Debate: Was Milton Friedman a Libertarian?

The question is answered just as we pass what would have been Friedman’s 100th birthday in a rigorous debate between Walter Block and Paul Geddes.

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7 Responses to “Debate: Was Milton Friedman a Libertarian?”

  1. Justin says:

    I do not know all the vagaries of your group, you are correct, but as a very busy liberty-loving individual, I do read the occasional article that you had sent me. I have spent an immense amount of time debating with folks like you over the nuances of whether liberty, or anti-government, should be the rallying call for libertarians. I have seen incredible amounts of time and energy wasted on these (and other similar) debates which I have come to see as simple outlets for libertarians to vent and rage rather than engage in something constructive.

    I am not necessarily against that, bitch your lives away, however I have become increasingly convinced that such purity debates or purity wars (who is the truest believer among us?) lead only to frustration and disunity amongst liberty-loving people of all stripes. As you correctly point out, I have included significant numbers of assumptions about you and your organization by raging – you are witnessing a kind of last straw for me – for that I do apologize.

    Of course a debate is fine. But, instead of highlighting the amazing things that MF has done for liberty on his would-be 100th, your organization questions his purity. It is particularly strange as one who claims that advancing liberty is your goal – is not MF someone that you should be struggling to learn from rather than purging? My take? Though I may be wrong, it smacks of group identification when people worry more about who belongs to their special little group (is he a libertarian?) rather than what are we trying to accomplish (how can we increase liberty?). Even a debate titled – "Did Milton Friedman Help Advance Liberty?" would be far more appropriate because it would focus on the actions and ideas rather than "is he one of us?" social bugbear that has infected so many strands of "Libertarianism".

    • Redmond says:

      Hi Justin

      A little background, Walter and Paul, who are friends, agreed to this debate without prompting from Mises Canada – they let us know and we decided to record and release it.

      and certainly if you or someone you know would like to submit any articles on this subject of the "libertarian movement" or Friedman, I would be happy to publish them.

      Otherwise, thank you for taking the time to comment on the youtube video, and reminding me to get a piece written on the charter cities movement.

  2. Justin says:

    Justin Anderson of Calgary – happy to tell you who I am.

    Like any breathing person, I am loaded with prejudices but also just a sincere interest in advancing liberty. What is abhorrent isn't that the discussion occurs but that your organization, which claims to be interested in advancing liberty, is spotlighting the discussion and "debate". Time and energy (and money) are short and it indicates that your organization is about group identification and quasi-religious fuzzy-feelings focused on reinforcing the position that you are in fact the TRUE believers in libertarianism.

    As for your comments, Friedman wasn't a true believer in your Gold panacea, it is true, but he did something far more important than Gold-religiosity misses – he identified that printing excess money (or mining excess gold) is the source of inflation. He also showed that the FED, not capitalism, was to blame for the Great Depression. These powerful ideas, while they have far from cured us from the immense distortions caused by the FED and other socialist-distorting mechanisms, they have led to a world where most civilized-nations understand the damage that inflation can cause and they have been far more responsible than was historically the case.

    Friedman said that about Greenspan et al because inflation had been (RELATIVELY) low for the period described. He is also saying something *relatively* ie. performed well RELATIVE to the past.

    I actually don't care what one labels Friedman – "Libertarian", "Anarchist" or "Socialist". I am more concerned that your organization is far more interested in purity wars than advancing the cause of Liberty. Were you interested in the latter, you would hold Milton Friedman on your highest pedestal.

    • Redmond says:

      Ah Justin

      You continue to dig yourself deeper into a hole.

      So we spend over two years with daily articles, several conferences including such people as free banker advocate Larry White, many different writers who come from many various viewpoints, even(god forbid) publish work critical of Rothbard, and with one debate that we spent absolutely no money on (ZERO), and a few hours editing and uploading, and you have decided that we are wrong-headed and dedicated to the “purity wars” because we decided to publish a debate between Paul Geddes and Walter Block.

      To be honest, you don’t have a clue.

      I guess haters gotta hate…

      I have never claimed to be the arbiter of “libertariansism”.

      “Friedman wasn't a true believer in your Gold panacea”

      Gold Panacea? When did I say anything about that?

      “he identified that printing excess money (or mining excess gold) is the source of inflation.”

      That was discovered a long time before Milton Friedman came along – feel free to give Mises: The Theory of money and credit a read, or the innumerable number of monetary theorists who existed before Milton Friedman

      “He also showed that the FED, not capitalism, was to blame for the Great Depression.”

      Again, members of the Austrian School, including Mises himself were predicting the Boom and bust of the 1920s-1930s before Friedman. And understood the true causes.

      No, Friedman believes that the Fed created the Great Depression because it did not print enough – when of course it printed plenty. Exactly the wrong message to take away – and as I pointed out – “Helicopter Ben Bernanke” is taking Friedman’s advice right now.

      “Friedman said that about Greenspan et al because inflation had been (RELATIVELY) low for the period described. He is also saying something *relatively* ie. performed well RELATIVE to the past.”

      Relatively low inflation? In housing say? I don’t know how one could describe the multiple booms and busts that occurred during the period of Greenspans as a period of “relatively low inflation”

      “I am more concerned that your organization is far more interested in purity wars than advancing the cause of Liberty.”

      I am not concerned in “Purity Wars” as much as you seem to be – Friedman was good in some areas such as his public stance on various libertarian issues, and not so good in others.

      Hey, if you want to write us some articles on charter cities, I would love to publish them – I think charter cities are a great project. But I guess you have now "written us off" so we probably won't be hearing from you any time soon.

      I don’t place anyone on a pedestal Justin – you shouldn’t either.

    • Brandon says:

      "it indicates that your organization is about group identification and quasi-religious fuzzy-feelings focused on reinforcing the position that you are in fact the TRUE believers in libertarianism. "

      Yes, this pretty much hits the nail on the head doesn't it? Orthodox Libertarians are the worst form of troll and they are all over the Internet telling people who agree with them 90% of the time how, because of that 10%, they are advocates of big government. As for their religious beliefs, I couldn't agree more. Libertarians are theoreticians and the real world be damned.

  3. Justin says:

    I am disappointed to see organized Libertarian energies going into this simplistic, religious, group-identifying, hero-bashing spectacle. That mental energy is even going into a discussion about whether the greatest force for liberty of our age was in fact a libertarian has convinced me that the Mises institute and its efforts are wrong-headed in the extreme. I do not wish you well with future which-hunts whether you decide to lambast other unwashed heroes – maybe Hayek is next? I hope your readers will realize the waste of money and energy that your organization is and instead put their money and time into things like Charter Cities. Even a political party is a better investment. Enjoy listening to yourself.

    • Redmond says:

      Hi Justin,

      That is a hilarious comment, coming from someone who enjoys commenting from the anonymous depths of the internet. I find it interesting that you find it abhorrent that a discussion like this could even occur. it speaks volumes about your own prejudices. Please let me know what you are doing to advance the ideas of liberty…

      Friedman was good on some things and bad on others, much like everyone in the universe…

      Here is an interesting thing that Friedman had to say about Greenspan and the Fed.

      “There is no other period of comparable length in which the Federal Reserve System has performed so well,” Friedman declared in The Wall Street Journal on January 31, 2006.

      And you might be interested in what has inspired Bernankes current monetary policy.

      At the end of his encomium, Bernanke made a soon-to-be-famous apology on behalf of the Federal Reserve, where he was then president of the powerful New York branch: “I would like to say to Milton and Anna…regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.” (The speech was published as the afterword to the latest edition of The Great Contraction.)

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