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Mark Levin is the great public teacher of our time.

It's a different time. The audience is different, the elite is different, the people re
different. The threats to the civil society are different.

And these leaders choose themselves. The have an inner passion
and a skill set that touches a broad audience.

In many ways Friedman never convinced many of his peers -- he touched the young and the public.

I would suggest Dan is wrong. There's still a lot of low hanging fruit
out there -- and new fruit to pluck every day.

The recent spate of books on the Great Depression is a good example -- as is Goldberg's book on liberal fascism. And these books sell.

Also -- as an economist public intellectual why doesn't Thomas Sowell count as the "Friedman" of our day?

I agree with many of the things you say, but I actually think the problem is even deeper than you believe. This might sound bizarre, but I actually see Milton Friedman (and others of his generations) as the last expression of the decline of liberalism. This tendency took longer to get to the US, because the history is different there and, even now, almost everybody is paying lipservice to free enterprise/capitalism/"American values"/Founding Fathers/Constitution etc but when the last major intellectual figures of liberalism are almost all economists, and moreover very technical economists that everybody else see as technicians that you call upon when the government has a problem with its books or something like that, then you can be sure there won't be a resurrection of liberal culture very soon. Even so, it's extraordinary how much public prestige economists have in the US and how famous Milton Friedman became (that would never have happened in Europe). But this was just the last act before the curfews fall down, as it were. The problem is much deeper. During the 1930s, for instance, every poet, writer, philosopher, intellectual were talking about a cultural crisis etc and they were trying to think seriously about various issues whether they were liberals, or communists or whatever. Now it's not even a problem. Everything is a treated as a separate, marginal, pragmatic issues. Healthcare reform, freemovement, financial regulation reform etc etc It's like the whole world is Kafka's Castle ! In Europe, for example, they're trying to unite a continent into a single nation, but nobody says this, nobody asks the deep "philosophical" problems - everything is a bureaucratic process, like everything else. In case somebody tries to look at the big picture and ask the big questions, he seems anachronical, "philosophical", "ideological", simply strange. Imagine - just for a minute - if this happened during the Enlightenment, if the whole process of change started back then would have been treated as a bureaucratic issue of how to increase, step by step, methodically, prosperity, equality or whatever : would there be any ideas left for us today? Imagine Voltaire or Adam Smith writing law bills and pushing legislation through legislative assemblies instead of thinking, writing and trying to understand and grasp the intellectual basis of how things should change? The truth is that nobody cares, the academia - specifically in various social sciences - is locked in many government "projects" or in useless arcane commentary and marginal variations of what has been done in the past that is often of interest only to people who want a job in academia; it's totally separated from the social life, compared to the past, and what is strange is that many people working within have the impression that they're saying a lot of new and very important things even though in many cases it's hard to see why ; the media is like one big company printing or broadcasting in different formats and languages the same thing - sometimes with the same words - all over the world; and the whole political system works based on inertia around a slowly moving center and there's always a very big margin for getting things wrong before getting something right. Etc.

Pragmatism blinds people to their own assumptions (ethical and methodological), and leads to disparaging those who try and discuss them. The so-called "practical men," unconcerned with abstract matters of principle, can be entrusted to "get the job done." The result is ideological entrenchment, completely impervious to attack or challenge, since its thralls believe themselves to have transcended such matters.

When the wall came down it soon became apparent that classical liberals could win all the economic and philosophical battles and still lose the war due to the thought control exerted by left-liberal intellectuals who occupy the commanding heights of public opinion - the schools, the universities, the media, the arts, etc. In this situation a whole platoon of Friedmans would be battling to make an impact on public opinion and hence the popularity of desirable policies.

So things are likely to get worse before they get better. In the long haul the big thing in our favour is that wherever and whenever in the world things get better it is one or more of the items of the classical liberal agenda that are making the diffence, even though they never come pure, always mixed with other policies that are likely to claim the credit. If we can explain that...

From Istambul, in sight of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

Dream on...

Why don't we have another Friedman? Why don't we have another Michael Jackson? Markets are mroe efficient at exporting talent. Flavors don't last a week anymore.

you write: "Today most of the political culture is tepid, bound by status-quo policies, led by establishment players, and framed by “liberal versus conservative” – a framework that epitomizes the breakdown of liberal understanding."

