and only some of the libertarians opposed Bush’s. “War is the health of the state” indeed!

As opposed to the Democrats who mostly (honorable exceptions like Feingold deserve credit where it’s due) who didn’t figure out that they opposed Bush’s encroachments on civil liberties until his approval rating had safely dropped to the 30s.

D^2 almost has an insight in his post when he criticizes American liberals for not calling out libertarians for being fair-weather supporters of civil liberties, but he fails to notice that the primary reason for this is that mainstream liberalism in the US (in particular as manifested in the Democratic party) not only shows primarily fair weather support for civil liberties, but many (as the Clinton examples demonstrate) will proactively align in favor of encroachment when it’s a Democrat doing the encroaching.

52 Mike Huben November 29, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Tyler, you’re a hoot. “Personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration”: pray tell, what anthropological training do you profess to have? All your pompous pretense is saying is that you listened to the great man and thus feel differently. Please, show us your anthropological notes so that we can all be awed and cowed by your perspicacious insights! Did you use that awesome libertarian power of knowing what people really think?

It’s really sad to see all your syncophants (and Milton’s) attacking D2 with their inept arguments. How blasphemous the idea that the great man could have had a pimple! Let alone one so large. Besides his design of the Federal withholding tax.

My Critiques of Libertarianism site has a relatively new index for Milton Friedman. Only a few things there. If anybody would like to suggest more, I’d welcome it.

53 John Emerson November 29, 2007 at 6:32 pm

MattXIV: I’m not defending the Democrats. The Patriot Act is exactly the kind of thing which libertarians, if they actually exist and are actually libertarians, would be expected to take a leading role on. If the libertarians have any independent function in American politics, that would be it. But they didn’t.

I use the small-l word because I don’t just mean party members. Bush’s various offenses on habeas corpus etc. (not just the Patriot Act) have been egregious, and you don’t have to be a libertarian militant to oppose them.

54 John Emerson November 29, 2007 at 6:58 pm

I didn’t like much of anything about Friedman, but the specific thing I’ve put on the table here is his willingness to accept authoritarian government if free markets and low taxes came along with. His relationship to Bush was completely RELEVANT to that.

Friedman wasn’t as cozy with Pinochet as Hayek was, but based on his relationship to Bush, I think that he too prioritized economic liberties over civil liberties.

55 dsquared November 29, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Barkley Rosser above is right; I misread a biography which said (correctly) that Milton Friedman was an advisor to Nixon, and assumed (incorrectly) that this meant the CEA. Although he *was* an economic advisor to Nixon, and he endorsed the 1972 campaign despite Nixon having announced the “War on Drugs” in 1971, said “We are all Keynesians now” the same year and continued to make use of conscription in Vietnam despite running on an anti-draft ticket (on Friedman’s advice) and having commissioned the report of the Committee on an All-Volunteer Force which reported in 1970. So I maintain my substantive point – given what Nixon actually did, it is very hard to see what a Republican presidential candidate would have to do in order to not get the Friedman endorsement.

56 David Kane November 29, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Did someone mention Lancet?

dsquared writes:

Les Roberts has repeatedly said that the statement in the press release was wrong and a mistake, as it certainly was, and in quite exactly the way Milton Friedman didn’t.

“Repeatedly”? Now, I don’t know if this is true or not but I have read my fair share of Lancet commentary, by Roberts and others. Where does Roberts admit this?

And, by the by, much more work by serious scholars about the Lancet surveys is coming down the pike. Better get those clumpy boots on, dsquared!

😉

57 Paul Zrimsek November 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm

I would guess that one way for a Republican to lose Friedman’s endorsement would be to be George McGovern.

Since Nixon did in fact end the draft in 1973, Friedman seems to have backed the right horse in that respect at least.

58 Thomas November 29, 2007 at 8:25 pm

joe, that’s unfair: DD was right that Friedman never resigned. If you keep it up, we can even get him to hang the whole case on that absurdity.

59 thehova November 29, 2007 at 10:46 pm

I can’t help but to think that the real reason why liberals hate Friedman (and they do!!) stems from his success.

And Friedman had unprecedented success for an economist. He ruled both the academic community and the popular economics community.

Lets face it, Galbraith was popular but not really respected by his academic peers. But Friedman managed to be both. He became a household name, yet extremely powerful in the academic community as well. this drives the left crazy.

60 Steve Sailer November 29, 2007 at 11:38 pm

Wasn’t Friedman about a million years old in 2004?

As a general rule, when evaluating the character of major historical figures, we shouldn’t put too much weight on what they did after age 90.

61 Max November 29, 2007 at 11:50 pm

Milton Friedman was brilliant and humane, a powerful combination.

62 mickslam November 29, 2007 at 11:53 pm

I don’t hate MF. He is responsible for my career. I work in financial futures. I’ve all but prayed to the guy.

