Economics

Did Milton Friedman Make New Zealand a Nuclear-Free Zone?

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reason has a cameo in Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein's recent speech at the University of Chicago:

I think all ideologies should be held accountable for the crimes committed in their names. I think it makes us better. Now, of course, there are still those on the far left who will insist that all of those crimes were just an aberration–Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot; reality is annoying–and they retreat into their sacred texts. We all know who I'm talking about.

But lately, particularly just in the past few months, I have noticed something similar happening on the far libertarian right, at places like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. It's a kind of a panic, and it comes from the fact that the Bush administration adapted–adopted so much of their rhetoric, the fusing of free markets and free people, the championing of so many of their pet policies. But, of course, Bush is the worst thing that has ever happened to believers in this ideology, because while parroting the talking points of Friedmanism, he has overseen an explosion of crony capitalism, that they treat governing as a conveyor belt or an ATM machine, where private corporations make withdrawals of the government in the form of no-bid contracts and then pay back government in the form of campaign contributions. And we're seeing this more and more. The Bush administration is a nightmare for these guys–the explosion of the debt and now, of course, these massive bailouts.

So, what we see from the ideologues of the far right–by far right, I mean the far economic right–frantically distancing themselves and retreating to their sacred texts: The Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, Free to Choose.

Some of us distanced ourselves from Bush long ago, Naomi! But it's nice to hear she reads reason, even if she thinks we're responsible when the president follows the exact opposite of our recommendations. Maybe she saw Johan Norberg's devastating review in our pages of The Shock Doctrine. Her talk does address, or at least brushes against, some of Norberg's complaints:

[Friedmanites] will tell you, when I speak of Chile under Pinochet, Russia under Yeltsin and the Chicago Boys, China under Deng Xiaoping, or America under George W. Bush, or Iraq under Paul Bremer, that these were all distortions of Milton Friedman's theories, that none of these actually count, when you talk about the repression and the surveillance and the expanding size of government and the intervention in the system, which is really much more like crony capitalism or corporatism than the elegant, perfectly balanced free market that came to life in those basement workshops. We'll hear that Milton Friedman hated government interventions, that he stood up for human rights, that he was against all wars. And some of these claims, though not all of them, will be true.

But here's the thing. Ideas have consequences. And when you leave the safety of academia and start actually issuing policy prescriptions, which was Milton Friedman's other life–he wasn't just an academic. He was a popular writer. He met with world leaders around the world–China, Chile, everywhere, the United States. His memoirs are a "who's who." So, when you leave that safety and you start issuing policy prescriptions, when you start advising heads of state, you no longer have the luxury of only being judged on how you think your ideas will affect the world. You begin having to contend with how they actually affect the world, even when that reality contradicts all of your utopian theories.

There are so many levels of incoherence and inaccuracy in those passages that I won't try to address them all. Let's just zero in on the contrast Klein draws between utopian theories and real-world practice. It's a fair argument if you apply it properly: that is, if you look at the consequences of Friedman's policy prescriptions where they are put in place. It makes sense, for example, to look at how Friedman's ideas about denationalization and free trade fared in Chile after they were put into effect. It doesn't make much sense to look at Blackwater's contracts in occupied Iraq, because—try as Klein might to pretend otherwise—they don't have anything to do with Friedman. (And of course, it's important to examine the ways Pinochet's Chile deviated from Friedman's economic ideas as well as the ways it embraced them.)

At the same time, you have to consider how Friedmanism fared everywhere some portion of it was applied, not just cherry-pick the most unappealing regimes that experimented with it. If the only place that adopted any of Friedman's economic ideas was Chile, then Klein might be onto something when she suggests there's a connection between libertarian economic policies and deeply un-libertarian ideas about torture, censorship, surveillance, and state-sanctioned murder. But the most sweeping free-market reforms of the last 40 years were not adopted in Pinochet's Chile, Thatcher's UK, or anyplace else addressed in Klein's book. They were enacted by the New Zealand Labour Party in the 1980s. Far from fusing economic liberalization with political repression, the Labour government expanded civil liberties: It adopted a bill of rights, decriminalized homosexuality, improved the treatment of the native Maori. And while Pinochet signed on to the CIA's war against the Latin American left, New Zealand strained its relations with Washington by making itself a nuclear-free zone, a policy that effectively barred the U.S. Navy from New Zealand ports. By Klein's logic, these are all effects of Friedmanomics.

It shouldn't be surprising to find market reforms in a variety of political contexts: As Norberg pointed out in his review, almost every country on the planet has liberalized its economy in some way or another over the last few decades. (One of Klein's favorite economic models, the flexible manufacturing networks of Emilia-Romagna, is itself largely a product of market forces—though not of Milton Friedman.) So yes, it's important to look at how Friedman's theories "actually affect the world." Klein prefers to ignore those parts of world that don't fit her thesis, and to study the effects of measures that violated Friedman's theories instead of advancing them.

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  1. I’d be interested to know Klein or any of her followers have noticed that the current economic “crisis, real or imagined,” as she puts it resulted in a government effort to push through the unpopular bailout plan. Smells like the Shock Doctrine in action except Friedman can’t be blamed. Whoops.

  2. Yeah but she got Al Gore to wear those alpha male earth tones.

  3. Klein prefers to ignore those parts of world that don’t fit her thesis,

    To be fair to the twat, show me a writer who isn’t guilty of this sometimes.

