pageok
pageok
pageok
The Dishonesty of Naomi Klein:

Her bestseller, The Shock Doctrine, has been subject to some withering critiques, some of which she attempts to rebut here. I don't have the time or interest to get deeply involved in this back and forth, but I did give in to the temptation to click on one of her links. She writes, "If you are concerned that I am exaggerating Friedman's support for the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet, read a letter Friedman wrote to Pinochet."

Okay, I read the letter, dated April 21, 1975. The only sentence in the letter that can remotely be construed as support is when Friedman writes, "I know that your administration has taken important steps and plans further ones to reduce trade barriers and to liberalize trade, and that as a result Chile's true competitive advantage is better reflected in its trade today than for decades past. This is a great achievement." But surely encouraging sound economic policies is hardly the same as "supporting the brutal regime."

As Johan Norberg explains, Friedman was

in Chile for six days in March 1975 to give public lectures, invited by a private foundation. When he was there he also met once with Pinochet for around 45 minutes, and wrote him one letter afterwards, arguing for a plan to end hyperinflation and liberalize the economy. That was the same kind of advice Friedman gave to communist dictatorships like the Soviet Union, China, and Yugoslavia, yet nobody would claim he was a communist.

Norberg adds that Friedman "turned down two honorary degrees from Chilean universities that received government funding because he thought it could be interpreted as a support for the regime". Finally, Friedman wrote in 1975,

I approve of none of these authoritarian regimes—neither the Communist regimes of Russia and Yugoslavia nor the military juntas of Chile and Brazil. . . . I do not regard visiting any of them as an endorsement. . . . I do not regard giving advice on economic policy as immoral if the conditions seem to me to be such that economic improvement would contribute both to the well-being of the ordinary people and to the chance of movement toward a politically free society.

Klein herself is a great believer in "sanctioning, boycotting, and divesting" from countries that she doesn't like. Yet even she admits that this is a strategic decision, subject to cost-benefit analysis (thus she acknowledges that boycotting the U.S. and other nations for their policies in Iraq and elsewhere would be pointless). And it's the height of dishonesty to suggest that because Friedman gave economic advice in a letter to Pinochet, that somehow made him a supporter of Pinochet's "brutal regime."

EricH (mail):
It's absurd to claim, as Klein does, that Friedman somehow endorsed the Pinochet regime (or the others mentioned) simply by providing economic advice. However, it's more than disappointing that he didn't make, implicitly if not explicitly, the argument that economic improvement could not occur under any political system that oppressed its people. That the best way to improve the Chilean (Chinese, Soviet) economy would be to allow its people complete political as well as economic liberty so that the full talents and abilities of her people could flourish.

Friedman was a brilliant man. That he overlooked this point is disappointing and warrants criticism. Not Klein's, to be sure; but some.
1.12.2009 12:04pm
DG:
Klein is an expert at far left wing shrillery. She is the left's Ann Coulter, but less successful. As such, she is taking a page from Coulter's book to amp things up a bit. I despise them both.
1.12.2009 12:13pm
Michael F. Martin (mail) (www):
@EricH

Why can't economic improvement occur under a repressive political regime? Granted it's not going to get much better, but marginal improvements can be made.
1.12.2009 12:13pm
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):
On the topic of Friedman v. Klein (sounds like a board election at my synagogue...), VC readers might enjoy this "debate" between the two.
1.12.2009 12:16pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's absurd to claim, as Klein does, that Friedman somehow endorsed the Pinochet regime (or the others mentioned) simply by providing economic advice.
I once used the analogy -- and then I learned that Friedman had done so long before I had -- of a medical professional advising Pinochet how to treat a disease outbreak in Chile. We wouldn't view that as an endorsement of Pinochet, would we? The doctor would convincingly argue that the fact that Pinochet was a thug doesn't mean Chileans deserved to suffer from an epidemic. The argument is no different, even if inflation doesn't seem as bad as cholera.

Friedman also rebutted the attack by pointing out that he had provided the same advice to communist countries whose regimes he obviously didn't endorse.
1.12.2009 12:20pm
RebelRenegade:
Maybe Ann Coulter was right when she said women shouldn't be allowed to vote in this country?
1.12.2009 12:24pm
q:

That the best way to improve the Chilean (Chinese, Soviet) economy would be to allow its people complete political as well as economic liberty so that the full talents and abilities of her people could flourish.

