Milton Friedman - Socialist

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Wed Jun 10 14:08:27 PDT 1998

At 02:58 PM 6/10/98 -0400, Justin Schwartz wrote:
>I don't like this kind of talk. People can advocate what they like and
>should be able to do so freely. If leaders committ crimes, they should be
>able to be held to account, but commiting crimes is different from
>advocating ideas, even those, like Friedman's, with bad consequences.

I do not mean to quibble, but we cannot look at advocating ideas outside the social social context. As Richard Rubenstein (_The Cunning of History_) quite convincingly argued, modern bureaucracy has the power of organizing a people for its own destruction. It does so mainly by removing personal responsibility for one's own action - a principle enshrined in the organizational form known as the "limited liability enterprise' (Ltd. GmbH, etc.) euphemistically called 'corporation' in the US.

In that social context, flipping a switch or saying a single word can have more murderous consequences than seeting out to kill a human being with one's own hands. It is in that climate that leaders and certain intellectuals (cf. McNamara) can have it both ways: cleans hands and skeletons in the closet.

Again, I am not implying that DF is that kind of person (I simply do not know him), although embracing an ideology that is used as an excuse to inflict misery and devastation throughout the developing world is highly suspicious. It reminds me of another 2WW analogy, the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp. The British commander brought the citizens of the nearby town to the camp, and let the camera roll. Of course, the respectable Buergers were in quite a shock seeing the piles of bodies - apparently they did not know what was going in their backyard. My own reaction to seeing that footage was: they conveniently _chose_ not to know about the atrocities.

That is also my standard line about the advocates official ideologies with deadly consequences - that they choose not to know about attrocities. They do so by the means of personalizing the the experience and thus cognitively limiting its social impact (the "I did not know", or "My intentions were good" kind of spiel).

I do not view it as personal hypocrisy, thought, or at least hypocrisy alone. It is the whole social system, the 'excuse society,' that absolves people of certain class and position of any responsibility for their thoughts and actions.



More information about the lbo-talk mailing list