63 Ben November 30, 2007 at 1:12 am

I am trying to understand what you meant by all this, DD. You are calling a man who (along with Barry Goldwater) defined modern Republican fiscal policy: a “Republican hack†. Doesn’t that sound odd, when repeated back to you?

How can someone be a hack for supporting a movement they helped define? Would you say that John Lennon was a hack? Would you say that Bob Dylan was a hack? (I am listening to music†¦ can you tell?)

It has already been pointed out that MF went after Republicans hard when they betrayed the policies he championed. To suggest that he was somehow disingenuous to go after John Kerry’s policies confuses me.

Are you saying MF was only allowed to go after Republicans when they act like Democrats?

Anyone have any MF quotes on Mike Gravel? I have a feeling those two had some good things to say about each other. Though I suppose Gravel might be a Republican hack, too.

-Ben

64 dsquared November 30, 2007 at 1:53 am

[dude, you should really be feeling embarrassed about being reduced to defending your stance based on a press release]

what, a press release that Milton Friedman signed? No, you should be embarrassed for using such a weak argument to me (you should also be a bit embarrassed for trying to get away with calling me a coward when you thought I wouldn’t be reading this thread, I did notice that by the way, you coward). You might notice I’ve also cited an article Milton Friedman wrote, two interviews that Milton Friedman gave and the fact that Milton Friedman endorsed Richard Nixon, twice. That’s what hacks do, they sign up to big statements with press releases, despite not really believing what it says in the press release, or even reading what they’re signing.

[* Or is it maybe: There’s some way for economists to participate in economics[sic – presumably you mean politics] that doesn’t make them — horreurs — “hacks”? “]

Well yes there is. It’s not exactly difficult. If you don’t want to be a hack, but nevertheless want to participate in politics, don’t say things that you don’t mean. Don’t endorse policies in public that you criticise in private. Don’t, to put it bluntly – “horreurs” – lie to the voters. Michael, are you being – horreurs – disingenous on purpose? I think so. Horreurs.

65 Luis Enrique November 30, 2007 at 2:35 am

Did Milton sign the press release or the letter?

If he just signed the letter, then the interpretation that he did so simply because he didn’t want Kerry elected, which is not hackery, is still available. D2 your argument then hangs on the supposition that Friedman would have known the letter was going to be turned into an endorsement of the Bush fiscal policy, which is speculation whichever way you cut it. You might be right, but there’s plenty of room for you to be wrong, so you’ve not call acting like everybody who disagrees with you is a fool or a knave.

And signing a letter saying A when you ought to have known it would be taken as B is another step removed from outright hackery. Perhaps Milt didn’t think it through, or was a bit lazy on that occasion. You are rushing to judgement somewhat if this is all you’re argument hangs on. Seems to me there are a few people on this thread who have come convinced that Milton was a hack, and aren’t troubled that the arguments presented here are not sufficient to show that. And who believe that actually being a Republican can only mean being a hack – well if you believe that, what’s to discuss?

Also, as far as I can see D2 you have not addressed my points that the excerpts from the interview about the Patriot Act do not appear to support your argument, as they stand. Perhaps you have not responded because I am so obviously wrong; if so I await embarrassment.

66 Sebastian Holsclaw November 30, 2007 at 3:06 am

“As someone noted earlier, it’s what people say and write publicly that matter. This notion that you have to talk to the person — presumably to allow him or her to obfuscate or change his or her original comments — is just plain silly.”

That would be fine, but it has nothing to do with what D^2 is doing. He takes statements which don’t on their face support his argument and decodes their ‘real’ meaning based on his personal interpretation of their character.

So Friedman saying that he didn’t like Kerry’s policy (which is exactly what you would expect a non-hack with Friedman’s economic beliefs to say) REALLY MEANS that Friedman wholeheartedly supports Bush’s policies.

Or the fact that Friedman offers a description of what tends to happen in war-like responses (that we devalue liberty at such times) REALLY MEANS that Friedman desires this devaluation of liberty.

67 pimp hand strikes! November 30, 2007 at 3:41 am

“But nevertheless continued to serve on his Council of Economic Advisers, never spoke out against him in campaigns, never resigned, in general continued to support the Republican cause.”

that is an impressive amount of wrong to cram into just one sentence. As has already been mentioned friedman never sat on the CEA and spoke out against nixon policy openly and often.

Apparently, though, the above facts, alongside friedman’s numerous other breaks with republican policy, is neither here nor there since he voted republican. Let me inform DD of something he is apparently unaware of: You don’t have to agree with a party’s policy platform to vote for that party, only consider it less bad than the other guy’s.

Now, if you can cite an example of friedman supporting a republican administration in preference of a democratic opposition that was proposing to the end the war on drugs, introduce school vouchers, cut government spending ect. then you would be somewhere uncharacteristically close to a point.

I hope you don’t mind that piece of unsolicited advice in the preceding paragraph, but boy, you are struggling here.