I don't think that's necessarily the best way if by "best" you mean most practical. Friedman probably realized advocating political liberty would turn repressive governments off from his arguments for economic liberty. In terms of likelihood of enactment and impact on populace, it makes sense to simply focus on economic liberties. Especially if Friedman held the Hayekian view that economic liberty eventually leads to political liberty, which was the case in Chile and is probably the case in China.

By the way, most hilarious part of Shock Doctrine was somehow connecting corporatist policies of the Iraqi War to Friedman, when he explicitly denounced both.
1.12.2009 12:28pm
jab:
What if giving economic advice to a politically repressive regime allows said regime to economically "thrive" (on the margins), resulting in the regime surviving longer or even increasing its ability to be more repressive... even if some conditions improve a tiny bit for the people, the fact that regime is able to survive for much longer, isn't that a worse outcome?
1.12.2009 12:38pm
Sarcastro (www):
The best part of the book was comparing the effect of a war on a society to the effect of shocks to the genitles on a person.
1.12.2009 12:42pm
donaldk2 (mail):

Eric and Martin: The Chinese economy has burgeoned enormously under a very repressive regime. You've seen photos of the Shanghai skyline? I am going to take a wild guess that in the absence of a system of commercial law, liberalism (in the old sense) would result in chaos and a cessation of enterprise.

Ideologues such as Klein have a preference for leftist tyrants. Allende's preference was to make Chile into Cuba:
despotism AND poverty.
1.12.2009 12:52pm
EricH (mail):
Why can't economic improvement occur under a repressive political regime? Granted it's not going to get much better, but marginal improvements can be made.

That's a separate issue.

The question re Friedman is what responsibility, if any, did he have when giving economic advice to repressive regimes (Pinochet, et al.) in trying to open those systems up? It's my argument that he should have tried to persuade these dictators that if they were really interested in the economic well-being of their people that political liberties were a critical factor in improving the material lifes of their people.

That he apparently failed to do so merits, I think, some criticism. He was a brilliant man who recognized the link between political and economic liberty. Why he didn't convey this in his advice is troubling.
1.12.2009 12:58pm
TaxMeMore (mail):
Naomi Klein is just a Jerry Springer for Progressives.

The University of Chicago wants to create a Milton Friedman Institute. The Hyde Park progressives would rather Milton Friedman stayed dead and was never talked about again. The Chicago Tribune captured the story.

(...)"In a letter to U. of C. President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors—about 8 percent of the university’s full-time faculty—said they feared that having a center named after the conservative, free-market economist could “reinforce among the public a perception that the university’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity.”

And then we hear this.

(...)“It is a right-wing think tank being put in place,” said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions and one of the faculty members who met with the administration Tuesday.(...)"

The Milton Friedman Institute will concentrate on bringing in visiting scholars to conduct research on business, economics, and law. And the notion that Milton Friedman was a right wing anything is preposterous coming from a history professor, but not if you know the neighborhood.

Hyde Park is a bastion for socialists, and that’s not meant as a smear or scare tactic, but the simple truth. They are Naomi Klein's target audience and she provides the hateful ignorant socialist oppressive entertainment. Viva Che!
1.12.2009 1:01pm
buckeye (mail):
What is a genitle sarcasto?
1.12.2009 1:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
donaldk2
Is a skyline built cheaply in a command economy the same as a burgeoning economy? How are things in the Chinese version of Mayberry?
1.12.2009 1:02pm
Sarcastro (www):
genitle: uncircumsized genitles!
1.12.2009 1:08pm
Garth:
and the other side says, courtesy of the NYT and Joseph Stiglitz


One of the world’s most famous antiglobalization activists and the author of the best seller “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries, and of the human toll. She paints a disturbing portrait of hubris, not only on the part of Friedman but also of those who adopted his doctrines, sometimes to pursue more corporatist objectives. It is striking to be reminded how many of the people involved in the Iraq war were involved earlier in other shameful episodes in United States foreign policy history. She draws a clear line from the torture in Latin America in the 1970s to that at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

Klein is not an academic and cannot be judged as one. There are many places in her book where she oversimplifies. But Friedman and the other shock therapists were also guilty of oversimplification, basing their belief in the perfection of market economies on models that assumed perfect information, perfect competition, perfect risk markets. Indeed, the case against these policies is even stronger than the one Klein makes. They were never based on solid empirical and theoretical foundations, and even as many of these policies were being pushed, academic economists were explaining the limitations of markets — for instance, whenever information is imperfect, which is to say always.

