Economics

Alert the Times: Milton Friedman Was a Liberal

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I suppose it was inevitable that the New York Times obituary for Milton Friedman would describe his views as "conservative," but it's still a bit depressing. To be fair, the headline accurately calls Friedman a "free-market theorist," and the word libertarian even makes an appearance (in the 16th paragraph and the subhead preceding it). But the Times also says Friedman flew "the flag of economic conservatism," describes the the Chicago School of economics as "conservative," says Friedman "helped ignite the conservative rebellion after World War II," and calls him a "guiding light to American conservatives." The general impression is that Friedman was a conservative with eccentric views about drug policy.

So in what sense was Friedman conservative? Was it conservative to advocate laissez faire in the wake of the New Deal and World War II, when the consensus on the left and the right was that managing the economy was one of the government's main tasks? Was it conservative to oppose Keynsianism when everyone was a Keynesian? For that matter, is there anything less conservative than the creative destruction of the free market?

You could say Friedman was conservative in that he tried to preserve the individualist, anti-statist values on which this country was founded. But this was more a task of recovery than conservation. In any case, the values for which he fought were not inherently conservative, which becomes clear when you consider his influence in formerly communist countries (which the Times obituary mentions). Is it too much to ask that the Times describe Friedman as Friedman described himself? Obviously, that would require an explanation of the distinction between contemporary leftish "liberals" and the classical variety, but such an explanation would be neither a pointless semantic exercise nor an obscure history lesson. It would illuminate what Friedman stood for.

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  1. Can anyone give me a reason why you should still read the New York Times.

  2. Can anyone give me a reason why you should still read the New York Times.

    crossword puzzles……and that is all.

  3. Just read the AP obit. in the Detroit Free Press. The word libertarian was not used at all there. Folks, We’re being dissed!

  4. I still like Thomas Friedman. Other then that…uh, the NYT Magazine style issue?

  5. I was trying to think of something provocative to say but my distaste for political ideology has me discombobulated. To spend your life thinking hard about new ideas only to be rewarded by shameless pigeonholing is depressing.

  6. During the colonial era, much of the economic power was in the hands of the British crown. Those who ished to keep it that way were known as conservatives. Those who wished to shift it into private hands were known as liberals.

    During the time period in question, there was a broad movement to remove economic power from those who had traditionally held it our society – businessowners and other private sector parties – and entrust it to government managers. Efforts to retain power in the hands of those who traditionally held it are called “conservative.” Efforts to shift power to those who have traditionally been out of power are called “liberal.” By standing athwart history and yelling stop, Friedman was a conservative. In some times and places, conservatives are outside the prevailing political mainstream. That doesn’t make them less conservative.

    During the end-times of the Soviet Union, economic power was in the hands of state managers. Those who wished to keep it that way were known as conservatives. Those who wished to shift it into the hands of private parties were known as liberalizers. They weren’t know as conservatives, because they weren’t seeking to retain the established patterns of power relations.

    It’s really not that hard. The meanings of the terms liberal and conservative change, depending on the social and political context.

  7. By “the time period in question,” I was referring to the period of Friedman’s most notable activism, basically 1945-1980 or thereabouts.

  8. Fuck the Times. Anybody that has heard of Milton Friedman before they read that obituary knows the difference between a modern-day “conservative” and what Friedman stood for. They should have thought a bit more about the labels they slapped on him in this piece.

  9. aka his pro-antitrust phase.

  10. Joe,

    “The meanings of the terms liberal and conservative change, depending on the social and political context.”

    Well said, I couldn’t agree more!

  11. That, btw, is why y’all are known as libertarians, rather than as a subspecies of liberals or conservatives; becasue in some ways, you seek to retain existing power relations, and in some ways, you seek to overturn them.

  12. Face it.

    The one-dimensional picture of “left-right” dichotomy serves the interests of the established parties.

    Have a coffee, beer or other beverage of your choice, do the crossword, and relax.

  13. That, btw, is why y’all are known as libertarians, rather than as a subspecies of liberals or conservatives; becasue in some ways, you seek to retain existing power relations, and in some ways, you seek to overturn them.

    WOW! You got all that from a little liberal arts degree? I am impressed.

    Note: Most people spell “becasue” this way: “because”.

  14. I just goes to show that the majority of people still see Libertarians as “Republicans who smoke pot.”

  15. At least they do say that liberals and conservatives both considered him one of the greats.

  16. “Can anyone give me a reason why you should still read the New York Times.”

