La Revue Gauche has a fine collation of links to a number of “tributes” to Milton Friedman from the Left, most bring out his role in applying his neo- liberal principle in Chile in tandem with General Pinochet, the man responsible for the overthrow of the socialist hero Salvador Allende.
But if Pinochet’s revolution was to spread throughout Latin America and elsewhere, it first had to take hold in the United States. And even as the dictator was “torturing people so prices could be free,” as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once mordantly observed, the insurgency that would come to unite behind Ronald Reagan was gathering steam.
Today, Pinochet is under house arrest for his brand of “shock therapy,” and Friedman is dead. But the world they helped usher in survives, in increasingly grotesque form. What was considered extreme in Chile in 1975 has now become the norm in the US today: a society where the market defines the totality of human fulfillment, and a government that tortures in the name of freedom.
- an excerpt from Greg Grandin’s book on Latin America.
So what was the record for the entire Pinochet regime? Between 1972 and 1987, the GNP per capita fell 6.4 percent. (13) In constant 1993 dollars, Chile’s per capita GDP was over $3,600 in 1973. Even as late as 1993, however, this had recovered to only $3,170. (14) Only five Latin American countries did worse in per capita GDP during the Pinochet era (1974-1989). (15) And defenders of the Chicago plan call this an “economic miracle.”
And from Leftwrites:
A post on the Marxism List reports:
Heard in the newsroom today, when the story broke just before 1:00 PM:
“¿Quién se habría imaginado que ese hombre tenía corazón?” (Who could have suspected that man had a heart?)
A more sympathetic assesment by Brad De Long:
Friedman’s thought is, I believe, best seen as the fusion of two strong and very American currents: libertarianism and pragmatism. Friedman was a pragmatic libertarian. He believed that — as an empirical matter — giving individuals freedom and letting them coordinate their actions by buying and selling on markets would produce the best results. It was not that he thought this was a natural law. He didn’t believe that markets always worked best. It was, rather, that he believed that places where markets failed were atypical; that where markets failed there were almost always enormous profit opportunities from entrepreneurial redesign of institutions; and that the market system would create new opportunities for trade that would route around market failures. Most important, his distrust of government told him that government failure was pervasive, and that any expansion of government beyond the classical liberal state would be highly likely to cause more trouble than it could solve.
The great irony for Friedman’s fans is that the one piece of public policy he was responsible for that was widely and internationally adopted was one that greatly increased the ability of central governments to collect taxes – a policy he later repudiated in disgust.
Update 1: Michael Kinsley writes on the “Not so free Market” in The Guardian (via The Hindu)
Friedman was wrong and the other famous economist who died this year, John Kenneth Galbraith, was right: the free market in corporate shares doesn’t produce well-run companies.
People everywhere now understand what Friedman’s kind of “freedom” means. America has been brutally coarsened by his success at popularizing this dictum–millions of innocents injured, mutual trust gravely weakened, society demoralized by the hardening terms of life. Most people know in their gut this is wrong but see no easy way to resist it. Friedman’s utopia is also drenched in personal corruption. The proliferating scandals in business, finance and government flow directly from his teaching people to go for it and disregard moral qualms. When you tell people in power that their highest purpose in life is to maximize their own returns, there is no limit to how much “good” they will do for the rest of us.
Update 3: An analysis of the contradictory claims of Friedman’s theories by Gargi, certainly the best evaluation on the Indian blogsophere.
Errata: I had mixed up Milton Friedman with Thomas Friedman in the title (and in a comment as well). It now stands corrected. Thanks to Kuffir for pointing out.
Update 4: In Defence of Marxism on “Milton Friedman- the economic witch doctor of capitalism”
Friedman is thus honoured in the church of capitalism. However, it is no accident that many of his policies have never been adopted nor will they be. The reality is that a completely free market without regulation would lead to anarchy and chaos for the capitalist system.
His emphasis on controlling the money supply has been completely ignored in recent years as finance capital has exploded. Credit has never been more out of control in the capitalist economies of 2006. Also, Friedman’s policies would mean even more inequality of income and wealth than there is already, provoking reaction from working people. All-out Friedmanism would probably have brought capitalism to its knees.
The capitalist apologists and leaders will mourn his passing, but not carry out his policies. The working class will remember the damage he has done to millions of people’s lives.
Image Acknowledgment via Alain Dubois