  4. I largely agree that you have to look at a wide range of contexts rather than cherry-picking, and you have to look at whether an idea was actually tried. However, a cautionary note: Devoted commies would insist that Real Communism(TM) was never actually tried, ignoring the fact that every time they started implementing the ideas they wound up going somewhere other than what was prescribed in the original blueprint. If an idea were consistently implemented half-way before deviating into problems, that might also be a sign of significant flaws. In that case, saying “But they never actually tried the full agenda as originally outlined!” is not a completely valid defense.

  5. I can hardly believe that Klein believes all this nonsense she’s putting out. She’s just a capitalist who found a niche market in selling a novel to gullible leftists.

  6. So if I walk into a crowded train, pull a knife and scream, “For the glory of God and Naomi Klein!” and start stabbing people, then…?

  7. [the current economic crisis]…Smells like the Shock Doctrine in action except Friedman can’t be blamed.

    Are you kidding? Obama’s ads pule on about how “de-regulation” magically caused all this. That fits right in with Klein’s “laissez faire is always wrong, everywhere” dreck.

  8. It’s a kind of a panic, and it comes from the fact that the Bush administration adapted–adopted so much of their rhetoric, the fusing of free markets and free people, the championing of so many of their pet policies

    I fail to understand how she can think this. It cannot be explained by her “misunderstanding” libertarian economic principles. It either has to be willful, or else she is retarded.

  9. Thoreau: I know the phenomenon you’re talking about. But surely there’s a difference between arguing that Real Libertarianism was never tried and arguing that a specific policy — say, Chile’s fixed exchange rates — was not really libertarian.

  10. She’s willfully retarded. Bush hardly championed anything resembling Friedman.

    I wonder though. Was Ron Paul’s popularity indicative of a true yearning for a “fusing of free markets and free people?”

    Willfully retarded people do make for better arguments though. Would you rather argue with a toaster or a lefty-socialist?

    On second thought, the toaster.

  11. Distanced ourselves from Bush? Doesn’t that presume we were ever even at arm’s length from him?

    Libertarians knew the man’s wealth had come from selling investments that were nothing more than tax shelters and from the sale of a baseball teem whose value was mostly increased through a taxpayer funded stadium. Bush, for all his rhetoric, has never, for a second, been a free-market practitioner. He started his first term by putting the steel industry on welfare then tried to buy voter approval with stimulus checks drawn by creating more debt. That was even before 9/11.

    I am really going to have to start strangling people who think we got where we are today because of too much economic freedom.

  12. The Emilia-Romagna model that Klein prefers seems to be very similar to Vanek’s concept of the participatory economy, which is unique in being a free market system with perverse incentives that could result in a downward-sloping demand curve, potentially creating a market that cannot clear itself without outside intervention…

  13. Would you rather argue with a toaster or a lefty-socialist?

    Arguing with a cylon can be pretty dangerous.

    Devoted commies would insist that Real Communism(TM) was never actually tried, ignoring the fact that every time they started implementing the ideas they wound up going somewhere other than what was prescribed in the original blueprint

    The difference here, Dr. T, is that while Communism is in essence a “plan”, libertarianism is in essence the lack of a plan. You can try different plans and modify them, and there have been many communist “variants” tried.

    You can’t really insist that “Real Lack of Plan” has or hasn’t been tried; you can only discuss the degree to which planning is lacking. There isn’t really a blueprint for Libertarianism; the objective is to get rid of as much of the blueprint as possible.

  14. Episiarch,

    I disagree. Everything people do is planned on some level. Under libertarianism, people can’t be forced to participate in a plan against their will.

    Thus, you get thousands of different plans being executed by millions of different participants who are jumping on or off of the various plans as they see fit.

    This touches on joe’s frustration in another thread. We can’t debate policies when we lack the ability to see which plans people will adopt. I don’t know how a free market health care system will work out. I can make educated guesses about there being more doctors available at a lower price. In the end, though, that’s a guess. I can’t tell you how many internists, gynecologists or podiatrists would be practicing in Boston under a free market system.

  15. Please, no more Naomis. I’m a (all things being relative) moderate libertarian leaning guy. I’m willing to read, or listen to, others opinions and ponder the implications of their proposed policies.

    Please, in the name of all that is good and apochypally holy, No more Naomis!!!

  16. Love that hair. Oh, wait…

  17. The libertarian claim is that too much government is bad. I think Bush II does a pretty good job of confirming that.

    In fact, current events make The Road to Serfdom look pretty damn prophetic.

  18. WTF? What keeps that woman’s head from exploding. She’s like the manifestation of Orwellian doublethink come to life.

  19. Everything people do is planned on some level. Under libertarianism, people can’t be forced to participate in a plan against their will.

    Good point. I should have specified “Central Plan” as opposed to just “Plan”.

  20. No more Naomis!!!

    J sub, I think you’ve got yourself a t-shirt slogan.

    It’s totally insane how Klein can’t stop harping on Friedman. Not to mention the complete incoherence of blaming libertarian ideas for problems that she in the same breath acknowledges are gov’t related.

    I was thinking happy thoughts a second ago, pre-exposure to one of the Naomis. Must get back to the happy.

  21. people…think we got where we are today because of too much economic freedom

    “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”
    -Ayn Rand

  22. [Friedmanites] will tell you, when I speak of Chile under Pinochet, Russia under Yeltsin and the Chicago Boys, China under Deng Xiaoping, or America under George W. Bush

    Why not America under Reagan? Or any modern state that economically liberalizes, which has been practically all of them since 80s’. Chile, China, and Russia are ridiculous non sequiturs.