Some readers may see Klein’s findings as evidence of a giant conspiracy, a conclusion she explicitly disavows. It’s not the conspiracies that wreck the world but the series of wrong turns, failed policies, and little and big unfairnesses that add up. Still, those decisions are guided by larger mind-sets. Market fundamentalists never really appreciated the institutions required to make an economy function well, let alone the broader social fabric that civilizations require to prosper and flourish. Klein ends on a hopeful note, describing nongovernmental organizations and activists around the world who are trying to make a difference. After 500 pages of “The Shock Doctrine,” it’s clear they have their work cut out for them.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a university professor at Columbia, was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2001. His latest book is “Making Globalization Work.”
1.12.2009 1:13pm
EricH (mail):
One sidebar on this: Klein argues that the evil capitalists take advantage of a crisis in order to promote their free-market global trade ideology.

So, we have an economic crisis here and what do the Bush free-market ideolgoues that she excoriates do? Do they follow Klein's script?

Hardly. We've seen the most massive government intervention in our economy since the Great Depression. Massive spending and bailouts.
1.12.2009 1:16pm
OSU2L (mail):
EricH:

"That the best way to improve the Chilean (Chinese, Soviet) economy would be to allow its people complete political as well as economic liberty so that the full talents and abilities of her people could flourish...That he overlooked this point is disappointing and warrants criticism."

Maybe I've misunderstood you, but Friedman never overlooked that point, in fact--he consistently argued that economic liberty was essential to political liberty and would always lead to more freedom. Perhaps he did not articulate that in this one instance, but that was certainly part of the rationale (and perhaps indeed the entire point) of him offering these regimes advice.
1.12.2009 1:21pm
Garth:
eric h, you have drawn the wrong conclusion. what the current finanical crisis proves is how self-serving corporate interest in a free market principles is. you see, when they are in crisis, they have no problem begging for social largesse.

free market for thee, but, not for me... i'm too big to fail.
1.12.2009 1:22pm
donaldk2 (mail):
Command economy? You mean that the entrepreneurs who built those skyscrapers did it for any motive other than to make money? The fact that they could count on keeping their new wealth is an indispensable feature of the phenomenon.

Chinese life in Mayberry is terrible poverty. When has it ever been otherwise?

And are you going to tell me that in terms of pure material welfare, Putin is not an improvement on Yeltsin? Russian voters have told you otherwise.
1.12.2009 1:23pm
Sarcastro (www):
EricH you just don't get it. The giveaway to the banks is totally corporatist! It's not free markets, it's the eeevil corporations, who all think in lockstep.

And if there was no giveaway, it would be because the corporations love the status quo.

You can tell it's a good narrative when all possibilities fit within it.
1.12.2009 1:24pm
Sigivald (mail):
EricH said: It's my argument that he should have tried to persuade these dictators that if they were really interested in the economic well-being of their people that political liberties were a critical factor in improving the material lifes of their people.

Well, what do you estimate that the odds of successfully persuading a dictator to stop being a dictator are?

I'm thinking they're pretty low, and harping on it is likely to have a net negative effect by making them less likely to listen to other good economic advice.

I agree that it would have been nice, as a matter of expounding principle, to have suggested that. I think, however, that it is unlikely to have had any salutory real effect, and thus I can't blame Friedman for not doing so.
1.12.2009 1:24pm
NaG (mail):
Further to EricH's point, the one thing that lefties always get wrong is their assumption that corporate execs all push a free-market agenda, when in fact the opposite is true. Corporate execs have persistently and consistently demanded government intervention, assistance, and flat-out subsidies whenever they could get away with it. The corporate exec has one interest: the success of the company. They do not care how that success comes. And it is always more likely to earn success by government fiat than by neutral competition in the marketplace.
1.12.2009 1:24pm
WJR:
This review of Klein is so devastating that I'd be shocked if anyone who read it would even bother opening her book:

http://www.reason.com/news/show/128903.html
1.12.2009 1:29pm
EricH (mail):
The giveaway to the banks is totally corporatist! It's not free markets, it's the eeevil corporations, who all think in lockstep.