    Because Alexi de Sadesky mentioned it!

  17. Joe, all you had to say in your first comment was: “It’s really not that hard. The meanings of the terms liberal and conservative change, depending on the social and political context.” Jeez…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Sorry, feeling asinine today again… sigh…

  19. In another thread, I tried to get joe to release “liberal” back to our exclusive use. Even though they don’t use it much anymore, and even though “liberal” means us on the rest of the planet, he declined. I then snarkily told him that he must be a Classical Progressive, because Progressive has been stolen by musicians and has been reduced to a nullity of meaning. Hah!

  20. No, PL, liberal is coming back. Especially among those who wish to differentiate themselves from Cindy Sheehan-types.

    Liberal is the new black.

  21. I just goes to show that the majority of people still see Libertarians as “Republicans who smoke pot.”

    Yes, because as we all know the views of the New York Times is a good measure of the views of “majority of people”.

  22. Can anyone give me a reason why you should still read the New York Times.

    crossword puzzles……and that is all.

    Crossword puzzles and Virginia Postrel

  23. Pro Lib,

    I’ve spoken to the Elders of the Left, and they’re willing to deal.

    We’ll give you “liberal,” and you give us back “economic freedom.”

  24. Could joe please be a little more pedantic? Not too much more, just a little. I don’t want to hate you, joe, I just want to get annoyed enough that I snap at my co-workers. Then they won’t think I’m slacking when I sneak out for a smoke, they’ll think I’m having a nic fit.

  25. No, PL, liberal is coming back. Especially among those who wish to differentiate themselves from Cindy Sheehan-types.

    The next 2-3 years should be fun to watch as Joe’s single data point fails miserably to constitute a trend.

    “Oh yeah we hate cindy sheehan type legislation…oh that…um…ignore that huge looming mountain of inefficient entitlement programs and massive government intervention into your economic lives…we are with you we swear.”

  26. joe:

    We’ll give you “liberal,” and you give us back “economic freedom.”

    No deal. We’ll just keep “classical liberal”. And you guys for sure aren’t getting “economic freedom” cuz then we’d be an accessory to false advertising. However, if you use your majorities to get us out of the Iraq disgrace, you can have “doves” back.

  27. Liberal’s damaged goods. It’s like the really hot cheerleader who got bukkaked by the football team. Who wants her now?

  28. The folks at the New York Times couldn’t be bothered to listen to (much less wrap their feeble minds around) what Friedman had to say for the last 75 years – even the simplest of concepts and statements like, “I am not a conservative.”

    That shiny new building in midtown hasn’t made them any brighter I guess.

  29. Well, all these offers to swap various labels are just proof that joe is open to market-based (i.e. free exchange) approaches to language!

  30. Classical liberal is better anyway. Its like professing love exclusively for a band’s earlier material.

  31. highnumber,

    Perhaps I could point out a spelling error for you? Nothing says “annoying pedant” like pointing out a spelling error. Hi joshua.

    steveintheknow wins the thread!

  32. steveintheknow,

    Cato, I believe, has officially repudiated “classical liberal” because it sounds backwards looking. A decent point, considering that we get confused with conservatives all the time, which we most assuredly are not. That can be a problem, too, given the general technology optimism of libertarians (or dynamism, as VP would say).

    If we can’t have liberal, I guess we’re stuck with libertarian. It’s not that bad, though it is a mouthful and somewhat tainted by Andorians and other oddities.

  33. Rick Barton,

    I think I can swing it so you can still hold onto “economic liberty,” but you’re going to have to sign away that easement you’ve acquired over calling your opponents fascists.

  34. I thought the NYTimes obit was quiet kind and through at 5 pages — and if you’ve ever noticed the rather worthless Cato Institute and similar orgs to it is dub’d ‘conservative’ a lot more often in the mainstream press than ‘libertarian’ or ‘market liberal’…the press has been doing it for some time.

  35. Thank you, joe!
    I’m going down for a smoke. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  36. Or…you could repudiate all labels and force your audience to actually think.

  37. but you’re going to have to sign away that easement you’ve acquired over calling your opponents fascists.

    What if your opponents are the statist left who are neo-fascists?

  38. NYT Dictionary
    Liberal: A person who believes the government should run the country the way the NYT wants it run.
    Conservative: Anyone else. See “Wrong.”