  23. Naomi Klein is a complete and utter charlatan. It’s astounding how popular she is. I really think it has more to do with her persona than anything else.

    If she was an ugly and pudgy person who looked more like a typical academic, she wouldn’t be half as popular.

    I think her popularity is due mostly to her personal relatability.

  24. Naomi Klein is a complete and utter charlatan. It’s astounding how popular she is.

    Really? The fact she’s a charlatan surely explains why she is as popular as she is. The public can’t get enough of charlatans, whether they claim to talk to your dead relatives or promise “change”.

  25. …the fact that the Bush administration adapted–adopted so much of their rhetoric…

    Oops!

    Ahem…

  26. surely there’s a difference between arguing that Real Libertarianism was never tried and arguing that a specific policy — say, Chile’s fixed exchange rates — was not really libertarian.

    But Klein’s accusations are even more egregious than arguing partial adoption of policy is the consequence of advocating that policy.

    What she seems to be saying is that if you advocate for a policy and a leader ever uses any part of your argument in their rhetoric then you are responcible for all the crimes that leader commits even as the policy he implements is completely at odd with the rhetoric you supplied.

    Somehow I doubt she holds herself to that standard.

  27. To be fair to the twat, show me a writer who isn’t guilty of this sometimes.

    reason‘s Cathy Young. The most fair and balanced political writer ever.

  28. Don’t think much of this, guys. The Two Naomis are just in a competition of who will go down as the dumbest one.

    I don’t know what her obsession with Friedman is, but there are people I look to on economics, and Friedman isn’t at the top. I think he’s just easier to take out of context and distort.

  29. Jesse Walker,

    To be fair, cherry picking facts is a time honored tradition in publishing.

  30. For God’s sake, somebody explain to me the difference between the Naomis.

    My understanding is that it’s something like the difference between the two Patricia Arquettes in Lost Highway. Is that right?

  31. What exactly did Bush ever “de-regulate”? What did he or anyone in his administration ever even breathe a word about “de-regulating”? I’m trying to think of anything.

  32. What did he or anyone in his administration ever even breathe a word about “de-regulating”? I’m trying to think of anything.

    There once was some rhetoric about privatizing Social Security. And also improving immigration law. That could be legitimately called “de-regulation”. Before he completely flip-flopped on it that is.

  33. Some of us distanced ourselves from Bush long ago, Naomi! But it’s nice to hear she reads reason, even if she thinks we’re responsible when the president follows the exact opposite of our recommendations.

    Karl Marx called for the abolition of the state and the devolution of power to local workers councils. Lennin and Stalin, of course, did the exact opposite of those recommendations.

    Klein nailed you, and you’re retreating into your sacred texts.

  34. The difference here, Dr. T, is that while Communism is in essence a “plan”, libertarianism is in essence the lack of a plan.

    But libertarians don’t just discuss an end state; they propose specific policy recommendations, or at least principles intended to illuminate specific policies.

    Bidding out government contracts isn’t the libertarian end-state, but it is certainly traceable to Friedmanesque ideas. The financial system in 2006 certainly wasn’t the libertarian end state, but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

  35. I appreciate that she says “the libertarian right” rather than just “the libertarians”. I would ask all those right libertarians who think Naomi Klein is such a bad person if they have ever demonized Marx for the effects of his theories, even though most of those effects were implementations far, far removed from what he actually prescribed. Give me a break, Radley et al.

    Ideas do have consequences, but idolatry apparently has a lot more insults under its sleeve. Is it more important to defend a dead man’s mixed legacy in politics than it is to find common ground with people on the left like Klein? Yes, common ground – these are people who should be strong allies of ours on the police state, on foreign policy, on mercantile trade policies, on corporate privilege, etc.

    What about monetarism? What about the failed results of those policies which Friedman promulgated and which largely led to Fed actions that bankrupted thousands of family farms, homes, etc.? Must we defend his entire economic political canon, just because he said he was a libertarian? Or are the principles of libertarianism more important than the mixed legacy of one man?

    I don’t begrudge anybody their pet whipping boys on their blog – I have mine – but don’t think that you’re advancing libertarianism by your continuous return to griping about leftists who – GASP – see things differently than you. I frankly think libertarianism would be a lot better off if we let human beings be human instead of trying to make them into saints of economic dogma over which we must wage a media spat. You’re not just splitting with Klein’s left when you stress this petulant idolatry – you’re splitting with the left wing of the libertarian movement. Hope it’s worth it!

  36. Is it more important to defend a dead man’s mixed legacy in politics than it is to find common ground with people on the left like Klein?

    If “defend a dead man’s legacy” means “restrict your criticisms of Friedman to ideas he actually espoused and actions he’s actually responsible for,” then the answer is yes.

    It’s a false choice, though. There’s no contradiction between finding common ground with open-minded people on the left and pointing out that Klein is feeding them a load of shit.

  37. but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

    You forgot to mention that only banks who created and bought up risky sub-prime loans were allowed to get the 30:1 leveraging ratio Joe.

    Seriously why would you forget to put that in there?

    So i guess the next time government says “we will regulate you less if you inject poison into your veins” and people actually do it then you again in your fucked up analysis will say “the free market poisons poeple!!!”?

  38. Yeah, I think you’re going to have to let old Karl off the hook for Vladimir, Josef, and Mao, if you’re going to let Friedman off for Pinochet.