68 dsquared November 30, 2007 at 5:26 am

[Still, you are telling a story about what happened over that letter that supports your argument, but it is not the only available story. Maybe Milt just thought he was joining the good fight against Kerry, wanting to help out as a sincere Republican supporter, and did not think “hey, by signing this I am effectively endorsing Bush’s fiscal policy”. ]

well maybe he *was* an idiot, but I think this unlikely, the man did win the Nobel Prize after all. This was hardly the first Presidential election campaign he’d seen.

What is the point of handing out all this benefit of the doubt? It is never reciprocated.

69 cerebus November 30, 2007 at 7:27 am

Friedman always ‘advised’ people he diagreed with; to give some random examples, Communist China and Pinochet’s Chile. He hoped his ideas would have liberalising effects.

He was consistenly Republican albeit reptillian, viewing them as the lesser evil, and the more receptive to his ideas. His support for Bush’s fiscal policy might’ve been ideological tax-cutter starve the beast logic. Or maybe Sailer’s Octogenarian point is right. Or maybe he was sometimes a bit of a party hack, because he thought they were the lesser evil, and wanted Republicans to win.

Hm, posthumous anthropological research is tricky. But I don’t think Davies’ proved his case.

70 Alex November 30, 2007 at 8:05 am

I’d like to know how many (public or non-public) conversations he has had with Friedman about the topic of the Republican Party. I’ve been present for a few

Hark at Lord Muck. Argument from authority, to say nothing of argument from social status.

And frankly, of all groups who can chuck around demands for “personal anthropological evidence” without being hypocritical, rightwing libertarian economics bloggers are not the most obvious.

71 cerebus November 30, 2007 at 8:30 am

We’re arguing about Friedman’s psychology, Alex. It may be argument from authority, but short of mind-reading it seems the best approach.

72 dsquared November 30, 2007 at 8:44 am

Well no we’re not. If I (as seems unlikely at present) ever get commissioned to do the intellectual biography of Milton Friedman, I’ll take Tyler’s advice and do a whole load of detailed research on what he “truly” believed. However, my actual area of interest was “were these principles ever important enough *to Milton Friedman* to interfere with his giving wholehearted support to the Republican Party”. To which the answer is “nope”.

[The signing of a letter does not equal the signing of the press release that is later attached to it.]

Right, so the Bush-Cheney ’04 team called Milton Friedman up and asked him to sign a letter. He assumed that this letter would not be used as a general statement of support for Bush. This is a Nobel Prize winning economist we are talking about, who had been involved in something like half a dozen presidential campaigns. It defies credulity. Even then, there is still “What Every American Wants” and the Patriot Act comments to defend.
[4: Negative support of a candidates policies(Kerry) does not impute positive suport of another candidate’s policies(Bush)]

Keep ’em coming guys.

73 Alex November 30, 2007 at 9:23 am

What is the mistake, Thomas? You don’t seem to say what it is.

Let’s see; the Bush-Cheney 04 campaign team want some economists to sign a letter criticising John Kerry. Among the ones they call is Milton Friedman. Roger so far?

Assuming the BC04 chaps aren’t actually trying to spend as much time as possible calling people who tell them to fuck off, they will have chosen the ones they think will do it; this tells us that they expected Milton Friedman to sign. Revealed preference, eh. I don’t think they called, say, Paul Krugman or Max Sawicky.

Milton signs, despite the fact he said that Bush-Cheney’s economic policy was a disaster.

BC04 issues a press release pointing to the letter; what the fucking fuck do you expect them to do? Bury it?

Where’s the mistake Thomas?

74 dsquared November 30, 2007 at 9:34 am

It really does amaze me that so many of Milton Friedman’s fans are trying to portray him as a political naif who didn’t understand what he was doing when he signed that letter, or who honestly believed that the Patriot Act would be quickly repealed. It’s almost disrespectful.

75 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 10:15 am

Since Nixon did in fact end the draft in 1973, Friedman seems to have backed the right horse in that respect at least.

He announced it would be phased out in 1969, just a few months after he was inaugurated. Apparently, in the world Dsquared inhabits, politicians can merely snap their fingers to make things happen.

And, as someone else referenced, Friedman used his Newsweek column to criticize, several times, Nixon’s wage and price controls; one of which was titled ‘Monumental Folly’. That began in August 1971, so another of DD’s claims is exploded.

In addition, in 1992 Friedman told an interviewer than he thought economic policy might be better if Clinton won over GHW Bush.

But, don’t ever change, DD. You’d be no fun if you ever bothered to ascertain the facts before spouting off.

76 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 10:28 am

About Iraq, here’s an excerpt from a WSJ interview, from July 2006, with Milton and Rose:

“What’s really killed the Republican Party isn’t spending, it’s Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression.”

Mrs. Friedman–listening to her husband with an ear cocked–was now muttering darkly.

Milton: “Huh? What?”

Rose: “This was not aggression!”

Milton (exasperatedly): “It was aggression. Of course it was!”

