Election 2020

Joe Biden's Latest Campaign Trail Target Is Milton Friedman. But Why?

Whatever the latest polls say about Biden versus Trump, the Delaware Democrat almost surely has a better chance at winning the presidency than he does at undoing Milton Friedman's life work.

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Joe Biden has chosen an opponent for the 2020 general election—and it's not Donald Trump, but instead, of all people, an economics professor who died in 2006.

"Milton Friedman isn't running the show anymore," Biden declared in a half-hour exclusive interview with Michael Grunwald of Politico, published over the weekend.

For a guy not "running the show," Milton Friedman sure appears to be occupying substantial space in Biden's mind and presidential campaign. For the Democratic presidential candidate, this is a recurring theme. During a September 7, 2019, fundraiser in Wayland, Massachusetts, according to a pool report from Sarah Mucha of CNN, Biden asked rhetorically, "When did Milton Friedman die and become king?"

It's amusing on a variety of levels. Biden doesn't yet seem cured of his habit of peppering his speech with references to individuals—Mike Mansfield, Jesse Helms, Milton Friedman—who, like Biden himself, seem like they belong to some bygone era. If Milton Friedman is just a general-purpose stand-in for a free-market-oriented economist, political thinker, or philosopher, it's strange that Biden has chosen to single out and take on Friedman rather than, say, Adam Smith, or Friedrich Hayek, or Robert Nozick, or Ayn Rand.

An irony is that is many significant ways, Friedman, who won the Nobel prize in economics in 1976, really is running the show, no matter how much Biden insists it is not so. Perhaps the most significant way is the use of monetary policy—the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply and cutting interest rates—to fight the economic effects of the novel coronavirus and of the lockdowns used to respond to it. Friedman's 1963 book with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, argued that Federal Reserve inaction had contributed to the Great Depression. Subsequent Fed chairmen have been determined not to repeat that policy error.

Binyamin Appelbaum's 2019 book The Economist's Hour credits Friedman for helping America move from a military of drafted conscripts to an all-volunteer force. "In Friedman's view, it was the same system of forced labor Egyptian pharaohs had used to build the pyramids," Appelbaum writes. Bringing back the military draft has not been a big campaign agenda item for Biden, who reportedly avoided Vietnam-era enlistment with student deferments and a medical history of asthma.

Even on the policy issues where Friedman's victories were less clear-cut, the debate is still being fought on terms he defined. Trump last week described the U.S. Postal Service as a "joke." Friedman had in 1986 proposed privatizing the mail-delivery business.

Trump has advocated for tax credits to fund scholarships that would allow some families to choose private schools instead of government-run public schools. Friedman has been described as the grandfather of school vouchers.

Even the federal government's stimulus payments to individual taxpayers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act are being described in some quarters as a temporary twist on Friedman's idea of a negative income tax or an Andrew Yang-style universal basic income.

Some of Biden's business backers criticize Friedman for the idea that "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits," as the headline of a 1970 article in The New York Times Magazine by Friedman put it. The article is influential 50 years after being published.

One advantage for Biden and others in picking on Friedman is that Friedman, unlike Trump, is not in a position to reply.

But a sustained attack on Friedman by Biden is an approach that is also not without certain political risks. The book for which Friedman is best known, other than the Monetary History of the United States, is Capitalism and Freedom. Voters may wonder about Biden, what precisely is his complaint about Friedman? Is it the capitalism to which Biden objects? Or the freedom? Or both?

Economists die. But the basic laws of economics survive past the deaths of prominent economists, just as the laws of physics survive even after the death of prominent physicists. And as Milton Friedman realized, the human desire for freedom lasted from the days of the Egyptian pyramids right up to contemporary times.

If Biden chooses to make the 2020 presidential campaign a race between himself and Milton Friedman, there may soon come a day in which Biden wishes he had chosen a less formidable opponent. Whatever the latest polls say about Biden versus Trump, the Delaware Democrat almost surely has a better chance at winning the presidency than he does at undoing Milton Friedman's life work.

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  1. https://twitter.com/RichMcHugh/status/1254811933531934721

    NEW: A former neighbor of Joe Biden’s accuser Tara Reade has come forward, on the record, to corroborate her sexual assault account, saying Reade discussed the allegations in detail in the mid-1990s.