    I’ll agree with the general thrust of your argument, but it’s because I’m an anarchist. Of course the centralized state perverts every ideology and only uses it as cover to screw the people. That’s what states do. Thinking that you can get a state to actually implement a good policy in context is akin to thinking that when that guy with hoofed feet and horns on his head offers you something that it will turn out as you expect.

    It’s hard to blame folks who try and inevitably fail, though.

  39. If “defend a dead man’s legacy” means “restrict your criticisms of Friedman to ideas he actually espoused and actions he’s actually responsible for,” then the answer is yes.

    So, I have not witnessed Marx lambasted for the actions of Lenin, Stalin, Chavez, Castro, etc. by libertarians? Don’t we often label what are broadly socialist policies with the “marxist” label, even though technically we are quite wrong?

    It’s not that you’re wrong about what you’re saying as far as it goes – it’s the sanctimony, the “how dare Klein talk about our guy” parochialism of it all. And for what? To quibble with a very relevant thesis to libertarianism: that governments and private interests use crises to push through privileges for the connected. I just don’t get it.

  40. “Devoted commies would insist that Real Communism(TM) was never actually tried,”

    Real Communism (TM) is predicated on the absurd notion that basic human nature can be remolded by the state and is therefore doomed to failure from the get go every time.

  41. I just don’t get it.

    Can’t disagree with that.

    Of course governments and private interests use crises to push through privileges for the connected. There’s plenty of people who make that point without deploying Klein’s mangled facts, topsy-turvy logic, and constant efforts to conflate corporatism with libertarianism. Some of them are leftists. You’ll notice that I didn’t attack them.

    As for ideological parochialism (and “common ground”): Did you read the passage about New Zealand? The reference to Emilia-Romagna? I thought about quoting Michael Manley too, but the post was already overlong…

  42. Karl Marx called for the abolition of the state and the devolution of power to local workers councils. Lennin and Stalin, of course, did the exact opposite of those recommendations.

    Except I agree that it’s silly to blame Lennon and Stalin on Marx, so eat it.

    I also don’t think blame can be distributed, else we could blame an awful lot of people in arbitrary distributions. Consider the question, “which is more important to a car, the wheels or the engine?” Well unless you plan on rolling the car down a hill, neither; they’re both needed to drive a car.

    Influences cannot be distributed in any fair way. Who’s to say Friedman had a big influence on Pinochet? We don’t know. What we do know, though, is that Pinochet was an asshole, so blame should be put on him. Friedman and any of Pinochet’s other influences are scapegoats.

  43. Now Reason is of the “far libertarian right”? More proof she just makes shit up.

    Leaving aside the difficulty Naomi Klein shows in understanding Friedman’s rather plain-spoken writing, I was struck at the clever analogy she made (first, I believe on Bill Maher’s show) about the parallels between hardcore socialists and libertarians (the whole, “the real socialism has never really been tried” trope). It is a good analogy for any political persuasion, or would be if she used any examples beyond Pinochet’s Chile. For some reason I can’t find any of Friedman’s writings on the usefulness of dictatorship, torture, summary executions and embezzlement. Furthermore, Naomi Klein is trying to distinguish herself from people on the “far left”? What exactly again is a Marxist?

    (Then again, I shouldn’t try to divine what the hell Naomi Klein is politically. Distinguishing between brands of leftists is like doing the same for heavy metal subgenres: a fruitless pursuit.)

  44. You forgot to mention that only banks who created and bought up risky sub-prime loans were allowed to get the 30:1 leveraging ratio Joe.

    Seriously why would you forget to put that in there?

    As a matter of fact, I didn’t, joshua. Here, let me copy and paste what I wrote, because I know it takes at least two tries for you to grasp even the simplest idea:

    The financial system in 2006 certainly wasn’t the libertarian end state, but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

    Here, let me break it down farther:

    Part the first: The financial system in 2006 certainly wasn’t the libertarian end state,

    Part the second: but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

  45. For some reason I can’t find any of Friedman’s writings on the usefulness of dictatorship, torture, summary executions and embezzlement.

    You also won’t find any of that in Marx’s writings.

  46. Blaming the influence for the actor’s sins is bullshit. However; Stalin, Lenin, and others called themselves communists. I never heard Donkey Bush Jr. or Clinton claim they were libertarian. Nit-picky? Sure.

  47. There are so many levels of incoherence and inaccuracy in those passages that I won’t try to address them all.

    This is redundant, Jesse, you already said it was Naomi Klein.

  48. “For some reason I can’t find any of Friedman’s writings on the usefulness of the usefulness of dictatorship,…”

    You also won’t find any of that in Marx’s writings.

    You *won’t* find anything in Marx’s writings on the usefulness of dictatorship? You’re sure?

  49. Is Klein’s main thesis then: there should be no ideas, ever?

  50. I’ve heard from some New Zealanders that the quality of life has gone down since these reforms were implemented, although that’s just anecdotes.

  51. I should probably re-read this, but it’s not clear to me whether she’s attacking Friedman or defending Marx. If the former, she might want to look up “tu quoque”.

    If the latter… well, on that point, I have to agree. Marx should be judged on the quality of his argument, not on the viciousness of his most famous followers.

    Still, you have to wonder why it is that when you screw up libertarianism a little, you get somewhere sweet like New Zealand, but when you screw up communism a little, you get somewhere lousy like Cuba.

  52. There is a difference between looking at the weather if you defend libertarian positions because they have not been tried properly and if you should also try to defend Marx as well. The question should be are the failings of the Bush administration, or Pinochet the direct result of libertarian economic policies, or were they a result of other factors. However whilst communist countries were not what Marx envisioned it is rather evident that the failings of communist countries were a direct result of the failings of Marist thought.