Rose: “You count it as aggression if it’s against the people, not against the monster who’s ruling them. We don’t agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don’t agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously–such as, I don’t want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out–but big issues, this is the first one!”

Milton: “But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it.”

Rose: “And we will!”

77 Sebastian Holsclaw November 30, 2007 at 10:35 am

:Right, so the Bush-Cheney ’04 team called Milton Friedman up and asked him to sign a letter. He assumed that this letter would not be used as a general statement of support for Bush. This is a Nobel Prize winning economist we are talking about, who had been involved in something like half a dozen presidential campaigns. It defies credulity. Even then, there is still “What Every American Wants” and the Patriot Act comments to defend.
[4: Negative support of a candidates policies(Kerry) does not impute positive suport of another candidate’s policies(Bush)]”

Now I’m willing to believe that the Bush/Cheney people were initially calling people for the letter. It isn’t impossible. But not all similar letters start that way, so do you have evidence that this started in the campaign offices?

As for the rest, you see, this is rather different from your initial claim. You initial claim is of full throated, hackish support for Bush’s policies. Now you are retreating to the idea that criticism of Bush’s opponents–in a way that is fully consistent with Friedman’s economic understandings–represented some sort of support for Bush. That is a different claim in both scope and depth. No one will argue that the letter was ZERO support, just as no one would argue that the side effect of objecting to the American invasion of Iraq offered SOME SMALL LEVEL of support to Saddam continuing in power. But on balance the tradeoffs seem fair to some people. But to characterize your position on Iraq as full throated, hackish support for Saddam would be rather unfair don’t you agree? Even though one of the side effects of that position is to contribute to the continuation of his power?

And your Patriot Act stuff looks to me like you are frankly misreading Friedman’s statements. He DESCRIBES the human response in time of war and offers a HOPE that the time of war will be short so the degradation of liberty which is inspired by that will also be short. He does not offer support for that degradation of liberty.

78 Luis Enrique November 30, 2007 at 11:00 am

Trying to reduce his signing of that letter to demonstrating that either a) he was a hack or b) he was an idiot, isn’t going to convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you. Your opponents in this argument to not accept that dichotomy.

Would you make the same judgment if a left-wing intellectual and avowed Democrat had say attacked Bush on Iraq at election time, even though they also actually disagreed with the Democrat policy on Iraq too? (I think that’s a comparable situation, I could be wrong)

I am no particular Friedman fan, I just don’t think D2 has backed up his assertion here. Unless you reduce the word hack to mean something so innocuous to make D2’s original post equally content free.

I cannot see any support for the repeated assertion that he said the Patriot Act would be small and temporary, either. Nor for anything to refute Brad’s original argument that Friedman did not support the Patriot Act.

79 Ben November 30, 2007 at 11:16 am

It seems Tom beat me to it.

MF tried “embarrassing a serving Republican president† on many occasions (Nixon, W, HW). Others have pointed to them, DD. You are ignoring these facts because it is bad for your argument or you are skimming for straw-men.

(You are practicing a type of argumentation I find in my niece when she is not ready to come inside or go to sleep. She ignores everything that she does not want to hear and clamps down on the few words she does. This is why so many parents and caretakers feel the need to add ‘ice cream’ to every unpleasant sentence directed at a child.)

Again, I have to ask, who should MF have supported over Nixon? Which candidate was more in line with his economic and socioeconomic beliefs?

And on top of that, why shouldn’t MF have felt free to attack John Kerry? If MF thought the Kerry economic policies would have been worse for America than Bush’s, why shouldn’t he have said so? Should he have waited for the second coming of Goldwater? You seem to be arguing under the premise that MF secretly agreed with Kerry, but wanted the GOP to win anyway. Where do you get that? Isn’t the former more likely… that MF simply thought that Bush > Kerry?

-Ben

80 Bernard Yomtov November 30, 2007 at 11:43 am

Ending the draft was quite a coup for MF.

This is a substantial exaggeration. Certainly Friedman opposed the draft, but he was hardly a lonely campaigner who found success against long odds. The draft was not a popular policy, to say the least, and the opposition was vocal and active.

Of course, most of this opposition was decidedly left-wing. So I suppose it is convenient for conservatives to ignore it, and attribute the end of the draft mainly to Friedman’s persuasive powers, rather than the political realities of the time.

81 Thomas November 30, 2007 at 11:48 am

DD, it isn’t a question of whether Friedman’s signing the letter could be taken to be an endorsement of the re-election of Bush. Sure. Absolutely it could be, and was. But you mischaracterized the letter, which is an attack on Kerry’s proposals and not a defense of Bush’s policy or proposals. (I would think that damning enough of Bush’s fiscal policies–that when the campaign went around looking for prominent economist endorsers, all they could find was people who thought that Kerry would be worse.) And you relied on your mischaracterization to say that Friedman was a liar. You do something similar with the Patriot Act. Again, I don’t doubt that you don’t understand it, but because of your insufferable arrogance you don’t hesitate to spout off about it. Friedman, on the other hand, was apparently more modest. In the interview you link to, he explicitly says “The Patriot Act is a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to get involved in that.” Despite that clear statement, you take the rest of his statements (about civil liberties in wartime) to be an endorsement of the Patriot Act, and a suggestion that he believes that the act will be repealed at some future point. From that, you spin the same tale: Friedman’s lying, because the Patriot Act isn’t a small and temporary imposition on civil liberties, and Friedman knows that. There’s a pattern of dishonest, bad faith mischaracterization here. And there’s a reason for that: you’re dishonest. I say that with all due respect.

