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Friday, November 17, 2006

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You...

Here is the actual Friedman comment (from Capitalism and Freedom) on JFK's famous inaugural statement:

"President Kennedy said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.'.... Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society."

Me and Bobbie McGee says "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Maybe to a Marxist. I say it means everything worth having. Not as poetic but closer again to the truth.

Friedman Taught The Humaneness Of The Free Market

While I waited for my daughter to finish her class at hebrew School, I mentioned the death of Milton Friedman to 2 other waiting parents. Both recognized the name and his occupation-economics.

I said that besides the assumed cold subject of economics, I thought Friedman’s contribution was as great in allowing us to recognize the prosperity that flows from freedom. I then told them about how floored I was upon reading Friedman’s criticism of the famous JFK bromide “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Friedman found that the statement failed in both sections as it relates to liberty. In essence, we are not vassals of the state to do its bidding. As well, we should not expect much from the state. I think Katrina showed us what dependence upon government is worth.

I then brought up the benefits we gain from the self-interest of the baker. We never have to worry about how or if the bread will make it to the bakery. We just know it will be there.

The woman was aghast that in a waiting room of a temple I would show such esteem for self-interest and the profit motive. She felt what I had said was not supportive of a supposed Torahic decree towards charity.

I responded that the Torah looks to ethical actions. Where, I asked, was the voluntary giving in a government forcing me through taxation to support some cause the politician found beneficial to the community. From my view, I would like to decide whether I contribute towards a bridge to some uninhabited Alaskan island rather than be forced to by a politician’s fiat.

What I also should have stated was, getting back to the baker, would she prefer to buy her daily bread from a profit-seeking baker or a government-run bakery. No doubt the breads may be as good (though even that is questionable) but which business is most likely to always be open early enough for the breakfast customers. Which business is more likely to be open at 6:00 A.M.? Which one may not always be open by 8:00 A.M.? Which business will be cleaner and have better inventory? The one with the owner who wants to please his customers and make lots of money or the one that cares not about what the revenue and profits are?

That is what I think about as I consider the economic process. And Milton Friedman taught me directly through his writings or through the writings of the generations of students (such as Thomas Sowell). Economics is not solely numbers. And the correct policy, such as having the lowest taxes so that money remains in the hands of those bakers, and clothiers and dentists and insurance agents and developers and Big Oil executives means more people are employed, fed, clothed and housed than through government’s or charity’s good graces.

Friedman showed me that the proper free market approach to trade and personal relations is the most humane. And it is more fun to learn these concepts knowing that it is the fairest system to bring about such goodness. Thank you Milton Friedman.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Friedman On The Drug War

Milton Friedman's letter to Bill Bennett on the "War on Drugs" (Thanks to NRO Corner)

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. Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

Remember this when you are outlawing smoking cigarettes. Remember this when you are dictating what foods can be eaten. Remember this when you decide what cars we can drive. Remember this when you decide the appropriate square footage of houses we can own. Remember this when you ban anything and everything.

Monday, November 13, 2006

All The Wrong Post-Election Moves

While Mark Steyn sees the US election debalce as indication of the US as a sufferer of ADHD that was correctly assessed by Al Qaeda, the solution has always been “small lean efficient government at home and muscular assertiveness abroad.”

Daniel Pipes holds that the goal should have been less ambitious (and unfortunately remains so):

Had the U.S.-led coalition pitched its ambitions lower, aspiring only to a decent government and economy while working much more slowly toward democracy, Iraq’s progress over the past four years would be more apparent. The occupying forces should have sponsored a democratically minded strongmanto secure the country and eventually move it toward an open political process…The basic coalition message to Iraqis should have been: You are adults, here is your country back, good luck.

Richard Miniter sees replacing Rumsfeld with a realpolitick steward like Robert Gtaes bodes real disaster and even worse would be the replacement of our Iraq ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad:

His rumored replacement is Ryan Crocker, a State Department lifer now serving as ambassador to Pakistan. On his watch, Pakistan made a series of peace agreements with the Taliban and al Qaeda, essentially offering them safe haven to launch attacks on American and allied forces in Afghanistan. He also stood by as Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf released some 2,500 al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners this year. Will he smile on similar deals with terrorists in Iraq?

Giving into the tired drumbeat of the Left and the MSM is not going to improve our security. Will we discover this too late?

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