Milton Friedman - Socialist

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Wed Jun 10 16:51:59 PDT 1998

WS changes the subject, from whether we should burn intellectuals at the stake if their ideas have bad consequences (and where would Marx be in the shadow of the Gulag, then?) to corporate criminal liability. And yes, corporate officers, directors, and managers can be nailed for ordering criminal acts to be committed by the corporations. The limited liability is that of the stockholders, whose liability is limited in that they are not responsible for all the debts of the enterprise--the term has no other meaning.

Then he changes the subject again, to the moral responsibility of the good Germans who chose to ignore evidence of what happened to the Jews. Morally reprehensible, withjout a doubt. Deserving of criminal sanctions? I thinjk not. There can't be a legally enforceable duty to revolt against a totalitarian regime, however much we deplore those who compromised themselves by willful ignorance.

> 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.

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