    Following Joe:
    Presently there are people who want to remove economic power from individuals and consolidate it under the control of government. These peole are called “liberals.” There are also people who want to remove social decisions from individuals and consolidate them under the control of government. These people are called “conservatives.”

    Liberals and conservatives have reached a compromise whereby all power will be removed from individuals and consolidated under the control of government. The people who oppose this compromise are called “libertarians.”

  39. Just cause no one has said it yet, it’s worth pointing out that “liberal” and “libertarian” are both words that were originally derived from the word “liberty” which is the whole reason we used to be called “liberal.” Certainly the meaning of the word changed, but it was an evolution of the usage of the word that caused the change, not an evolution of the economic state of the various times in question.

  40. “That shiny new building in midtown hasn’t made them any brighter I guess.”

    And they used Joe’s version of economic freedom to get their hands on the property.

    Everyone involved in the “becasue/because” controversy, drink.

  41. Larry A,

    Actually, there are few social decisions that have traditionally been in the hands of individuals that conservatives want the government to control. Abortion, sexual behavior – these have traditionally been areas that the government had a great deal of control over. Liberals have been changing that, while conservatives have been trying to stop them. It’s not as if the sodomy law struck down in the Lawrence decision had been recently adopted by the state of Texas.

    Also, liberals want to move economic decisions from corporations to the government, much more than individuals to the government, but now I’m just being a pedant.

  42. Cato’s useless? That seems a strong statement. I rather like Cato. Like any think tank, it only has so much influence, but it’s one of the few credible libertarian outfits.

  43. anyway to continue the neo-fascists thread…joe is a neo-fascist because he hate jews but he tries to hide it…as opposed to classical fascists who did not try to hide it…now i agree with both the neo-fascists and the classical fascists in that i believe that the jews runs the world…the difference being that unlike the neo and classical fascists i think the the jews are doing a pretty good job all around…employment is up, life expectancy is up, ipods are cool, the internet thing they come up with is fab, and a whole host of great things. unlike joe i don’t want to kill the jews…i just want give them a few suggestions.

    Note: this is a parody…just substitute jews for markets and it will all make sense…also i reserve the right to call joe a jew hating fascist because there is some evidence to back this unlike the complete lack of evidence he used to call me a gay basher.

  44. Yes, you’re right about that.

    How about I just take one of you mimeographed, handwritten pamphlets, and you let me walk out of the subway station?

  45. Everyone involved in the “becasue/because” controversy, drink.

    I will…but in my defense early on about a year or two ago joe jumped on me for my bad spelling , grammar, punctuation, typing, etc and more recently ridiculed me for being “uneducated” I have since found out about his foray into a liberal arts collage…bueahahahahah…and thought I would point out his hypocrisy.

    Firefox 2.0 with spell check has also helped.

  46. about a year ago?

    Wow.

  47. -Pro Lib

    Kudos on the Andorians reference, and everything else…although If Cato were to weasel their way into a more lucrative position, say like the American Enterprise Institute has, would we all not fuck a little better at night?

    Oh, and personally I think gay is the new black.

  48. Ah, but joshua, over reliance on a spell checker can be the difference between attending college and being the subject of a collage ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ain’t Firefox 2.0 the shakes, though? I just need a logic checker to go with the spell checker, then I’ll be invincible as a commenter. I think that some people around here already have added the Ad Hominem extension to their browsers ๐Ÿ™‚

  49. steveintheknow,

    Gay the new black? Please, what is this, 2003? Libertarian is the new black, just ask Kos. Unfortunately, new blacks are quickly old.

  50. If you haven’t heard any of it yet, the coverage of Friedman yesterday on NPR was pretty funny:

    Susan Stamberg interviewed Friedman in 1999. (Text of interview)
    Friedman bitch-slaps Stamberg.

    “As It Happens” talks to Robert Reich about Friedman’s legacy. (Streaming audio link)
    Reich compares Friedman and Galbraith. Side splitting/cringe inducing.

    Full disclosure: I give money to NPR. I generally enjoy their programming, although I cannot stand the Canadian import “As It Happens.”

  51. -kohlrabi

    You mean I could have stayed straight? Shit.

