Why I’m not with Friedman

Cato’s Will Wilkinson has an excellent post on something I was going to write about as an introduction to version 2.0 of the political part of this blog (to start at the beginning of July, remember?). He puts it very nicely and very concisely – the difference between Friedman and Rand (in short).

I can tell them that Hayek was actually in favor of a guaranteed minimum income and that Friedman basically invented the idea behind the EITC, but they’ll still think I’m some kind of congenial squish. But what I am is a market liberal just like Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan — the same intellectual role models who make me a rabid libertarian ideologue. So, which is it?

That’s Friedman and Hayek (don’t really care about Buchanan).

Misean economics, disinfected of the open-minded empirical consequentialism of Mises’ Liberalism, and filtered through Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard’s peculiar views of rights and coercion delivers a powerfully moralized brief for capitalism that calls into question even taxation for the purpose of financing genuine public goods. That Rothbardians and Randians have wasted so much time fighting with each other on the question of the minimal state versus anarcho-capitalism obscures their unity on a rights-based bulwark against the slide from the welfare state to socialism.

And that’s my side. He makes it very easy for me to pick one. While I lean towards Rand, I don’t want to rule out the other part just yet (and after all, even Rand wasn’t infallible, probably). This is what I care about. It’s a moral defense of capitalism, rather than a purely technocratic defense. One that says, capitalism is what we should have because it’s good. It’s morally right.

Friedman (and apparently Hayek) aren’t on the same page. I’ve only read Friedman (I quote a part from Capitalism and Freedom) [more later on why I now won’t read Hayek any time soon] and as far as I’m concerned, his approach works out to “we need to have capitalism because it’s the only system that works” – which is obviously right. That approach, however, also includes the possibility that the market in and of itself isn’t perfect. That there might be results that could be improved upon – in some kind of utalitarian way. Do a little bit of evil but the result is well worth it. Impose restrictions, a few Pigou taxes. You name it. A benevolent ruler – or something like that, that’s what Mankiw calls it.

This is not my cup of tea. I’d rather have the result that’s considered less desirable but is reached through proper means. Morality trumps results. A “rights-based bulwark against the slide from welfare state to socialism”. I like that. A lot.

Now, this isn’t the time or place to go further into this (again, that time will probably be July – even though this kind of posts helps me see my own inadequacies, much more stuff to be read before I can offer something really worth reading – on the other hand, that would probably be too deep for enjoyable reading). What I do take away from this – especially in combination with this post from a left-winger complimenting Hayek – is that Rand was right. Mises it is and not Hayek (most likely).

What’s that mean? Well, I’ll read Mises and Rothbard before even thinking about Hayek again. More Rand, too. And maybe some Aristotle or Hume (more research into the underlying philosophy is required to order the approriate books).


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