    1. Hannah T. ANderson paycheck was for 1500 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour… More Details

  2. To distract from the fact that he’s a rapist.

    1. To get AOC’s endorsement.

      1. Because he’s a moron.

  3. When your entire campaign, party, and supporters are Marxists, everyone even slightly to the right of them is a target for vitriol, abuse, hatred, and violence.

    Capitalism and freedom are anathema to the left. Personal choice only applies to abortion, and only when they say it does.

    1. “When your entire campaign, party, and supporters are Marxists”

      That explains why Michael Bloomberg wants Drumpf out of office so bad. Because Bloomberg is a Marxist!

      LOL

      1. Good point. Bloomberg is an authoritarian.

        1. And happy to use Marxists as foot soldiers and informers, at least until they turn on him.

      2. Yes. He’s Zeppo.

      3. Bloomberg’s obsession with office wasn’t so much economic or political as it was about Bloomberg seeking affirmation as the smartest guy in the room. For all his success, he seems to be a very insecure man who surrounded himself with sycophants who couldn’t even tell him the truth about his own campaign. I’m going to guess he dies a very unfulfilled man, feeling humiliated in every direction. It’s rather sad.

        However, not surprisingly, you confuse the comment to also include Bloomberg when it was obviously about the Biden campaign, which has scurried left to try and head off Sanders, and now leaves him with a bevy of stupid promises that he can’t fulfill.

  4. No big deal. You see this a lot with older Democrats. They still make half-hearted criticisms of “Wall Street” or “billionaires” or “corporate greed” or “the 1%.” Or, apparently, deceased economists.

    In every way that matters, however, the Democrats are now the party that best represents the interests of wealthy Americans. On immigration in particular, there’s virtually no difference between AOC’s position and Charles Koch’s. That’s why it’s not surprising Hillary Clinton had far more billionaire support than Drumpf in 2016. Expect Biden’s campaign to continue that pattern.

    #VoteBidenToHelpBillionaires

    1. My god. Is it an OBL post that doesn’t mention immigration once? Your act is slipping, sir. At least mention how this all ties into Biden’s support for unlimited immigration or something.

  5. During a September 7, 2019, fundraiser … Biden asked rhetorically, “When did Milton Friedman die and become king?”

    “Oh, he *is* dead?! God love ya, Milton, stand up and let us see you!”

  6. Biden is just replaying old campaign speeches.

    1. Old to you. He’s senile, so they’re new to him.

      1. Joe and all of us will continue to enjoy what Alzheimer’s looks like on the campaign trail and maybe in the Vowal office. And for Joe, every day is a new day, like nothing happened the day before today. Or tomorrow, wherever that is.

        1. Yesterday, yesterday was today and today was tomorrow.

          Tomorrow, today will be yesterday and tomorrow will be today.

          Therefore, today is the only day that exists.

        2. We’ve seen the palilalia, which they’re trying to pass off as “stuttering” when it is in fact the mental needle getting stuck in the memory groove, I’m sure there’s some technical term for popping a long-ago remembered name into a blank in the conversation. Maybe he has a vague idea the conversation has something to do with economics and that’s the only name his random-egress memory has in the economics slot. You could probably test that theory by asking him to name two economists.

          1. You could probably test that theory by asking him to find his pants without the butler.

            But what would be more fun is if a journalist would ask Biden to critique any of Friedman’s 5 guiding principles, at his choice.

      2. *snap*

    2. Biden is like the Democrats’ greatest hits album.

      1. Maybe like the Greatest Hits, volume III, when the marketers are scraping the playlist for “hits” that never got into the top 100.

    3. When did Neil Kinnock ever mention Milton Friedman?

      -jcr

  7. Photo caption:
    “And so then I turn and say ‘you listen here, buddy.’ I had to squint because it was sunny that day and one of my neighbors was holding an umbrella. I think it was red, like that time Barrack and I had a beer with the president. It was this big. So I grabbed her umbrella, and vote for me, thank you.”