Klein's thesis is that what she calls the free market idelogues use a crisis in order to promote market programs and laissez-faire policies.

Clearly in this crisis they (Bush et al.) are not following Klein's script.
1.12.2009 1:30pm
EricH (mail):
you see, when they are in crisis, they have no problem begging for social largesse.

I agree. That's what is going on.

But Klein's argument is that the free market proponents use a crisis to promote their Milton Friedman type economic views.

Friedman, it seems to me, would be aghast at the responses undertaken.

If Bush et al. are free market ideologues, why are they embracing statist policies in response to the crisis? According to Klein's explanation of how the world works, they should be using the crisis to promote greater de-regulation and more free market policies.
1.12.2009 1:33pm
David Warner:
NaG,

Who cares when real liberals like Friedman make such easy, defenseless targets for their attacks? The most important qualification for a scapegoat is inability, or unwillingness, to kick back. Besides, a liberal willing to take unpopular stands on behalf of liberty is an embarassment for those less brave.
1.12.2009 1:33pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Why can't economic improvement occur under a repressive political regime? Granted it's not going to get much better, but marginal improvements can be made.

Seems like China has



made some economic improvement. To be even-handed, so did Spain under Franco.
1.12.2009 1:37pm
EricH (mail):
--he consistently argued that economic liberty was essential to political liberty and would always lead to more freedom. Perhaps he did not articulate that in this one instance, but that was certainly part of the rationale (and perhaps indeed the entire point) of him offering these regimes advice.

Yes, I'm aware that Friedman linked political and economic (and economic and political) freedom.

That he failed to do so (apparently) with Pinochet (and again apparently with the others) was a mistake it seems to me.

(Interesting that Klein is smearing Friedman with Pinochet but not with Moscow and/or Beijing. If he is guilty of supporting Pinochet because he gave economic advice, wouldn't he be guilty of supporting the communist regimes?)
1.12.2009 1:40pm
sg:
Garth,

Thanks for reminding us that Stiglitz too suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome - to such an extent that he became nearly incapable of criticizing Naomi Klein.
1.12.2009 1:40pm
NowMDJD (mail):

I don't think that's necessarily the best way if by "best" you mean most practical. Friedman probably realized advocating political liberty would turn repressive governments off from his arguments for economic liberty.

But political liberty can lead to decrease in other frorms of liberty, as the electorate can choose socialists, theocrats, etc.


1.12.2009 1:46pm
Jim Ison (mail):
Two observations:
1. Has China not enjoyed a recent explosion (and more recent compression) of production and concomitant higher incomes, under a repressive, communist regime? Surely the recognition of such a blatant fact is not and cannot be interpreted as support for the regime.
2. Apart from removing millions and millions of dollars from the tourist trade in Cuba, what has half a century of boycotting achieved economically? One can only imagine a Cuban team in the American league east, or a gradual lessening of centralized power over the decades, had we but recognized and traded with a sovereign entity. I feel less confident about my ideas here than with respect of China but I would like to read more informed views on a different approach to Cuba.
1.12.2009 1:48pm
Houston Lawyer:
I think you could make the argument that political freedom can easily destroy economic freedom and that maximum economic freedom can be attained only in a politically repressive manner. Give the people the vote and they start by voting to take money from the economically better off to give it to themselves. In this manner, they adopt such impediments to free markets that they all end up mired in poverty. This happens so often that there should be a name for it.
1.12.2009 1:49pm
PlugInMonster:
Thanks David, for years I'd believed Friedman had endorsed the Pinochet regime. Glad to know it was another leftist lie.
1.12.2009 2:12pm
Sarcastro (www):
The important thing isn't happiness or liberty, it's economic growth!

Naomi Klein, by making fat sacks of cash money liberal-bating is doing the important thing: growing her personal economy.

Such patriotism!
1.12.2009 2:15pm
TLove (mail):
China's formula for growth is a spin towards fellow traveler Mussolini.