  52. The Salon obit piece is pretty good. Calls him a conservative a few times, but stresses the libertarianism and its aspects: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/11/17/milton_friedman/

  53. Calling things “the new black” is the new black.

  54. Joe: Actually, there are few social decisions that have traditionally been in the hands of individuals that conservatives want the government to control. Abortion, sexual behavior – these have traditionally been areas that the government had a great deal of control over.

    Smoking. Alcohol. Keeping horses from being slaughtered. War on drugs. Gambling. Flag burning. Patriot act. The Internet. TV content. Economic aspects of marriage/civil unions/unmarried partners. Videogames. Movies. Teaching evolution. Stem cells. Assisted suicide.

    Also, liberals want to move economic decisions from corporations to the government, much more than individuals to the government, but now I’m just being a pedant.

    The purpose of many of the liberal corporate policies is to force the individual customers of the corporations to adopt liberal policies. Examples include forcing restaurants to change menus or ban tobacco, forcing automakers to make smaller cars, restricting companies to hiring union employees, socializing health care, opposing the privitization of retirement, forcing financial institutions to track individual financial decisions, and so forth.

    On the individual level there’s the whole liberal redistribution of income thing.

  55. Is it just me, or does Robert Reich sound like a Marxist on NPR sometimes? It’s weird, because he’s certainly taken a more moderate stance in the past. Maybe I’m just tired and aggravated on the drive home.

  56. Larry A,

    Every one of the things you’ve mentioned – from the consumption of substances to the killing of wildlife to security-based searches to censorship of “anti-social” media to gambling to regulating marriage – have been subject to regulation by the state for centuries. Liberals (of various sorts) have been pushing to expand the boundaries of freedom in these areas for a few decades (maybe not so much the animal thing). Conservatives who want to see, for example, government censorship of dirty pictures are not working to shift power from individuals to the government; they are seeking to halt the shift of power from the government to individuals.

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of what you describe in your second paragraph, but event granting that you are correct, you’re proving my main point; each of those items has traditionally been the purview of the business owner and/or individual, and liberals are seeking change that, making them the purview of the government.

    “On the individual level there’s the whole liberal redistribution of income thing.” That is a shift in power from the wealthy to the poor and middle class, which even you must admit represents and inversion of traditional power roles.

  57. Gay was the new black, but that was a little while ago. Now it’s the old “new black.”

    Liberalism is the new new black, even since the elections.

  58. Classic Repub: Socially Conservative + Economically Conservative

    Classic Dem: Socially Liberal + Economically Liberal

    In theory, a Libertarian: Socially Liberal + Economically Conservative

    By these definitions, Milt was Libertarian.

    For some reason, so many here who call themselves Libs tend to lean more toward Repubs despite their recent behavior with pork. The social issues – Patriot Act, habeas corpus stuff – are what would be expected of “conservatives”.

    In a two-party system, a conservative Dem or a liberal Repub is the closest that we can get to Libertarian.

  59. That is a shift in power from the wealthy to the poor and middle class

    In joe’s world the American middle class is the world’s poor and powerless.

    That liberal arts college sure did wonders for you joe.

  60. With all this talk about lib-leaning Repubs and Kos’ libertarian Dems, I have to ask the kind commenters here, which way do the people you hang with socially lean?

    Most of my friends are non-committed libertarians, but I also have many friends who lean left. My family and my in-laws skew more to the right. I find that I get along better with lefties when it comes to enjoying the arts, as long as we don’t discuss politics. When we talk politics, the lefties get far more upset with me than the righties do excepting on the topic of immigration.
    How’s it work out for youse?

  61. Every one of the things you’ve mentioned – from the consumption of substances to the killing of wildlife to security-based searches to censorship of “anti-social” media to gambling to regulating marriage – have been subject to regulation by the state for centuries.

    And conservatives (and some liberals) are seeking to add volumes to the existing regulations.

    Liberals (of various sorts) have been pushing to expand the boundaries of freedom in these areas for a few decades

    “Liberals” yes. “Liberal Democrats” not so much. The war on drugs is one example, campaign finance restrictions another. And the Democrats have their own pet projects, for instance gun control and banning hunting and other uses of the outdoors.

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of what you describe in your second paragraph, but even granting that you are correct, you’re proving my main point; each of those items has traditionally been the purview of the business owner and/or individual, and liberals are seeking change that, making them the purview of the government.

    And that’s my point as well. I don’t want the government deciding what I eat, smoke, or drive; how I work or who I hire; or handle my personal finances. I want to make those decisions. I have a lot more control over corporations than I will over the government.