So, after all, you're just one step from becoming us: europe and the rest of the world.

I agree with Dan. But I will add we don't *need* another Milton Friedman. The intellectual pieces are all in place. We need bright individuals who can elaborate and strengthen particular insights. We can also use clear-writing synthesizers to put these findings into compact and interesting form. But the synthesizers will be viewed as mere journalists. We must all grow up and do our work. The saints are dead and they will stay so. We do not believe in the resurrection. This is why a Mises Institute (or a Hayek Institute or a Friedman Institute or even a Keynes Institute) is a bad idea. It is not what we need at this time in human history. But even if we "needed" an intellectual god we wouldn't get one.


So you're saying 1) the basic ideas are out there and lots of folks are preaching the message and 2) we're not involved in any epic political fight against really red socialism or anything like that. Consequently, no liberal giants are standing astride the popular and scholarly worlds, at least not of the stature of a Milton Friedman. Is that it?

If that's the basic message, then surely you're saying we pretty much won the war. Smaller battles remain, remain always vigilant, and so on. But the really epochal fight is over. I hope you're right! I think so sometimes. At other times I am pessimistic about by Bush era statism.

Mario Rizzo said: "This is why a Mises Institute (or a Hayek Institute or a Friedman Institute or even a Keynes Institute) is a bad idea. It is not what we need at this time in human history. But even if we 'needed' an intellectual god we wouldn't get one."

How about a Rizzo Institute? That'd be deliciously ironic.

Mark Levin? Are you kidding me?

Mark Levin has sold a million copies of his popular book. He has 7 million tuning in to his radio show. His Landmark legal foudation is doing cutting edge constitutional law around the country. His Men in Black book taught a generation
about the rule of law in American constitutional history.

You can sneeze at what you wish.

Levin has done more to push back against socialized medicine and the Obama Presidency than all the people who read this blog combined.

It is what it is.


I agree with you to a large extent. However, I would have to say that were it not for Rush Limbaugh, whom practically inaugurated entertaining political radio, we might not have Levin.

Limbaugh has run the most popular AM show for ~2 decades now, and is even on FM. Daily, he pushes forward the general cause of classical liberalism, and cites Sowell and the founders often. How many average U.S. citizens has he gotten to "see the light?" He's damn funny and he can certainly organize a political movement without even trying (would these health care rallies have happened without his influence...).

He's not die-hard extreme free-market on his show, but I would suspect it's because he has to appeal to a mass audience. But he does a damn good job in laying out the case as he does; I wish I or other Austrians had such an ability.

Even though it isn't popular, in many ways, I'd say Rush Limbaugh is better than Friedman. He certainly has touched a far greater number of people.

Interesting that Limbaugh is prepared to cite the saints, our most popular non-left bloggers and commentators are unwilling to go far beneath the politcal surface to push ideas. Most would squirm if asked to define classical liberalism.

What Mario said "We can also use clear-writing synthesizers to put these findings into compact and interesting form. But the synthesizers will be viewed as mere journalists."

We need quality high journalism which is dominated by lefties (at least in Australia), but we have got the ideas to take them out, anytime we get to face off on an open field.

Levin is in the battle of ideas in the courts and in his books
at a level Limbaugh rarely touches.

Let's tell the truth about Friedman.

The popular work which made Friedman famous was very simplistic
and did not convince his non-classic liberal professional peers. What touched the public was Friedman's very clear explication of Hayek's account of the communication function of prices and Friedman's very clear account of the
significance of the quantity theory of money when thinking of inflation -- and Friedman's clear common sense pointing the empirical success of free
markets over statist controls.

The technical work that made Friedman a major player in the profession is
mostly stuff internal to technical projects that have seen their day
come and go -- much of it never engaging work central to the explanatory project of Mengerian economics.

Friedman's empirical work gave him prestige but it isn't done according to the strictures of the empirical elite -- the econometricians.

So what are we saying that there isn't a "Friedman". I think mostly we're saying that there isn't someone the public wants to listen to on the topic of liberty and the
free society with the "scientific" & pop fame -- and the gift for gab -- which Friedman had.