Pour government funds into those nominally privately owned businesses that (a) are run by the politically acceptable and (b) are capital intensive and thus utterly under the control of those who control the capital.

Thus you see massive investment in, well, massive things. Big factories, big mines, big buildings. Shanghai's skyline. Very big.

The problem with this is the median chinese citizen is still an illiterate farmer, and thus all those LCD panels have to come here.

In order to broaden and stabilize their economic success, the controllers of capital will have to start to allow all sorts of less capital intensive, and therefore less easily controlled activities, and thats where the chinese will founder as all before them.

Marx was right in a weird way, the powerful will underpay the weak and produce more than can be sold - it was just that he was in fact talking about his preferred centralized regimes, not the evil capitalists.

And of course the chinese retain the left's absolute blind spot when it comes to farming, so that will continue regardless (farmers really really want to own their own land).
1.12.2009 2:16pm
Garth:
ericH,

bush at al, were market ideologues and pushed as much deregulation down our throats as they could and they continue to dry to cram it down in his waning minutes as president.

when OTHERS are in crisis, friedman's sham of total deregulation is used to create business opportunities in the interests of others, looking out for their own interests, and not say, national interests.

when THEY are in crisis, they expect their friends in government to help them out.

deregulation under bush at al. is almost synomous with quest for short term profits at the cost of long term externality costs absorbed by others.
1.12.2009 2:54pm
BGates:
One can only imagine a Cuban team in the American league east
Reporter: Javier, you're part of the first Cuban team to ever win the World Series. What are you going to do now?
Javier: I'm going to-
Government Minder: [muttering to Javier]
Javier: I'm going back home, to turn over my share to the people of Cuba. Viva Fidel!
1.12.2009 2:57pm
BGates:
when OTHERS are in crisis, friedman's sham of total deregulation is used to create business opportunities in the interests of others
I take it the others are other others than OTHERS.
1.12.2009 3:01pm
EricH (mail):
bush at al, were market ideologues and pushed as much deregulation down our throats as they could and they continue to dry to cram it down in his waning minutes as president.

Sorry, market ideologues (CATO anyone?) wouldn't respond the way this Administration has following the market meltdown (and I won't mention all of the spending this White House has enacted).

I'm sure you're aware of the scathing criticism this Administration has received from those quarters over their response?

Either they're ideologues who worship the market - in which case they wouldn't have bailed these institutions out - or they're not.

The evidence clearly shows they're not. Market ideologues would have let these Wall Street institutions fall.
1.12.2009 3:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"supporting" a regime, as an accusation, is particularly slippery.
I challenged one advocate about the US' supposed support of some vile kleptocracy in the Congo Basin. Details of support, I requested. His only answer was that we hadn't made the Big Man retire.
Within this standard, Klein isn't all that far off.
1.12.2009 3:23pm
Garth:
when THEY are in crisis, they expect their friends in government to help them out.

THEY being market ideologues who do pay only lip service to what they recommend for others.
1.12.2009 3:57pm
PlugInMonster:
EricH - any free market ideologues I know oppose any bailouts. I don't know which ones you are referring to.
1.12.2009 3:57pm
David Warner:
The ones he's created in his mind so that he'll have someone to hate who is no danger to hate back.
1.12.2009 5:59pm
c.gray (mail):

Well, what do you estimate that the odds of successfully persuading a dictator to stop being a dictator are?


Ironically, Pinochet may be the only dictator in the history of Latin America to voluntarily relinquish power short of his deathbed.
1.12.2009 6:11pm
EricH (mail):
EricH - any free market ideologues I know oppose any bailouts. I don't know which ones you are referring to.

Yes, that's the point I'm making (or trying to).

Garth accuses the Bush Administration of being free market absolutists of the type that Klein attacks (i.e., they use a crisis to promote their ideology).

That may or may not be an accurate characterization of them. But their bailout/TARP response isn't evidence, for me, of this alleged free market ideology. In fact, it seems to me to undermine that claim.

Critics will have to look elsewhere.
1.12.2009 6:12pm
EricH (mail):
THEY being market ideologues who do pay only lip service to what they recommend for others.