    “On the individual level there’s the whole liberal redistribution of income thing.” That is a shift in power from the wealthy to the poor and middle class, which even you must admit represents and inversion of traditional power roles.

    In the real world it’s taking income from the wealthy, middle class, and lower middle class and giving it to the government to fund programs designed to run the lives of the poor. A classic example is food stamps. Rather than feeding the poor food stamps regulate what they can eat and, by establishing eligibility rules regulate who they can live with, how much they can save, and all sorts of other private behaviors. Other such programs regulate where the poor can live, who they can leave their kids with, how they can travel, and many other private personal decisions.

    The government is treating people on welfare with the same contempt that it did Native Americans 100 years ago, and blacks 100 years before that.

  62. joe and joshua,

    Time out for both of you! Separate corners. And don’t come out until you learn to capitalize your fricken names!!

  63. -highnumber, for what its worth

    My dad and step mom claim conservative but are basically libertarian, although they really don’t care about ideology they just want to keep their money. I probably talk to my step mom the most about this kind of shit. My mom is a bit wacko, being born again and all, and has a picture of the GOP elephant as her computer desktop. I try to talk to her as little as possible, about anything. My friends really don’t know what the fuck they are, but they are basically liberal. At least that’s what I am guessing because they are all indie rock snobs, and half are vegetarian, but they are more interested in mr. show re-runs then politics. In general I don’t talk to many people about free markets because they either don’t care, or the extent of their knowledge is that tax cuts are a sign of theocracy. I mostly talk to my wife about politics, who is basically a libertarian but always votes Dem. because of her passionate pro-choice stance. She never listens to me though cause she’s to busy admiring the dog.

  64. I just goes to show that the majority of people still see Libertarians as “Republicans who smoke pot.”

    Correction. Democrats who took an economics class. By the way, when’s dinner?

    Sorry, referenced myself into a corner there.

  65. I don’t always agree with Joe, but at least he knows how to string three words together without frothing at the mouth and flinging poo. If a side has to be picked in the coming War of Becasue, I know who I’m backing.

    Certainly both sides have their faults; we must always take pains to appear rhetorically nonpartisan, even when one side is behaving like a complete retard.

  66. Jacob… that’s an awful lot to ask from th NYT.

  67. joe:

    I think I can swing it so you can still hold onto “economic liberty,” but you’re going to have to sign away that easement you’ve acquired over calling your opponents fascists.

    Done! And that stipulation will be a personal sacrifice for me cuz I am, on occasion, given to calling anyone to the left of Reagan a fascist (or communist).

    So we have it; you guys cut off funding for the war and then rightfully and proudly claim the moniker, “Dove”. We reduce the rest of the state so as to make the world safe for capitalism while refraining from referring to those who oppose us as, fascists.

    Have your elders get a hold of my elders. You guys can come out here to Denver for the signing or we can go to Boston. If the latter, then I wanna eat at one of those Indian places on Mass Ave between Harvard Square and Kendall Square in Cambridge. And also at that fish place where they scream at you as they take your order. Is it called Lagal Seafood?

  68. In a strongly worded statement on Reason magazine’s Hit & Run blog, a user called Kohlrabi posted that “new blacks are quickly old,” demonstrating once again that libertarians are insensitive to the plight of the underprivileged. — tomorrow’s New York Times

  69. joshua,

    “That is a shift in power from the wealthy to the poor and middle class”

    Perhaps if you had a liberal arts degree, you’d recognize that A-N-D word as a “conjunction,” and relize that it is used to link two distinct things in a list.

    Larry A,

    My comments were meant only to address the two ideologies on the level of their internal logic. I didn’t intend to convey anything about what you would like, or how they actually function in the real world.

    hale,

    I didn’t realize our rob had started to write for the NYT.

  70. When y’all decide to eschew your labels, book-learnin’ and ideological cliches, then you will be truly free.

    Or somethin’.

  71. When discussing things like Unca Miltie’s self-designation as a liberal, I will sometimes employ the formulation “authentic liberal.” This is to distinguish the “classical liberal” from the modern-day socialist, if of the democratic variety. The European social democrat comes in handy, too.