    What we saw in the communist countries was an abolition of private property and everything being put under the control of the state all of which Marx advised. But instead the state did not magically fade away but that increased power was used by the state to continue the subjugation of the population. Now this seems to be a complete failure on the part of Marx to understand that this would inevitably happen, and as such that is why this has happened under every communist country. However as has been stated almost every country has undergone economic liberalisation and yet a lot of countries are not doing badly because of it.

  53. First of all, Jeremy, Naomi Klein herself blamed Marxists for Stalin and Pol Pot, and drew an explicit parallel in blaming libertarians for neoliberalism.

    I have repeatedly defended the value of Disaster Capitalism (despite its theoretical incoherence on the difference between free markets and corporatism), as a concrete account of the Washington Consensus policies adopted around the world. I did so>here.

    But Klein’s blockquoted remarks are completely asinine. It’s as asinine to blame Rosa Luxembourg for Stalin and Pol Pot as it is to blame libertarians for George Bush.

    Every ruling class in history has adopted a legitimizing ideology; and since it must justify itself primarily to the ruled, to the people it’s exploiting and screwing over, to stay in power, its legitimizing ideology generally borrows heavily from the belief systems of–guess who?–the *ruled*. The Federalists managed to squeak their trojan
    horse through the state ratifying conventions by using the anglo-republican rhetoric of the Anti-Federalists to package it.

    Stalin legitimized his rule in Russia by misappropriating the language and symbolism of the classical socialist and movement, and falsely appealing to its values. And neoliberals, similarly, misappropriate the language and symbolism of “free enterprise.”

    And guess what else? The symbolism and language of Progressivism/liberalism were appropriated by FDR to sell corporatist policies drafted by GE’s Gerard Swope and the Business Advisory Council.

    So there! There’s nothing clean. Any belief system with a high level of currency among the ruled populace is likely, in the natural order of things, to be misappropriated by the rulers, in order to secure popular compliance with their rule.

    On the other hand, such belief systems–of all kinds–are contested terrain. They are grab-bags of values and symbolism to which rulers can appeal, true enough. But the very same values and symbolism can be reclaimed by the ruled and used to undermine their authority of the ruling class.

    For example, working class resistance to the Soviet-imposed regimes in Eastern Europe commonly justified itself in libertarian socialist terms, and relied heavily on socialist symbolism and rhetoric. In East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1967, the Solidarity movement in Poland–in every case, the aim was workers’ power, workers’ control of industry, etc., and the instrument chosen was organs of workers’ self-mangement in the factories and direct democracy at the neighborhood level. In other words, the working class of Eastern Europe resisted the Soviet Union with a battle cry of “All power to the soviets!”

    This concept–using the master’s tools to tear down the master’s house–should be familiar to most people on the Left. I’d be surprised if Klein wasn’t aware of it.

    Anyone who can’t see the parallel to the free market movement and crony capitalism–using the language of “free markets” as a weapon against crony capitalism, and demonizing the state capitalists in terms of their own falsely professed values–must be deliberately obtuse.

    It’s precisely *because* I see the value in Klein’s work that I cringe at the sight of reprehensible remarks like those above.

  54. The financial system in 2006 certainly wasn’t the libertarian end state, but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

    Its only some variants of libertarianism who think basic regulation like bank reserve requirements are excessive government intrusion. I suppose we’re talking about Friedman here: did he ever advocate elimination of bank reserve regulations? (I’m asking. I don’t know.)

  55. Klein is in much the same position as Chomsky – she knows that she can write any old crap because the shrill leftists who read it don’t know a damn thing about economics, have no objective view of history, are incapable of putting anything in its correct context, have no internal hierarchy of concepts and find it very difficult to apply reason to any subject.

  56. “ou’re going to have to let old Karl off the hook for Vladimir, Josef, and Mao, if you’re going to let Friedman off for Pinochet.”

    Are you willfully retarded?

    Lenin, Stalin and Mao are direct intellectual descendents of Marx, adherents of both his economic theories and his (revolutionary) politics.

    Pinochet is a guy that Friedman once sat in the same room with.

    There’s isn’t the slightest comparison.

  57. “Are you willfully retarded? ”

    No, but I’m guessing you are by your utter lack of knowledge of history, politics and just basic common sense.

    Did you know what Marx thought of Lenin? Have you actually read anything Marx wrote, or do you just get your interpretation of it from Insta-sellout?

    On the other hand, how much did Friedman talk to Pinochet? How much did Friedman (and his direct followers) advise Pinochet?

    If anything, the connection between Friedman and Pinochet was much closer than that between Marx and Lenin – let alone Stalin.

    Try learning about history before screaming your ignorance to the world.

  58. Which isn’t to say (again, because I’m guessing you also have problems with reading comprehension) that I blame Friedman for Pinochet. But I also don’t blame Marx for what politicians did that went directly against what he desired – whether or not they *claimed* to be his intellectual descendants.

  59. It’ll be a required text at many colleges due to it’s political slant. I smell Pulitzer Prize in Economics!

  60. It’s one thing to say that political totalitarianism is inevitable as an unintended consequence of Marx’s ideas, because of the forces they bring into play.

    It’s another thing entirely to say that the ruling apparatus in a bureaucratic oligarchy are “direct political descendants” of a theorist who identified socialism with the possession of genuine political and economic power by, you know, actual *workers*.