They they're not ideologues if they pay "lip service" to that ideology. They may be liars or frauds or pragmatists or whatever one wants to call them. But they cannot be ideologues since they're rejecting or abandoning their prior free market ideology.

Ideologues adhere to an ideology regardless of the real world consequences of that worldview. A free market ideologue would reject the massive government intervention that the Treasury has engaged in. Even for one's own benefit.
1.12.2009 6:28pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
From the Klein link:


Asked about increased tensions between the U.S. and Europe, Friedman replied: “the end justifies the means. As soon as we’re rid of Saddam, the political differences will also disappear.” Clearly this was not the voice of anti-intervention.


No, merely the voice of a correct prediction.
1.12.2009 6:39pm
Matt_T:
Garth, please stop constructing strawmen and start arguing honestly.
1.12.2009 6:49pm
Garth:
ok, ok.

they pretend to be ideologues. true believers. until it happens to them.
1.12.2009 7:35pm
LM (mail):
Houston Lawyer:

I think you could make the argument that political freedom can easily destroy economic freedom and that maximum economic freedom can be attained only in a politically repressive manner. Give the people the vote and they start by voting to take money from the economically better off to give it to themselves. In this manner, they adopt such impediments to free markets that they all end up mired in poverty. This happens so often that there should be a name for it.

It's called human nature. The same human nature that makes socialism plausible on paper, but disastrous in practice. Selective blindness to it makes ideologues think empiricists are unprincipled.
1.12.2009 8:31pm
MarkField (mail):
Ok, I waited till now to post on this because I've been thinking about Friedman's letter and how we should interpret it. In my view, it reflects very poorly on Friedman.

When this letter was written, there was ample evidence available that Pinochet was a despicable thug who had committed very serious crimes. What is the proper response to this sort of person?

Putting aside diplomats, for whom different rules apply, the proper response of a private citizen is first, try to avoid any introduction to him. If that's unavoidable -- and I don't expect Friedman to make himself a martyr on this -- he should be strictly polite but no more and try to make the meeting as short as possible. Once back in the US, he should have "forgotten" to send the letter; if he felt compelled to send one, it certainly should have mentioned Pinochet's crimes and criticized them.
1.12.2009 10:41pm
Mark A.R. Kleiman (mail) (www):
Has anyone on this thread actually read the damned letter? Has David Bernstein?

Friedman explicitly denounces the Allende regime, which Pinochet had overthrown, and praises the Pinochet regime. Yes, he does so only in the context of economic policy. But that meant favorably comparing a regime that routinely used torture and murder, and suppressed both free discussion and free elections, to a regime that did none of those things.

(That exquisitely polite letter was written, let us not forget, to the man whose agents had murdered an American citizen, Ronni Moffett on the streets of our capital. An ounce of patriotism would have dictated either that the letter not be written at all or that some mention be made of that appalling terrorist act.)

Friedman's claim, and the claim of his followers, to support capitalism because it enhances human freedom was put to a very clear test in the case of Pinochet's Chile. The claim spectacularly failed that test. Given a choice between capitalism and freedom, Friedman chose capitalism, and the torture chambers that went with it. So did most American "conservatives."

"Houston lawyer," above, is prepared to explicitly endorse tytranny for fear that free people voting in free elections might decide on policies of which he disapproves. Were Friedman's beliefs different, or was he merely more cautious about expressing them?
1.13.2009 2:58am
q:

Friedman's claim, and the claim of his followers, to support capitalism because it enhances human freedom was put to a very clear test in the case of Pinochet's Chile. The claim spectacularly failed that test. Given a choice between capitalism and freedom, Friedman chose capitalism, and the torture chambers that went with it.

Your history is wrong. The torture chambers came first as the leftists in Chile were immediately persecuted; the market-oriented reforms came months later once Pinochet realized how disastrous his predecessor's economic policies really were. Chile, in fact, is a good example of social freedom flowing from economic freedom, as it is now one of the most socially liberal states in the region.