    What makes joe and other “liberals”/progressives/socialists/social democrats distinct from we libertarians/classical liberals/authentic liberals is that they confuse liberty with power. It’s the old negative freedom/formal freedom problem. In the mid-19th Century, a significant chunk, even a majority, of the European liberal movement hived off and made its peace with statism in order to contest with aristocracy, monarchy and clerical power. Those were not the traditional enemies of the USAn liberal, at least not after the 1780s. For the European political mindset, 1848 is as significant as 1865 or 1932 is for the American. Settlements of power among groups is more important in that context than the relationship of the individual to the state.

    If the NYT ever referred to Dr. Friedman as a liberal, sans qualifiers, it would have to admit that its editorial stance, and the planted assumptions in its news stories, would be better described as “social democratic.” That might not bother its core audience, but it might hurt its circulation and influence in flyover country.

    Kevin

  72. Thats the problem with Libertarians. They have the best wisdom to run a nation, but they aren’t aggressive enough. Humor is great and all, but at the end of the day they might just be pussin out on taking the neccesary risks. Their policies need implementation on a drastic level… who’s going to stop making jokes and start making it happen?

  73. Jacob:

    But the Times also says Friedman flew “the flag of economic conservatism,” describes the the Chicago School of economics as “conservative,” says Friedman “helped ignite the conservative rebellion after World War II,” and calls him a “guiding light to American conservatives.”

    But this is historically accurate. The economics favored by those who self-described as conservatives since WWII has largely been a more capitalistic economics with less government intervention. Friedman’s books sold well in the Conservative Book Club. The U of Chi. econ dept. has long been described as a leading conservative econ dept. Reagan, in Reason, said that the core of conservatism is libertarianism. Thatcher, of the Conservative party, instituted free market reforms in Britain.

    Pres King George has done much to weaken the conservative identification with free markets, and individual liberty in general, cuz this big government president self describes as a conservative yet has much in common, vis a vis domestic policy, with those who self describe as liberals.

    “Classical liberal” or even “libertarian” does indeed better describe Friedman’s ideology but I’m glad to see him called a conservative cuz it will remind conservatives of the primacy of limited government in their ideology. It’s also a good political marketing dynamic that will tend to engender more adherents to individual liberty. Lets face it, there aren’t too many folks who call themselves “classical liberals”, although it is a proud and accurate term. And we already have others who also describe themselves as libertarians on the side of individual liberty.

    Under the influence of Bush, we have had much anti-individual liberty activity on the part of some “conservatives”. The fact of Friedman’s affiliation with the conservative movement will work against this.

    For that matter, is there anything less conservative than the creative destruction of the free market?

    Jacob, here, didn’t you just make a point against your general complaint in this piece?

  74. joe:

    That, btw, is why y’all are known as libertarians, rather than as a subspecies of liberals or conservatives; becasue in some ways, you seek to retain existing power relations, and in some ways, you seek to overturn them.

    No, we’re known as libertarians cuz we favor individual liberty as the prime political imperative. Surely liberalism tends too favor far to much power for libertarianism to be a subspecies. There is a better case for conservatism being a subspecies of libertarianism. The general rejection of the initiation of force warrants for libertarianism its own category.

    The only power relations that we libertarians (but not the anarchists among us) seek to retain are those which protect individuals against the initiation of force and fraud.

  75. “the individualist, anti-statist values on which this country was founded.”

    Then how explain that the very first act passed by
    the very first Congress was the Tarrif Act of 1789?

  76. This is a great thread, maybe I’ll ditch the Guardian blogs and set up camp over here.

    Vis a vis the conservative/liberal discussion:

    As I understand it, there are really four or five distinct trends within “conservatism”. One, which has been called the “new right” and includes people like Thatcher, Reagan and perhaps Fukuyama, is, at least domestically, radically pro-market and anti-statist. That’s the closest “conservatism” to “liberalism”.

    But there is one value central to all the differing shades of conservatism, which is the aversion to theory-based change, due to the inherent fallability of human judgement and reason (Burke’s horror at the French Rev. being the classic example).

    A great quote by Alfred E. Wiggam reads: “A conservative is a man who believes that nothing should be done for the first time”. This attitude explains the conservative reverence for custom and tradition, as they are organically evolving actions and do not derive from the crazed eureka! moment of some (flawed) human. This is also why conservatives value the market, as it locates decision making at the lowest possible level, where the best decisions are likely to be made, so that change is organic, rather than imposed system-wide by some bureaucrat. So, to the poster above, conservatives aren’t against change (like creative destruction), they’re against inorganic, rationally driven change from above.