    I suspect that kind of nuance is lost on Hazel, though.

    Marxian ideas were probably held more strongly and sincerely by the libertarian movements that were *liquidated* under Leninism (e.g. the Workers’ Opposition, the workers’ committees in the factories, etc.) than by those who did the liquidating. And libertarian Marxist ideas figured prominently in the rhetoric of those who attempted to overthrow Soviet puppet-regimes in Eastern Europe.

    So like quasibill says, learn some history. Blaming Hayek and Friedman for neoliberalism is directly analogous to blaming Marx for Pol Pot–and they’re both wrong.

  61. I’ve only ever read Klein say that Friedman’s ideas led to “disaster capitalism”. Whether you want to say that Friedman is a “good” or a “bad” guy, well… I really just don’t have much of a dog in that race. I’d much prefer to take exception with Klein’s conception of “the free market” than I would with her conception of a particular human being. Frankly, I could care less about Friedman – he isn’t a critical figure in my libertarianism. But I do care about Klein, because she’s popularizing an approach leading to resistance to state capitalism.

  62. “Did you know what Marx thought of Lenin? Have you actually read anything Marx wrote, or do you just get your interpretation of it from Insta-sellout?

    On the other hand, how much did Friedman talk to Pinochet? How much did Friedman (and his direct followers) advise Pinochet?”

    Considering that Marx died when Lenin was, oh, 13 years old, it would be pretty difficult for Marx to have had any thoughts about Lenin. Unless maybe he thought he was a cute little tyke that showed up at a book signing.

    How much did Friedman advise Pinochet? VERY LITTLE.

    You need to read Johan Norberg’s excellent piece debunking Klein’s book:
    “In fact, Friedman never worked as an adviser to, and never accepted a penny from, the Chilean regime. He even turned down two honorary degrees from Chilean universities that received government funding, because he did not want to be seen as endorsing a dictatorship he considered “terrible” and “despicable.” He did spend six days in Chile in March 1975 to give public lectures, at the invitation of a private foundation. When he was there he met with Pinochet for about 45 minutes and wrote him a letter afterward, arguing for a plan to end hyperinflation and liberalize the economy. He gave the same kind of advice to communist dictatorships as well, including the Soviet Union, China, and Yugoslavia.”

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/128903.html

    That’s right. Pinochet sat in a roon for 45 minutes with Friedman. That’s the extent of the relationship.

    Validmir Lenin was a self-described Marxist who adopted Marx’s revolutionary political program and devoted his life to advancing Marx’s ideas.

  63. Kevin Carson:

    Marx founded the Communist Party. It advocated violent revolution, and a strong central state controlled by the proletariat which he thought would eventually “wither away”.

    Lenin, Stalin, and Mao studied Marx’s writing in depth, and adopted the policies of violent revolution and a strong central state controleld by the proletariat.

    To claim that they weren’t really Marxists and they didn’t really sincerely adhere to his ideas involves a level of “willful retardedness” that I have trouble understanding.

    You may not WANT to admit that they are direct intellectual descendents of Marx, but nobody at the time would have agreed. I suspect Stalin Lenin and Mao all would have been not only surpised but offended by the suggestion.

  64. Validmir Lenin was a self-described Marxist who adopted Marx’s revolutionary political program and devoted his life to advancing Marx’s ideas.

    When they were useful to Lenin. Just like Pinochet adopted Friedman’s ideas – when they were useful to him – and discarded the rest.

    Is Friedman “responsible” for Pinochet? I think there are two modes for prosecuting the libertarian agenda: one that allows the establishment to adapt itself to your “reforms” or one that attacks the establishment directly. Clearly, Friedman chose his mode.

  65. Let me also say that I think it’s a meaningless statement to say an abstract idea can be guilty of a tangible action by a human being. Ideologies cannot hold responsibility.

    Klein’s thinking is a little muddled, but I think she correctly criticizes the milquetoast libertarians for that lack of radicalism.

  66. When they were useful to Lenin. Just like Pinochet adopted Friedman’s ideas – when they were useful to him – and discarded the rest.

    No, not really “just like.” Pinochet never claimed his government was based on Friedman’s ideas (as it wasn’t) and there is nothing in Friedman’s writings that call for any kind of anti-democratic actions whatsoever.

    So, you really can’t compare the two.

    Friedman condemned Pinochet’s government the same way he condemned the Soviet Union and China, while at the same time giving lectures in those countries and recommending more liberal markets.

    Klein has been utterly dishonest in a variety of ways, which Johan Norberg clearly documents here:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9626

  67. Jeremy: Pinochat never described himself as a Friedmanite, nor a libertarian.
    Nor did he rise to power by way of advocating a libertarian revolution.

    It is unfounded to suggest that Lenin was an opportunist who only used Marx’s ideas when it was convenient. There is absolutely no reason to think that Lenin did not himself believe that he was following Marx’s ideas to the best of his abilities. Moreover, the mass killings were a direct result of the implementation of the policy of violent revolution, which is inherent in Marx’s policical philosophy.

    Nowhere in Friedman’s writing does he advocate the use of violence to enact his agenda. Marx does. Marx’s followers killed people in the name of communism, because that’s what Marx’s writing advocate. Pinochet was not only not motivated by any libertarian philosophy in his killing, but libertarian philosophy explicitly forbids the use of force.

  68. Come on, Hazel and Les: does it *really* matter how these tyrants “describe” themselves? That sounds like the same argument Klein is making – that you hold labels responsible for crimes.