Honestly, what's the big deal about writing a polite letter opining on welfare-enhancing policies that the writer is an expert in, even if it is to a brutal dictator (or a brutal communist regime, or whatever)? Pinochet was seeking advice on economic reforms, not political reforms; any comment on the latter would surely be unwelcome and a distraction.
1.13.2009 6:14am
q:
Watch me pull a Friedman:

I hereby praise the market-oriented economy established in the Republic of China on Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War, despite the brutal, totalitarian rule of the Nationalists, which I am no stranger of, as my grandfather was imprisoned for political speech. Their economic policy allowed my parents and many of their fellow citizens to prosper, rather than suffer the fate of billions of Mainlander Chinese.

I hereby praise the market-oriented reforms the Chinese Communist Party enacted in the 80s and 90s, despite their inexhaustible crimes against their people, which continue on today. The reforms have allowed perhaps the greatest increase in human welfare the world has ever seen.

Do these two paragraphs reflect poorly on me? I honestly cannot understand why. What if I praised the Chinese government for putting on an excellent Olympics? Will Mr. Kleiman think I am simply being cautious in my endorsement of their tyranny?
1.13.2009 6:25am
David Warner:
Hear, hear for q. MarkField, I don't want to go all tu quoque on you or anything, but I don't see how anyone is clean by your standard, given, you know, the continent of Africa over the past half-century.
1.13.2009 8:39am
EricH (mail):
praises the Pinochet regime. Yes, he does so only in the context of economic policy.

So, all those Americans on your side of the political aisle, Mr. Kleiman, who praise Castro's health care system are also praising Castro? And excusing his repression?

Are you sure you want to engage in a little comparative game between the left and right and their statements of praise for dictators?

Second, Ronni Moffitt was murdered on September 21, 1976 more than one year after Friedman wrote his letter.

It is a smear on Friedman to accuse him of somehow supporting the repressive policies of Pinochet.
1.13.2009 9:36am
David Warner:
Beyond the specifics of the Pinochet case, which are tenuous at best for the Friedman critics, taking on Uncle Miltie himself may not be the best tactic, even for those who disagree with him.

Hitch can get away with taking on Mother Teresa, Mencken FDR, and Nietzsche just about every sacred cow in the barn. If you you think you're that good, have at him. If not, you run the risk of doing more damage to yourself than Friedman. Don't kid yourself into thinking that the man or his thought lacks capable suporters or that that support doesn't run as deep as the support for, say, Lincoln or MLK, or that that support is only found among some fringe "Right Wing".

Look elsewhere for easy marks.
1.13.2009 10:41am
David M. Nieporent (www):
(That exquisitely polite letter was written, let us not forget, to the man whose agents had murdered an American citizen, Ronni Moffett on the streets of our capital. An ounce of patriotism would have dictated either that the letter not be written at all or that some mention be made of that appalling terrorist act.)
Shorter Mark Kleiman: Milton Friedman is not just guilty of thoughtcrimes, but temporal crimes too!

Hint: Orlando Letelier (and hence Moffit) was assassinated on September 21, 1976. Friedman wrote this letter on April 21, 1975. As important as it is to ritually denounce terrorist acts in the context of fighting inflation, I really don't think Milton Friedman can be blamed for not mentioning something that hadn't happened.
1.13.2009 11:01am
MarkField (mail):

I don't see how anyone is clean by your standard, given, you know, the continent of Africa over the past half-century.


Give me their names and I'll disapprove of them too. I'm an equal opportunity moral purist.

q's letter, btw, isn't the same at all. For one thing, both paragraphs expressly acknowledge the crimes committed, which is precisely what Friedman failed to do.
1.13.2009 11:02am
sg:
Kleiman: "Given a choice between capitalism and freedom, Friedman chose capitalism."

Wrong. Given a choice between capitalism and socialism, Friedman chose capitalism. Neither government in Chile was a liberal democracy, but Friedman rightly saw that capitalism was more likely to lead to democracy than was the previous government. And as other commentators have pointed out, he in no way defended Pinochet's brutality.
1.13.2009 11:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
As I said before, the definition of "support" is pretty slippery. You can make it say anything you want if someone you don't like can be hammered with it.
Much of the comment thread has to do with arguing about the definition, absent references to a dictionary. Which would be inconvenient for Friedman dislikers.
1.13.2009 11:36am
Visitor Again:
And had he been alive at the time, Bernstein would no doubt have written Hitler to congratulate him on his economic policies.
1.16.2009 7:51pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.