    The difference between a conservative and a classical liberal therefore is that a conservative doubts the government’s capacity to make good decisions, while a liberal like Friedman or Buchanan, empirically proves that governments lack the capacity for good decision making. It all comes down to the same idea!

  77. This is also why conservatives value the market, as it locates decision making at the lowest possible level, where the best decisions are likely to be made,

    I would disagre that the “best” decisions are made at the lowest level. Rather, when most decisions are made at the lowest level, we are effectively hedging our bets. The bad decisions affect fewer people this way, while the good decisions (arguably infrequent) can be noticed and emulated. If decisions are made “top-down”, no other alternatives are tried and thus alternate, possibly superior decisions, methods, solutions etc. are never explored. Capitalism (free markets) and federalism have this thinking in common.

  78. It’s not in the interests of the liberal media to mention libertairans. Libertarians make Republicans look moderate. The liberal media would much prefer to make out the Republicans to be the extremists who want to slash medicare and take away Granny’s Social Security check.

    If you have libertarians in the picture who really want to slash government, then all of a sudden those conservative Republicans who only wish to “hold the line” on government growth suddenly appear to be reasonable.

    When are my fellow libertarians going to wake up and stop with this utter bullshit that the liberals and conservatives are equally bad. At least Fox News and the Washington Times uses the “libertarian” label on occasion and gives us coverage.

    Hell, ON ELECTION DAY, Fox News had a major story on the “influence of the libertarian voter.”

    The enemy of libertarians is the liberal, more specifically the liberal media.

  79. J sub D:

    You’re right, that is another benefit of markets, although it would seem to me to apply more to federalism than to capitalism.

    When I say that decisions are “better” the lower down they are made, I mean that their increased proximity to the individual who stands to benefit, or not, from them, increases the likelihood of good decision-making. It’s Milton Friedman’s old saw about how we spend our own money better than we spend that of others (because it affects us more).

  80. I would disagre that the “best” decisions are made at the lowest level. Rather, when most decisions are made at the lowest level, we are effectively hedging our bets. The bad decisions affect fewer people this way, while the good decisions (arguably infrequent) can be noticed and emulated. If decisions are made “top-down”, no other alternatives are tried and thus alternate, possibly superior decisions, methods, solutions etc. are never explored. Capitalism (free markets) and federalism have this thinking in common.

    The unspoken presumption here is that there is one “good” decision and many “bad” decisions. In real life many decisions are neither intrinsically “good” nor intrinsically “bad.” They may just represent individual differences of opinion or individual differences in circumstance.

    The higher up in the government the decision-maker is, the less likely he can take account of those individual differences, and the less likely that I’m going to end up with what I want or need, as opposed to what the bureaucrat thinks the average person needs.

    Then you get into the problem of bureaucrats who provide what they think I should want or need regardless of my opinion.

  81. Kevrob,

    “Settlements of power among groups is more important in that context than the relationship of the individual to the state.”

    As I said, the modern variety of liberalism can account for the changes of the industrial revolution, while the old-fasioned “liberalism” cannot. In the 1780s, the state was the only power big enough to threaten the freedom of the individual. By the 1850s, the state had quite a few competitiors.

    Rick Barton,

    “No, we’re known as libertarians cuz we favor individual liberty as the prime political imperative.” Not really. You are quite content to watch those who’ve acquired power through non-governmental means push people around. You just play word games in order to claim that bosses have no power over their employees, or Big Business over everyone.

  82. “No, we’re known as libertarians cuz we favor individual liberty as the prime political imperative.” ‘Not really. You are quite content to watch those who’ve acquired power through non-governmental means push people around. You just play word games in order to claim that bosses have no power over their employees, or Big Business over everyone.’

    Can’t speak for Rick but no, I’m not content with that. I’m quite critical of people with power, governmental or nongovernmental pushing people around. This includes city planners colluding with developers or acting alone. What’s the matter joe, you have a need to be the only bully stealing other kids’ lunch money?

  83. Highnumber said, “Liberal’s damaged goods. It’s like the really hot cheerleader who got bukkaked by the football team. Who wants her now?”

    Haven’t you heard? Save the cheerleader; save the world!

  84. I am intersted in a movie made with Milton Freedman and many others. Made by John Doswell in the sixties. Does it still exist? We saw it once, but it should be tineless. Anne

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