But note well, if the Nobel committee awarded it's prize on different grounds
Sowell certainly could have been a "Friedman". If Myrdal could be
given a Nobel, then Sowell could.

Krugman could be a Friedman if only his politics and his moral compass we different (part of Friedman's appeal was his good character and appealing personality.)

And here we are only looking at economists.

Yes Friedman came on the scene at a special moment in history but there are always special moments -- and special people to fill them.

It doesn't look like there's anybody on the horizon, because classical liberalism thrives better when individuals don't have to worry about ecological and environmental effects, and can go about their lives without thinking too much about things beyond their immediate purview. (I use both "ecological" and "environmental" in their original and separate meanings, not the "ecological" of "ecological rationality" nor the "environmental" of "environmental engineering.") From the days of the classical liberals until very recently, no one worried about the diminution of wildlife ecosystems, nor the changes in the main biogeochemical cycles, caused by the acceleration of economic activity due to scientific technology and population growth. No one worried about human crowding, because you could always move to some place less crowded. These worries are now looming, their background noise is getting louder, and everybody knows we're on a finite sphere. I am not arguing that certain problems may or may not be solved -- that is not my point. It is about how they are likely to be solved. In fact I have two points: (1) individual rationality is limited with regard to complications in complex systems, and such complications are suddenly becoming more salient, more evident, more multiplied -- AND (2) that the general methods of the assurance that they can and will be solved (i.e. technological invention, resource substitution, slowing of population growth, etc.) do not address the problems' multiplicative growths.

Consider for example Milton Friedman. In Capitalism and Freedom he advocates the privatization of the U.S. national park system. This is why wildlife ecologists consider him to have been a dangerous fool. It is generally considered that some study of a subject (here, wildlife biology) is necessary before holding forth on it. Not only did Friedman not bother, but he was in essence taking the position that you don't have to bother: that the aggregate of individual actions regarding these areas (largely, market payments for recreational services) could and would suffice. That is a scientific and a moral error.

Rationality is scarce and its employment is faulty. Markets can't automatically solve this problem. It's going to put human freedom in danger, because crowding is increasing our social transaction costs, and on the other hand the planetary ecosystem could meet catastrophic breakpoints that destroy things. (Even the U.S. Defense Department is concerned about the effects of global warming on security issues.) Yet we are often reduced to using statistics to estimate how much we can know of something that could be critical. This might not be rationality -- it might be insanity. The solutions will be new institutions which are designed to protect freedom as much as possible, while addressing the issues prophylactically. There isn't going to be a new liberal worth reading until he or she achieves a comprehensive understanding of what is happening globally, and dusts off and refurbishes the theory of why new institutions emerge.


Based on your comments I checked out Levin's webpage and found his conservative manifesto. Not that cool IMHO. He's got a whole thing about faith that is more conservative than liberal. His few words on foreign policy seem a tad bellicose and more conservative than liberal. "Ensure that America remains the world's superpower." He says he wants to "[e]liminate chain migration" and "[s]ecure the nation's borders." Under the heading "Imigration" he calls for us to "End multiculturalism, diversity, and bilingualism in public institutions." How can that view square with the liberalism of David Hume and Adam Smith? And he wants a "legislative veto over Court decisions," which would eliminate the practice of judicial review inaugurated in 1803 with Marby v. Madison.

I saw that he calls out Bush for being a statist and for abandoning his (supposed!) free-market principles in Fall 2008. Good on both counts. But he still looks overall much more conservative than classical liberal.

I'm a big tent guy, Roger. I didn't agree with Friedman on everything either.

I'd also point to John Stossel as another contemporary "Friedman" in the "public intellectual" and teacher of classical liberalism sense.

In some ways Stossel is even better at it than Friedman.

And Stossel does it on a fairly regular schedule in prime time on network TV.

Stossel on global warming is another good place to examine the progression of the pathology:

It is not happening ... okay, it is happening, but it won't be harmful ... it may be harmful, but stopping it would be worse ... how do we know the harm won't be offset by the benefits? ... government is the problem, markets are the solution ... etc.