82 dsquared November 30, 2007 at 12:17 pm

[MF tried “embarrassing a serving Republican president† on many occasions (Nixon, W, HW). Others have pointed to them, DD]

No, they’ve asserted them. Nobody’s provided a shred of actual evidence except me.

Michael “Horreur” Blowhard:

Remember this?

“So maybe sometimes cowardice plays a role in the way people carry on like this?”

Trying to walk away from your own actual words sets a poor precedent for trying to carry Milton Friedman away from his. Now I’m adding – Horreur! – “fibber” to “coward” and you guessed it right, not apologising for either. Horreur.

[No, at every second of their participation in the political process, such non-hack paragons “spoke truth to power,” or some such. Ahahahahaha. Right.]

You appear to either be arguing with yourself here, or trying to attribute something to me which I didn’t say. So either a loony – Horreur – or a liar – horreur.

[And you relied on your mischaracterization to say that Friedman was a liar.]

Thomas, you are also making a false claim here, which speaks very badly about your own honesty. Or perhaps you were just being careless.

83 Ben November 30, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Bernard: Mike Gravel did a great thing stalling the vote to maintain the draft, and there was certainly a very strong ‘left wing’ element to the movement. I am not sure what you are attributing to me, here, but I am not bashing the ‘left wing’.

You seem to be confusing the debate, anyway. DD told us MF was a Republican hack. Teaming up with what you admit to be the ‘left wing’ does not scream ‘Republican hack!’ to me.

While I did not say MF did it by himself, but he was one of the very few who could credibly argue with military leaders. His arguments met them on their level, practical rather than emotional, and his exchange with Westmoreland was no small part of the larger fight.

-Ben

84 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Certainly Friedman opposed the draft, but he was hardly a lonely campaigner who found success against long odds. ….

Of course, most of this opposition was decidedly left-wing. So I suppose it is convenient for conservatives to ignore it, and attribute the end of the draft mainly to Friedman’s persuasive powers, rather than the political realities of the time.

You’re simply wrong. Friedman gave his first lecture against the draft in the fifties, and popularized the idea in the early 60s (before the Vietnam escalation) in Capitalism and Freedom.

The impetus for Nixon’s policy was a U of Chicago four day conference in 1966 organized by Sol Tax, Friedman and a few others. A survey of participants at the beginning showed 2/3 were opposed to the idea of ending the draft.

Walter Oi contributed a very effective paper that influenced the participants, and the end result was a reversal to 2/3 in favor of the idea. Nixon was in favor of the draft at that time, but Martin Anderson drew his attention to the book that was published from that conference; The Draft: A Handbook of Facts and Alternatives. That changed Nixon’s mind, and he told a NY Times reporter in 1967 that he favored ending the draft.

85 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 1:09 pm

[MF tried “embarrassing a serving Republican president† on many occasions (Nixon, W, HW). Others have pointed to them, DD]

No, they’ve asserted them. Nobody’s provided a shred of actual evidence except me.

That’s a bald faced lie. I gave you his Newsweek columns which are collected in There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch:

Chapter Five: Wage and Price Controls [p]120
1. Burns and Guidelines [p]121
2. Imitating Failure [p]123
3. Why the Freeze is a Mistake [p]125
4. Will the Kettle Explode? [p]127
5. Morality and Controls I & II [p]129
6. Controls: An Exercise in Futility [p]133
7. A Cold Day for Britain [p]136
8. Perspective on Controls [p]138
9. Monumental Folly

Get cracking, you’re seriously behind on your reading.

86 aaron November 30, 2007 at 1:32 pm

D^2 is right. You just have to know that it is absolutely true that support for “Across the Board Tax Cuts” is exactly equal to entirely supporting all aspects of the administration’s fiscal policy. Now you know.

87 aaron November 30, 2007 at 1:46 pm
88 MIchael Blowhard November 30, 2007 at 1:47 pm

DD — Your skills continue to deteriorate even as your name-calling and hysteria reach new heights!

Reading Comprehension 101: I used the word “cowardice” (accompanied by the word “sometimes”) in the course of ruminating over a Paul Krugman essay that Tyler’s posting had me recalling.

Your vanity may find this hard to wrap itself around, but you were barely on my mind. In fact, I barely know who you are, aside from having a dim impression from quick visits to CT that you’re someone who seems to have no idea how badly his usual slashing and strutting plays outside Oxbridge debating societies.

