Apr 12, 2014

Walter Block on how the truth about Friedman, Reagan, and the Great Depression is distorted by language

Walter: Well, we spoke of being free to choose earlier; that’s of course the title of a famous book by Milton Friedman, an economist highly regarded by most free-market type people. I must say a word or two about Milton Friedman.

Q: Okay, shoot. Metaphorically; no sectarian violence allowed.

Walter: Murray Rothbard used to say that mainstream economists specialize in what they are bad in. If you look at Milton Friedman’s work, you can see that he’s very good on free trade, minimum wage, rent control, occupational licensure, and other topics…

Q: But he was a monetary interventionist.

Walter: Yes, he was a monetary interventionist – and that was his main thing, apart from educational vouchers, which are also a horrible idea. If someone says “monetarist,” who will most people come up with by association? Milton Friedman. He was just horrible on this; he favored fractional reserve banking, he favored the Fed, all sorts of government monetary and tax intervention, and he had the audacity to name his book Free to Choose. But when people were free to choose, what did they choose? Gold. He’s a disgrace!

Q: Don’t hold back, Walter – tell us what you really think.

Walter: [Chuckles] Well, I don’t mind disagreement. We have to have Krugmans and Keyneses – but the problem is that everyone thinks Friedman was a champion of free enterprise, and people will come to you, and me, and Doug, and tell us were wrong because “even Milton Friedman concedes…”

Q: It’s like the problem arising from Ronald Reagan using libertarian rhetoric to get elected, and then overseeing the biggest acceleration of growth in government ever seen until that time. That had typical results of too much regulation and government spending, and people think that the Reagan years showed that free enterprise doesn’t work. Just as people are taught that the Great Depression proves that “unbridled laissez-faire capitalism” doesn’t work – when, in fact, the Depression was the result of government intervention into the economy.

Walter: Precisely.

~ Walter Block, "Walter Block: Doug Casey is an Optimist," LewRockwell.com, April 13, 2013

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