    No, the issue here is that tyrants cherry pick policies for their own purposes, as Carson explained, using coherent ideologies to legitimate their own narrow, pragmatic political ends.

    It wasn’t just Friedman’s visit with (and letters to) Pinochet; it was his students and followers who went to Chile and were willing to work with a dictator. I think you can draw a strong parallel between Pinochet co-opting capitalism for his own purposes just like Lenin co-opted socialism for his own purposes. The distinctions you’re drawing between the two seem belabored to me.

    There is absolutely no reason to think that Lenin did not himself believe that he was following Marx’s ideas to the best of his abilities.

    So what? He did what he had to do, as any pragmatic politician did. I fail to see the relevance here, unless you think ideology is as important and capable of being “blamed” as Klein does.

    Moreover, the mass killings were a direct result of the implementation of the policy of violent revolution, which is inherent in Marx’s policical philosophy.

    You’re doing the same thing you’re criticizing Klein of right there, as far as I’m concerned. It’s uncomfortable if you’ve got a Friedman fetish, but there it is.

  69. Me: Marx had less to do with Lenin than Friedman did with Pinochet.

    Brainless: “Considering that Marx died when Lenin was, oh, 13 years old, it would be pretty difficult for Marx to have had any thoughts about Lenin. Unless maybe he thought he was a cute little tyke that showed up at a book signing.

    How much did Friedman advise Pinochet? VERY LITTLE. ”

    Game. Set. Match.

    (and I didn’t even have to bring up the Chicago Boys)

  70. And I’m guessing that the answer to my question was “none”, based on the fact that you think Lenin had anything to do with what Marx actually advocated, despite what he *claimed* to be doing.

  71. quasibill: So your argument is that physical time spent in the presence of another person is a direct measure of how much they intellectually influence eachother. So because Marx died before Lenin was born, clearly Marx had no influence on Lenin.

    Garbage. Lenin adopted Marx’s ideas, including the entire program of the Communist Party that Marx founded. Lenin read everything Marx wrote, studied it, adopted it as his philosophy, and rose to power on a revolution based on it.

    Pinochet, on the other hand, probably never read a single one of Friedman’s books, and adopted a couple of policies selectively after he had already come to power.

    Your arugment is equivalent to saying that if Pinochet adopted traffic circles then the inventor of traffic circles is responsible for his crimes. While if Pinochet had adopted American style democracy, and based his government on the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson would not at all responsible, because he happened to have died before Pinochat was born.

    FYI: I am actually currently reading Marx, as I mentioned in another thread.

  72. “No, the issue here is that tyrants cherry pick policies for their own purposes, as Carson explained, using coherent ideologies to legitimate their own narrow, pragmatic political ends.
    … just like Lenin co-opted socialism for his own purposes. ”

    What you seem to be missing is the fact that there is no evidence at all that Lenin “cherry picked” Marx’s philosophies for his own ends, or that Lenin was in anyway an insincere advocate of Marxism. He believed in what he was doing, and the results of his actions flow directly from Marx’s philosophies. Marx advocated violence. Lenin used it. He was not doing anything un-Marxist by killing lots of people. It doesn’t constitute cherry picking. Unless you mean that he cherry picked the parts of Marx that involve killing a lot of people.

  73. Come on, Hazel and Les: does it *really* matter how these tyrants “describe” themselves?

    Of course it doesn’t. What matters is that there is no link between Friedman’s philosophies and Pinochet’s atrocities, despite Klein’s dishonest claims.

    it was his students and followers who went to Chile and were willing to work with a dictator.

    Which students and followers of Friedman “worked” with Pinochet? Which of Friedman’s philosophies inspired Pinochet’s atrocities and anti-democratic views?

    The fact is that Friedman gave the same speeches to a variety of dictators in a variety of communist and anti-communist countries. It defies logic to suggest his recommendations to liberalize markets had any connection to the injustices committed by the dictators he talked to.

    I’d say the same to any anti-communist who blamed Noam Chomsky for Castro’s brutalities simply because he’s visited that dictator and discussed policy with him.

    So, how do you explain Klein’s dishonesty as documented by Johan Norberg here:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9626

  74. The financial system in 2006 certainly wasn’t the libertarian end state, but the heavy hand of government certainly was lifted from the poor bankers who wanted a 30:1 leveraging ratio.

    … which is anything BUT libertarian. “30:1 leveraging” is another way of saying “fractional reserve”. Who the fuck criticizes fractional reserve banking more than libertarians?

  75. “Lenin adopted Marx’s ideas”

    Maybe when you’ve actually read Marx, you’ll see just how stupid that statement makes you look. Or maybe not, if your reading comprehension really is this poor.

    If Insta-sellout claims to be a libertarian, it doesn’t mean that anything that he says actually is based on the philosophy, even though I have no doubt he has read libertarian tracts thoroughly. Many people read Marx and tried to simplify his thought, and in doing so, mangled it horribly (perhaps the most famous example of such is the theory of dialectical materialism – a concept many “Marxists” butchered for their own purposes, and which Marx, while he was still alive, pointed out with disdain). Marx himself denounced many of the “Marxists” that came after him, calling them simpletons and the like. And Lenin, Stalin, and Mao *all* deviated significantly from what Marx actually advocated.

    The major mistake Marx made was thinking that the state could ever be reformed from its function as the medium through which a narrow ruling coalition imposes itself on the majority. Anyone who grabs the reins of the state eventually falls prey to the temptations of power – proletarian or Pinochet.