Meanwhile you prance about, throwing darts like “fibber,” “coward” and “loony” at me, madly trying to pretend you’re triumphantly on the attack while in fact trying desperately to cover up your tracks.

Well, it’s a strategy, I suppose. Why not have the fun of going down in flames feeling like a hero rather than simply apologizing, or admitting that you’re wrong, or might have overdone your claims a bit?

In any case, I’m glad you show so little interest in winning anyone over to your side!

Thanks for providing so many of us with such a fun spectacle. All the best, MB

89 caped crusader November 30, 2007 at 2:02 pm

“Government can go into debt, but only so far. Eventually it has to raise taxes or hold down spending. Which party is more likely to hold down spending? As bad as Republicans have been, understand that most, if not all of Bush’s spending bills were opposed by Democrats because they didn’t spend enough!

Friedman chose the lesser of two evils.

As for the PATRIOT Act, if anyone thinks President Gore or President Kerry would have acted substantially differently, I have a bridge to sell you. Friedman was pretty clear: you lose your freedom if you fail to fight the enemy and you’ll lose freedom when the government fights the enemy. You can always repeal the government after the war, but if the enemy wins you’re out of luck. Again, the lesser of two evils. ”

Keep telling yourself that.

90 Bernard Yomtov November 30, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Ben,

I’m confusing nothing. I’m simply objecting to giving Friedman all the credit for ending the draft.

Patrick Sullivan,

You’re simply wrong. Friedman gave his first lecture against the draft in the fifties, and popularized the idea in the early 60s (before the Vietnam escalation) in Capitalism and Freedom.

Please read more carefully. I don’t deny that Friedman opposed the draft. As for Nixon’s hopes to end the draft, these were based on the idea that as the Vietnam War ended, manpower needs would drop significantly. He did not favor, as Friedman did, fighting wars with a volunteer army. It is true that Nixon reformed some of the more idiotic aspects of the draft as it operated then, but that is hardly the same thing.

91 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 3:43 pm

More criticism of Republicans by Friedman (Bill Bennett and George H.W. Bush) from Friedman:

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.

92 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 4:43 pm

On February 2, 1992–the year GHW Bush was up for reelection–Friedman wrote an Op-ed for the NY Times titled Oodoov Economics, that criticized George H.W. Bush in detail for his ‘reverse Reaganomics’ which ‘b[rought] stagnation’.

It was also Friedman’s response to Bush’s latest State of the Union speech. While he applauded some of Bush’s belated return to Reaganism: ‘In all fairness to President Bush, his program–with its mixture of rediscovered Reaganism and interventionist welfare state measures–is only confusing.’

He then explained the political dilemma (that DD, in his aggressive obtuseness, is denying): ‘By contrast, House Speaker Thomas Foley’s response…frightened me, with its recipe for a comprehensive ‘nanny state, a centralized apparatus to extend into every nook and cranny of our lives.’

Concluding: ‘As a longtime Reaganite, I welcome Bush’s apparent return to the fold. He knows the words, but has he really mastered the music.’

93 Patrick R. Sullivan November 30, 2007 at 6:59 pm

…he always includes a sentence like this at the end, to remind you what his real purpose was.

Please provide such a sentence from the Open Letter to Bill Bennett I’ve linked to for you.

Then provide such sentences from the several Newsweek columns I’ve pointed you to.

94 anon/portly November 30, 2007 at 9:15 pm

“That’s what hacks do, they sign up to big statements with press releases, despite not really believing…. If you don’t want to be a hack, but nevertheless want to participate in politics, don’t say things that you don’t mean. Don’t endorse policies in public that you criticise in private. Don’t … lie to the voters.”

“Luis, the point in the original post (which I think you have misunderstood) was that Brad (and everyone else) had assumed that Friedman would have opposed the Patriot Act, because it was completely at variance with libertarian principles. Whereas he did, in fact, when given the chance to publicly denounce it, not do so.”

I think DD has a decent point in regards to the signing of the letter, since the letter does seem to specifically endorse Bush fiscal policy, which Friedman had criticized. Yet I don’t see how this means that “the ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism” is to win elections for Republicans. Is it clear that Friedman’s motive in signing the letter was primarily its effect on the 2004 election? My belief would be that Friedman, being a smart and skeptical man, would not expect that his signing or not signing the letter would have the slightest effect on the election’s outcome. So I think it possible that his motivation in signing it was to express loyalty and preference for the side he believed in. A man can do understandably do that, though the world call him Hack.

As for the Patiot Act thing, if it makes a hack of Friedman that “given the chance to publicly denounce it [he] not do so,” that seems like an awfully low bar for hackery. Only 1 Senator voted against it originally. Only 4 against its authorization. Even a devout libertarian may believe that there could actually be some sort of (perhaps unknowable) trade-off between “libertarian principles” and the probability of n civilian casualties in the future.