To all of you Austrian guys responding here:

I am wondering if you are overlooking a possible element of consumer preference? In other words, did the "rise" and "success" of Milton Friedman only have to do with his ideas and delivery or was the "consumer" willing to listen and embrace the ideas of "classical liberalism" in response to an overreaching government as a result of FDR's policies and socialism?

I agree that the ideas of liberty have been clearly articulated and are readily available to the public, and that these ideas are making their way into the public arena through many "new media" venues but the demand for those ideas, which is growing daily, may not be the result of a rising star, like a Friedman, Levin or Limbaugh, but because of the aggressive over reach of the Obama administration and its willingness to push socialist policies in an effort to "remake" America.

It seems that what drives the individual to a willingness to engage in the battle for their liberty is the prospect of seeing their government making its move to eliminate free-markets, constitutional law and individual liberty without regard to reason and discourse. It also appears that it takes a very large power-grab, similar to FDR's, to awaken Americans to the danger of serfdom residing at their door step. We have been losing our freedoms in various ways for may years, as James Bovard points out in his book "Freedom in Chains," but those losses are cloaked in regulations being made in the dark corridors of the federal bureaucracy and decisions being made by the liberal elite sitting on American courts.

Now, it seems, the consumer is ready to listen and act to protect those liberties. Many websites (Mises, FEE, The Austrian Economists) and books like "Liberty and Tyranny" and "Atlas Shrugged" are flying off the shelf. Levin may well be the next Friedman, but I believe that that is because tyranny is on the march and the "consumer" had awoken with a growling appetite for liberty.


I think you have a good explanation. I just heard today from a friend about some lifelong lefty and Obama voter who feels "disillusioned." She is a small business owner, and my guess is that these deficits and bailouts are making a lot of people very uneasy. People feel in their gut that something is not right, even progressives -- Keynesian economics is starting to look more like voodoo every day.

This same disillusioned lefty is noe becoming interested in Ron Paul.

I wonder if George Reisman's, Capitalism (1996), is sadly being overlooked. This book is twice as long as Human Action and he was a student of Mises afterall.

Here are what some notable commentators have said about it:

-"Reisman's exposure of modern mercantilist fallacies takes its place alongside that of Adam Smith." -James Buchanan

-"Reisman develops powerful and highly original theories of aggregate profit and interest, savings and capital accumulation, wages, and aggregate economic accounting". -Jerry Kirkpatrick, Professor of Marketing, California State Polytechnic University

-"Reisman's Capitalism is the most rigorous and relentless case for laissez-faire capitalism written in our time." -Hans Sennholz

-"There are only a few truly great economic classics. Reisman's Capitalism takes its place among them as the leading defense of capitalism." -George A. Mangiero, Associate Professor of Economics, Iona College

From- http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/14-a-treatise-for-a-new-age-in-economic-theory-a-review-of-george-reismans-capitalism/

"THE BOOK UNDER REVIEW, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, has been in print since 1996. Its enormous size and the vast array of topics covered suggest enormous scholarship and devotion. Its expressed purpose is a thorough integration of leading economic phenomena into one unified theory of the market process. Yet virtually no serious attention on the part of academic economists has been paid to its many highly original contributions and bold challenges to received orthodoxy...

...But as with Classical economics, wherever Reisman finds analytical or empirical inconsistencies in Austrian economics, he mercilessly exposes them and brings the science of economics closer to a greater analytical tidiness and higher level of integration with observable facts and phenomena. For example, the highly influential Austrian time-preference approach to the phenomenon of originary interest (or profit), as originated again in the work of Böhm-Bawerk and brought to perfection in the writings of Fetter, Mises and Rothbard, is shown to be completely inadequate to both furnish a coherent explanation of the phenomenon of interest and remain consistent with wider conditions of the market...

...the concept of time-preference in Reisman’s system enters the explanation of the rate of profit/interest via his equally original theories of saving and capital accumulation that describe and explain the process of income formation and distribution in a previously unknown and exciting way...

...As such, I see the system as consisting of several major blocks whose development is aided by a number of highly potent analytical techniques such as the assumption of invariable money (pp. 538–40) or Reisman’s single-handedly developed system of national income accounting (pp. 699-709)...