    Which, when you get right down to it, is the same mistake Friedman made and Klein makes.

    And no, my argument was not what you re-stated it as. What it was that Lenin, STalin, and especially Mao, were less influenced in their actions than Pinochet was by Friedman. In both instances, the answer was very, very, little. But any honest objective observer, dealing with just the facts, as your statement did, would have to admit that if anything, Friedman had more direct influence on Pinochet than Marx did on Lenin, and especially on STalin or Mao.

  76. Anyone who grabs the reins of the state eventually falls prey to the temptations of power – proletarian or Pinochet.

    I agree with this.

    Which, when you get right down to it, is the same mistake Friedman made and Klein makes.

    How did Friedman make this mistake? His philosophy seemed to focus on taking the reins of power from the government and giving it to individuals.

  77. No doubt Lenin saw himself as “adapting Marx to new circumstances,” but in fact his ideology was a sharp break from the Marxism of Marx. Lenin saw the need for a vanguard party to rescue workers from “trade union consciousness,” when Marx himself was associating with trade unionists in the First International and saw socialism as being implemented by the “associated producers” (an awfully Proudhonian-sounding phrase IMO).

    It’s a mistake to read the 20th century connotations of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” into a mid-19th century document. As Michael Harrington pointed out, Marx used the term in the Roman sense of concentrating all the powers of the state into the hands of a single actor. That’s way too authoritarian for my tastes. But there’s no getting around the fact that for Marx, the “single actor” was the actual working class itself–the majority of society exercising power in its own name–and not a bureaucratic apparatus. And he saw it as concentrating political and economic power into its own hands to carry out an agenda of the kind he outlined in the Manifesto and Critique of the Gotha Program, not to liquidate entire demographic groups.

  78. P.S. The closest Lenin came to Marx was between the February and October Revolutions, when the Bolshevik Party’s ranks were being swelled with workers had to be won over with libertarian socialist-sounding rhetoric (e.g., State and Revolution). But IMO the real Lenin was revealed when the Bolsheviks were securely in power, and he suppressed the Workers’ Opposition and the Kronstadt mutineers–IOW, the same Lenin revealed almost two decades earlier in What is to be Done?

  79. quasibill:
    Lenin was not just some idiot running aorund calling himself a Marxist. He was accepted as a Marxist by the Marxists of his day. He was accepted as the leader of the Bolshevik Party.

    So, Lenin’s interpretation of Marx differs from yours. Good for you. That doesn’t make Lenin less of a Marxist, just because you feel compeled to distance yourself from him. That doesn’t mean Lenin wasn’t an intellectual descendent of Marx. Lots of different philosophies can be descended from the same source. Modern marxists like to claim that anyone who turned out wrong wasn’t “really” a Marxist after the fact, even when nobody at the time thought that.

    Pinochet’s problems weren’t an issue of him “misinterpreteing” or “misunderstanding” “real” libertarianism. He never made any pretense of being one in the first place. He never made any claim to be acting under a Friedmanite or libertarian mantle at all.

  80. Kevin Carson:
    So? Pinochet never went around saying he was “adapting capitalism to new circumstances”. Or creating a new type of libertarianism for the Chilean people.

    Pinochet never claimed to be acting on behalf of ANY version of libertarianism. He simply WASN’T an intellectual descendant of Friedman in ANY sense, correct or incorrect.

    You can dispute whether Lenin’s version of Marxism is correct. You can’t dispute that Lenin THOUGHT it was correct or thought of himself as a Marxist. Or that other people at the time thought so too.

  81. The choosing of sides in “Big Business vs. Big Government” is a stupid waste of time because one requires the other.

  82. Sometimes you just have to stand back and look at the big picture. How often do massive communist/socialist experiments work out well?
    Soviet Union-We didn’t ask for this!
    Red China-Mao didn’t like intellectuals, therefore he’s not a Marxist!
    Southeast Asian countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.)- Brave freedom-fighters against the murderous, greedy American imperialists!
    Cuba-If you close one eye and squint really hard with the other, everything looks pretty good there. And if you go to medical tourist hospitals rather than the public hospitals, you can actually get pretty good healthcare cheap.
    North Korea-see our excuse for the Soviet Union
    Also,
    Look at the numerous leftist figures who praised the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, including some, like Walter Duranty, who saw the atrocities being committed and still blithely praised the Soviets.
    By contrast, how many prominent libertarians or even conservatives went to Chile and expressed their strong approval of the Pinochet regime? To the extent that he was defended by libertarians and conservatives it was only by looking at the general political situation in Chile, including the government that Pinochet overthrew, and saying that it would probably be much worse otherwise.

  83. Shorter Hazel –

    Don’t bother me with facts! They’re inconvenient to the way I’ve decided the world works.

    Exactly like Klein.

  84. quasibill: You mean like the fact that the only association between Pinochet and Friedman was a 45 minute meetign and a letter? Or the fact that Lenin was a Marxist fanboy?

  85. Karl Marx was a propagandist. He spewed dualist black and white relativism (yes folks he achieved the incredible feat) and conveniently twisted rhetoric to blame the suffering of the poor on, get this, the middle class, not the rich manipulators whom he was connected to. Karl Marx didn’t blame Wall Street for the woes of the poor. He blamed Main Street businesses and their patrons. How anyone can see the policies implemented by others as deviations is beyond me.

    Friedman was a theorist. Just about any implementation of a theorist’s work is a deviation, even when the theorist is the implementer.

    Klein is on drugs. Wolf is “teh hott” in this arena.

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