Featured: Top of Home Page

Milton Friedman is dead

Economist Milton Friedman, a tireless champion of markets over government intervention, has died. His book Capitalism and Freedom is an accessible and forcefully stated argument for the idea that only markets can guarantee freedom and democracy and, along with Hayek's Road to Serfdom, gives you all the basic philosophical underpinnings of the conservative/libertarian view, which is essentially that the market can arbitrate economic matters better than any council of state experts a society could convene. Yes, there's a lot in there about floating currencies and monetary policy and the evils of board certifications, but possibly Friedman's most influential idea outside of the realm of economists is that political and economic freedom are essentially synonymous -- this view almost seems like common sense in America, where purchasing power is typically seen as a proxy for individual liberty.

Friedman rose to prominence with his prediction of 1970s stagflation and Reagan's subsequent adoption of his rhetoric, but beyond changing the terms of the debate on state interventionism, his practical legacy is still debated. Tyler Cowen has links to articles on Friedman here, but this Guardian piece jumps out with its decidedly unbalanced take: it's called "Milton Friedman: a study in failure" -- the kind of uncompromising gesture Friedman himself might have appreciated (The NYT quotes him defending his own extremism thus, "In every generation, there’s got to be somebody who goes the whole way, and that’s why I believe as I do.”) -- and argues that Friedman's only lasting contribution to policy was the withholding tax: "Rest in peace Milton Friedman, big government's best friend." That's harsh; he hasn't even got a chance to roll over in his grave yet at this jibe.

The NY Times obit provides a more general overview of his life, but also suggests his ideas haven't had the lasting impact on policy that he's sometimes credited with.

"Prof. Robert Solow of M.I.T., a Nobel laureate himself, and other liberal economists continued to raise questions about Mr. Friedman’s theories: Did not President Reagan, and by extension Professor Friedman, they asked, revert to Keynesianism once in power? “The boom that lasted from 1982 to 1990 was engineered by the Reagan administration in a straightforward Keynesian way by rising spending and lowered taxes, a classic case of an expansionary budget deficit,” Mr. Solow said. “In fairness to Milton, however, it should be said that one of the reasons for his wanting a tax reduction was to force the spending cuts that he presumed would follow.”

The WSJ's lengthy front-page story, which not surprisingly has a more positive assessment of his policy contributions, concludes with Friedman's explanation of his devotion to academia (not exactly an open market liberated from professional certification and bureacuracy) , which suggests some of the contradictions that lurk behind his seemingly single-minded stance: "For society to be at once humane and to give opportunity for great human achievements, it is necessary that a small minority of people who do not have materialistic objectives have the greatest degree of freedom." In other words, markets and economic "freedom" (i.e. the guiding rules of scarcity and necessity and ceaseless competition) are good for the little people, the people of bronze. The greatest degree of freedom is reserved for the people of gold who shouldn't have to waste their energy earning a living and stunting what they need to share with the world by routing it through markets.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.