... Reisman’s theory of profit/interest in conjunction with his theory of saving sheds an important light on the precise nature of Solow-residual. In Reisman’s theory of saving alone I see nearly unlimited scope for extremely fruitful research...

The third major block is Reisman’s Productivity Theory of Wages (Chapter 14). I have introduced some of its distinctive elements already in the critique of the exploitation theory. But theory’s originality has much more in store for us. It describes the process of wages determination from an absolutely original angle. Quite importantly, though close in name, it should not in any way be confused with the neoclassical as well as Austrian marginal theories of factor pricing because Productivity Theory of Wages describes the process of wage determination along very different lines, more in agreement with the logic of classical economics, though by no means entirely so.

There are so many absolutely revolutionary theoretical contributions that a major book alone would probably be required merely to document and explain them, let alone to develop further its major elements. All in one, in Capitalism we glimpse at the beginning of a new era in theoretical economics."

Hyperbole or worth a look? The book is free to view at http://www.capitalism.net/Capitalism/CAPITALISM_Internet.pdf

Dan, let me suggest you are selling Hayek et al short -- they did more than develop new statement of old ideas, they broke from significant elements of the old tradition and developed new conceptions.

E.g. Hayek broke from the ancient justificationalist philosophical tradition and from the "mirror of nature" picture of mind in a way than none of the old liberals of the past had done -- and this break is right at the heart of both his social science and his understanding of negative rules of just conduct.

And the "new" liberals responded to novel developments on the left, developing conceptions that prior liberals never had to wrestle to the mat, e.g. the various conceptions of historicism, the pragmatic or "engineering" mindset, and modern conceptions of "scientism" and positivism.

And let me suggest that this work is not done.

Do we have a fully worked out, consistent, and completed account of Hayek's picture of the explanatory strategy of economics and social theory, with all of its various elements from the science of mind to law to philosophy to capital theory all neatly tied in a bow? Not even close.

And ditto with a larger conception combining the work of multiple modern classical liberals.

There is a lot left to do -- what we don't have is enough people with thick enough pants and long enough lives and an early enough start and enough institutional support in the most powerful academic departments in the U.S. to get this project completed.

Dan wrote:

"With the postwar re-awakenings, bold thinkers defied the cultural ruts of their times. They rediscovered pieces of the liberal understanding .. [They] developed new statements of parts of liberal wisdom. Because it had been dead and buried, it now seemed fresh and original."

Hate to be so pedestrian, but would someone be kind enough to tell me what "ASU" in the paragrpah of Dan's post re Nozick means? Thanks in advance.

His book, "Anarchy, State, Utopia".

Thanks all for the comments, fruitful, civil, and relevant.

I'm thinking that I'll write up some replies to some of the comments (here and at Marg Rev).

I'll post a link here when ready, maybe this weekend.

Jeff, I think that you should read this review of Capitalism: "http://www.gmu.edu/rae/archives/VOL12_1_1999/kirzner.pdf".

Interesting review, thanks. I agree with Kirzner about the unfortunate tone (no doubt Rand’s literary style rubbed off on him) of the book and he seems to have issues with Reisman’s emphasis on aggregates (“What this macroeconomics consists of is, not explications of economic processes, but marathon exercises in definitions, in arithmetic, and in accounting.”). Too bad he won't write a distilled version of the book without all the Randian/negative tone baggage.

Haven't had a chance to reply. I need to put the aspiration aside for now. Thanks again for valuable comments.

i like this part of the post:"Pete and I were discussing why there is no Milton Friedman nowadays. He invited me to write up what I was saying, so here goes." is very good

I posted the article because I felt a good discussion about it was called for. As you will note at the intro, I cut out several paragraphs that I felt were over the top and not substantiated, and some images that were not originals and could not be sourced.

Do you agree that travel must one day revert to being a luxury

The closing paragraph tells it all in my opinion. I need to say that I agree with it, and probably the most fantastic thing about it is that you left it open ended…this reveals that you're prepared to draw in new and completely different opinions and that you are in the end very interested to see individuals getting involved within the subject. So, any different opinions?

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