2005 June 09 Thursday
Milton Friedman Opposes Mission To Spread Democracy

After calling Social Security a big Ponzi Scheme 92 year old Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman says limited government is being threatened by the idea that the United States has a mission to promote democracy.

Progress in his goal of rolling back the role of government, he said, is "being greatly threatened, unfortunately, by this notion that the U.S. has a mission to promote democracy around the world," a big Bush objective.

"War is a friend of the state," Friedman said. It is always expensive, requiring higher taxes, and, "In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do."

He also said it was no coincidence that budget surpluses appeared during the Clinton administration, when a Democratic president faced a Republican Congress.

"There were no big spending programs during the Clinton administration," he said. "As a result, government spending tended to stay down, the economy grew like mad, taxes went up, spending did not, and lo and behold, the deficit was turned into a surplus."

The problem now, he said, is that Republicans control both ends of Washington.

"There's no question if we're holding down spending, a Democratic president and a Republican House and Senate is the proper combination."

We'd have been better off overall if Al Gore had won in 2000. The Iraq Debacle would have been avoided and government spending would be much lower.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 09 07:54 PM  Economics Political

Ned said at June 10, 2005 5:10 AM:

Milton Friedman for President!

Ted said at June 10, 2005 6:15 AM:

I'd second that, though on the condition that he sign a public declaration to abolish the withholding tax and the income tax, to back a gold-back dollar against a "fiat" one, and to announce that "public goods" (?!) such as roads, too, can be better managed by the private sector.

Braddock said at June 10, 2005 6:32 AM:

You need to write an alternate history novel based on the premise that Al Gore won the 2000 election, and explore the unrolling of events afterward. Certainly 9/11 would have occurred regardless of the president. The economic devastation to the tune of $1 trillion would have still happened. But assume that Gore unleashed a torrent of cruise missiles against Aghanistani Al-qaida camps, much like Clinton did. Period. A smart assumption, by the way. Then what?

crush41 said at June 10, 2005 8:41 AM:

"There's no question if we're holding down spending, a Democratic president and a Republican House and Senate is the proper combination."

Far from a sure-thing, but economic growth has been greatest under a Democratic President and a Republican-controlled Senate. A Democrat-controlled House has also faired better, but that's the most likely to be spurious, since prior to the mid-90s it was always a Dem House.

Rich said at June 10, 2005 9:19 AM:

"We'd have been better off overall if Al Gore had won in 2000. The Iraq Debacle would have been avoided and government spending would be much lower."


Is not Al Gore a globalist?

And were he president, he would sign Kyoto. The costs of Kyoto would break America's economy.

White I understand the principle of your claim, I suspect that reality, in this case, would not be so simple.


Randall Parker said at June 10, 2005 6:02 PM:


Dubya is also a Globalist.

Clinton signed Kyoto. But the Senate wouldn't ratify it. Gore couldn't have changed that.

As for Afghanistan: After 9/11 I think even Gore would have overthrown the Taliban. If he hadn't then a Republican would have won the 2004 election.

Stephen said at June 10, 2005 10:57 PM:

Milton Friedman for President!

Be careful what you wish for. Milton's views would piss off a lot who frequent parapundit. Want stricter border control? He'd laugh at you. Want to stop exporting jobs to China? He'd ridicule you. Worried about drug pushers? He'd poke you with a stick.

And in between all the laughing, ridiculing and poking, he'd call you an immoral commie for wanting to stop those things.

...and then he'd explain why you were so wrong, and eventually you'd end up agreeing that, yes, you must be both immoral and a commie.

That said, it'd be interesting to ask Milton how he'd have responded post-9/11 if he'd been the Prez.

Marvin said at June 11, 2005 7:08 AM:

Mr. Parker, when you blithely state "if he hadn't (deposed the Taliban) then a Republican would have won the 2004 election," you are omitting a lot of other things that probably would have happened if President Gore had chosen to take his predecessor's approach and simply dropped a few bombs on easily replaced camps. Mr. Gore would have been admired internationally. The US military would continue to be downsized as under Mr. Clinton, yielding a further economic boost to the private sector. The salafist terror groups would understand that their view of americans from Mr. Clinton's Mogadishu retreat was precisely correct, giving them a bright green light to build on their large scale success and newfound notoriety among the faithful.

I am uncertain how many large scale attacks were planned to follow up the September 2001 attacks. Probably many, of an escalating nature, until the salafist leaders achieved what they wanted. Wide scale uprisings of the faithful (as opposed to localized insurgency) and quick control of several muslim nations, hopefully oil producers, using Afghanistan as a dependable base of operations.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2005 7:16 AM:


Yes, if the Taliban had remained in power we would have been worse off. But we still would have had far more vigorous intelligence and law enforcement efforts against terrorists. The FBI and CIA blew several chances to stop 9/11 but those sorts of mistakes became far less likely post-9/11. Terrorist suspect lists became shared. The number of people assigned to track Al Qaeda went up by orders of magnitude. Many deals were cut with foreign intelligence agencies. All that stuff would have happened under a President Gore.

If Gore would have overthrown the Taliban but not invaded Iraq would that have emboldened the Salafists? I figure the terrorists have benefitted from the Iraq invasion because it is great propaganda for arguing to dumb Arabs that the West is waging war against Muslims.

Suppose Bush had overthrown the Taliban but not invaded Iraq. Would we be under greater or lesser threat from terrorism today? I say the threat would be less. Do you agree or disagree?

The post 9/11 attacks were stopped because US intelligence and law enforcement agencies woke up and started looking hard for bad guys. Also, foreign intelligence agencies woke up as well.

Marvin said at June 11, 2005 7:58 AM:

Yes, if you want to believe that, fine. I have, however, read Mr. Gore's speeches concerning the Afghan invasion. His thoughts at the time do not correspond with your representation. Given an intact Taliban Afghanistan under President Gore, the history of the last four years would have been distinctly different, but perhaps not in the way you suggest.

The intellectual base of the Democratic Party was opposed to any war involving US ground troops. The "why do they hate us?" style of thinking was prominent at the time on the left. Appeasement was the order of the day for the sharks that Mr. Gore chooses to swim with. That is merely his style, the leftist internationalist style. Pomo progressive, tranzi, or any other descriptive name you choose to use. Simply because you choose to hate one politician, does not automatically make his one time opponent into a hero.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2005 8:18 AM:


Democrats do not govern in office as far to the Left as they talk when they are out of office. Gore out of office could pander to his military hating base. But in office he'd be faced with pressures from the entire populace.

We can't know what Gore would have done as President. But if he wanted to get reelected in 2004 he would have been under heavy pressure to take out the Taliban. Look at Clinton. He signed the welfare reform bill in spite of heavy liberal opposition. Why? Because he wanted to take an issue away from the Republicans in 1996. The Taliban still in power in 2004 would have been a huge electoral issue.

Jay Z said at June 11, 2005 11:57 AM:

Al Gore was a strong conservative Democrat when he was representing Tennessee during the 1980s. A lot of his statements on gays, abortion, and guns would get him expelled if he made them today.

Frank said at August 7, 2005 11:57 PM:

Dr. Friedman makes perfect sense.
Dividing power between the parties would help limit spending.
The Iraq war has costed us more in human life and treasure than getting rid of Saddam was worth.
And Stephen, Milton would be right to try and explain to you how illogical you would be to try and stop companies from investing overseas, or just how diastrous our drug policy has been.

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