“Denouncing” the USA Patriot act may have seemed distasteful, or at least like overkill to Friedman. He may have genuinely thought the measured response he gave was best.

Anyway, if it gives Daniel Davies comfort to think that the moral qualities of humans depends on their political beliefs, why argue with that?

95 Michael December 1, 2007 at 12:11 am

Hmmm…the anthropology department = ‘go out and talk to them’ department? News to me….

96 Thomas December 1, 2007 at 8:52 am

Jack, have you read the thread? If you mean to come in at this late hour and defend DD’s claims, please do. Because it’s obvious that DD can’t. His initial claims are entirely mistaken, and that’s been demonstrated on this thread.

Start with this claim, from the comments above: “It [the 2004 letter] was a specific statement that the Bush fiscal policy was good for America and would help shrink the size of the tax burden. Similarly, a statement that the Patriot Act was a relatively small and probably temporary imposition on civil liberties. These were definite, false statements that were inconsistent with what he said in other times and places.” If you think that’s DD has offered a defense of these claims, please tell me where. If you think that these claims can be defended but that DD hasn’t, please provide the defense.

97 Patrick R. Sullivan December 1, 2007 at 11:54 am

4. Nobody in this embarrassing echo chamber, with the possible exception of Barkley Rosser, has actually attempted to convince D^2 that he is wrong.

You don’t read English? DD said:

[Davies presents Friedman as a shill for the Republican Party]

By the way, it’s not a matter of me “presenting him”. He did, in fact, prevaricate and obfuscate over the Patriot Act. He did, in fact, sign the 2004 economists’ letter in support of the Bush fiscal policy. Those are actual facts, and that’s what I stuck to. If you can find anything in that post where I even speculate about what Milton Friedman believed in his heart of hearts, I will edit it. But the actual facts of the matter are that consistently (and I could dig up more examples if they were needed), when Milton Friedman was put in a situation where saying what he thought would be electorally damaging to the Republican Party, it was the Republicans which won, repeatedly.. That’s bad when Communists do it, and it’s bad when anyone else does.

I am not signing up for this soft moral-relativist “you can’t judge them, it’s their culture” approach. I am in favour of objective standards on this one.

Posted by: dsquared at Nov 29, 2007 12:11:51 PM

Which led to several people refuting his claims IN DETAIL. 1. Friedman was merely engaged in a discussion of the Patriot Act. 2. The economists’ letter didn’t even mention Bush. 3. I refuted his claim about Friedman ALWAYS refusing to criticize Republicans with numerous examples of him doing just that.

And, I’ll add another one; he criticized Reagan for accepting the Greenspan Commission’s recommendations on SS. He said it was nothing but ‘band aids’.

DD has had to look at EVIDENCE that refutes every single claim he’s made, but hasn’t conceded anything. The only conclusion I can draw from his failure to respond substantively, is that he is an intellectually dishonest person. And, with whatever respect is due you, if you can say with a straight face that no one has tried to convince DD he’s wrong, so are you.

98 Paco Wové December 1, 2007 at 6:13 pm

“Nobody in this embarrassing echo chamber, with the possible exception of Barkley Rosser, has actually attempted to convince D^2 that he is wrong….”

Most likely because bitter experience has shown that it is impossible to demonstrate to that prissy braying jackass that he is ever wrong, about anything, anytime, anywhere.

99 Thomas December 1, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Jack, I’m embarrassed for you.

One by one, for what I hope is the last time. (DD has other friends, so who knows.)

1. Friedman said “The Patriot Act is a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to get involved in that.” The more general statements he then made about civil liberties in wartime were taken by DD as his position on the Patriot Act. Are you saying you agree with DD’s misinterpretation?

2. Yes, Friedman signed a letter for the 2004 Bush campaign. It was clearly meant for partisan purposes. But that doesn’t make the contents of the letter inconsistent with Friedman’s considered views, which was DD’s claim. DD claimed here on this page that the letter “wasn’t just a general endorsement of the Republican Party here. It was a specific statement that the Bush fiscal policy was good for America and would help shrink the size of the tax burden.” The text of the letter is above on this page, and it’s clearly not consistent with this description.

3. Ah, now I see. You’re making shit up too. Cut from the same cloth. Tell us, what are you referring to when you talk about Friedman “signing letters supporting the budget balancing skills of Bush”? Surely not the same 2004 letter that DD mischaracterized? Yikes.

100 mickslam December 1, 2007 at 8:27 pm

Seriously, do you really think that the giant intellect and public intellectual that was MF was completely naive about the political ramifications of his actions? If yes, then you’re an idiot. If no, then you either think MF was an idiot or hold the wrong opinion. Hmmm…

What makes this all the more hacktackular is that this letter didn’t start in the Bush campaign as a bashing of Kerry. Nope, $100 it started as a letter of direct support for Bush policies but couldn’t get anyone of importance to sign it.

“But that doesn’t make the contents of the letter inconsistent with Friedman’s considered views, which was DD’s claim.”