    1. Photo caption:
      “And so then I turn and say ‘you listen here, buddy.’ I had to squint because it was sunny that day and one of my neighbors was holding an umbrella. I think it was red, like that time Barrack and I had a beer with the president. It was this big. So I grabbed her umbrella, and vote for me, thank you.”

      1. I liked it better the first time.

        1. Liked what better the first time?

    2. Alternate photo caption:

      “Her ass was this wide and ol’ Diamond Joe couldn’t help himself but to grab two handfuls.”

  8. To be fair, Biden may think he’s literally running against Friedman.

    1. Mike Friedman at that…. or was it Morley Friedman.

  9. Joe Biden’s Latest Campaign Trail Target Is Milton Friedman. But Why?

    Because dead men can’t defend themselves?

    1. Because an old man suffering dementia can’t remember that Friedman is dead and never ran for president.

    2. Bingo! Somebody gets it.

      There’s precisely zero chance that Biden will end up on a stage crossing rhetorical swords with Friedman, so he’s a safe target.

    3. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the Democratic Party’s growing antisemitism.

  10. The book for which Friedman is best known, other than the Monetary History of the United States, is Capitalism and Freedom.

    Free to Choose, thank you very much. Made me a libertarian.

    1. And not only that, it’s ten times as readable! Thank you Rose!

  11. In terms of national policy, Friedman’s only successes were the payroll tax and ending the draft. And he freely admitted to his dying day that the former was his greatest mistake ever.

    We don’t have a monetarist economy. We don’t have a negative income tax. We don’t have school vouchers at the national level. Of all the big things he ever advocated, only ending the draft ever happened.

    So Biden attacking Friedman as the architect of the modern age can only mean Biden wants the draft back.

  12. But Why?

    Because they died on the same day and Friedman made all the headlines?

  13. Subsequent Fed chairmen have been determined not to repeat that policy error.

    They are happy to invent new errors.

    1. That’s not a big zinger. Making mistakes is inevitable, but if you learn from the past, at least they’ll be new mistakes.

      If you learn from your mistakes, every new mistake is another lesson learned.

      The Fed’s problem isn’t that they keep inventing new errors. It’s that they invented one new error, and then making it became a spinal reflex.

  14. Just the idea of someone’s becoming king by dying is a laughable Bidenism. He must’ve gotten hung up in speech over someone else’s dying and making Friedman king.

  15. “But Why?”

    Cuz he’s kookaburra.

  16. Step off, Joe!

  17. Does his base even know who Milton Friedman is?

  18. Biden is a leftard ignoramus, and he employs other leftards to tell provide him with leftard talking points that sound good to Bernie Bros. Joe himself probably can’t tell Milton Friedman from Sigmund Freud.

    -jcr

  19. Milton Friedman is to Biden as Emmanuel Goldstein was to Big Brother.

    If Biden hadn’t lost his marbles, I would imagine he’d be uncomfortable with the notion of a Two Minute Hate straight out of a book about totalitarianism. Or not. His handlers are probably getting all their ideas fro that book.

  20. Equating “economics to physics” is a false equivalency to say the least. Human beings are not atoms or electrons, we are adaptable, varied, and creative. The solutions human beings have come up with in various times and places, goes far beyond the very narrow scope of economists, whether they be Friedman, Hayek, Marx or Adam Smith.

    “Immutable laws of economics” reduces our humanity to equations, distorts our potential, and fundamentally rejects the idea of free will.

  21. “Immutable laws of economics” reduces our humanity to equations, distorts our potential, and fundamentally rejects the idea of free will.

    Humanity’s behavior is not immutable but it is as predictable as the moon’s orbit. For instance, free will or otherwise, paying people more to not work than to work distorts our potential by reducing the supply of people who wish to become employed.

  22. The simplest explanation is often the correct one. Maybe Biden really does think that Milton Friedman is our king.

  23. The other thing Biden may object to is that Friedman said the purpose of a corporation is to make a profit. The horror!!

  24. BIden must be opposed to MF’s idea of a guaranteed income.

  25. Good press for Milton.

  26. Find me a progressive who even knows who Friedman much less his positions on the economy or his impact. They just like Marxism because it promises them free stuff.

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