No. DDs claim was that the only rule is to vote republican, even if you disagree with them profoundly. That MF wrote multiple articles critizing the Bush policies and still signed the letter for the campaign is just more evidence that he was glad to be a hack.

101 Mike Russell December 1, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Wow. Say it backwards: wow.

“I don’t agree with everything Bush does and I think is FISCAL POLICY is a disaster but I always support tax cuts. I don’t see even a chance of that under President Kerry so if we have to choose between these two idiots then go ahead vote for Bush.”

That’s what I get out of this letter.

Look, talk about China, talk about Chile, talk about a lot of things but for crying out loud this letter is not the damning evidence that you seem to think it is Dsquared.

Pack it in.

102 Thomas December 2, 2007 at 1:09 am

mick, here are two claims that DD has made here on this page that are in addition to the claim he made in his original post:

“he signed that letter in support of Bush fiscal policy, and he *must* have known, *while he was doing so* that he was signing his name to something that wasn’t true.”

and

“It wasn’t just a general endorsement of the Republican Party here. It was a specific statement that the Bush fiscal policy was good for America and would help shrink the size of the tax burden.”

You are free to run away from these–and wise to do so. DD, on the other hand, …

103 Thomas December 2, 2007 at 9:58 am

Jack, read the post and his comments here, including the pieces I’ve quoted for you. I agree that DD isn’t being obscure, but for some reason you want to look at the big picture and not at the specific claims being made in support. Those specific claims are simply wrong. That’s been demonstrated. Does that mean the larger point he’s making is wrong? No. Just because the specific examples he’s discussing don’t in fact support the thesis doesn’t mean there’s no evidence anywhere that would. But it isn’t as if his failure tells us nothing. It suggests that the evidence for Friedman’s hack-ness isn’t obvious. And it tells us quite about DD, none of it good.

104 Patrick R. Sullivan December 2, 2007 at 5:31 pm

The economists’ letter didn’t mention Bush but it did mention his opponent in a two horse race, was solicited by his campaign and clearly intended for widespread public consumption for patently partisan purposes. So what is your point?

Rather obviously, that if Friedman thought Kerry’s proposals were worse policy (by Friedman’s standards) than Bush’s mixed record of tax cuts and increased spending, he has every right to say so. This isn’t rocket science, guy.

Btw, can you point me to Friedman actually saying he thought GW Bush’s policies were disasters?

So far, all we have is Dsquared’s claim that someone overheard him say it at the White House. And, I doubt DD has built up enough credibility to have many believe him on his (second hand) word alone.

105 Jack December 2, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Patrick,
if you are right then Brad DeLong is even more deluded and you are in fact supporting D^2’s case.

106 Patrick R. Sullivan December 2, 2007 at 7:37 pm

You can listen to George W. Bush praise Friedman and his work here. I note this interesting phrase from Bush:

Milton Friedman has shown us that when government attempts to substitute its own judgments for the judgments of free people, the results are usually disastrous.

That’s the only use of the word ‘disaster’ or disastrous’ I can find, certainly not any news report that reports Friedman using that word. And, does anyone think Friedman would be so boorish as to criticize Bush at this affair, after his gracious praise?

107 Jack December 3, 2007 at 5:20 am

Thomas,
because you are objecting to D^2’s efforts to contest it.

Patrick your examples show Friedman criticising Republicans, not doing so when it might favour a Democrat. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you ducking responding to where I point out where D^2 explicitly said that Friedman criticised Republicans despite you repeatedly claiming the opposite.

The syllogism you point out may be the explanation for your otherwise puzzling vituperative agreement with D^2. D^2 was addressing Brad DeLong, a man who believes that Friedman could not in good conscience have preferred the Bush economic programme to the Kerry one. D^2 points out that Friedman did the opposite in public.

Now both you and DeLong appear to hold Friedman in high esteem but for incompatible reasons. D^2 disagrees with you both to some extent but the nature of that disagreement is different. DeLong would be dismayed to think of Friedman as a Republican, you perhaps not so much.

Oh, and classy ad hominems.

108 Patrick R. Sullivan December 3, 2007 at 9:41 am

Oh, and classy ad hominems.

That’s another thing you don’t understand. Telling the unpleasant truth about someone is not an ad hominem. DD is clearly lying when he says that no one but he provided examples to support arguments.

And, it’s hard to believe that you are such a poor logician that you can’t understand that someone can make a ‘lesser of two evils’ political choice.

109 翻译公司 February 25, 2008 at 5:57 am
110 Bill March 29, 2008 at 1:00 am

i coming from Singapore,To a person 搬家here.
I hope that the formal徵信社I appreciated the boss.I hope to continue to work in the credit徵信.
I work seriously,Peaceful coexistence with colleagues.The company has no particular request, 徵信社I can only hope that the wisdom I play.

111 solid oak bedroom furniture November 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Yet the question of what other people “really believe” also can be treated in more or less sophisticated form, most of all with the tools of anthropology.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: