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> RIP, Milton Friedman
post Nov 17, 2006, 11:39 AM
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RIP, Milton Friedman

Nobel laureate. Died yesterday, aged 94.

"Governments never learn. Only people learn." - Milton

and a long read that I enjoyed was

An Open Letter to Bill Bennett
by Milton Friedman, April 1990

In Oliver Cromwell's eloquent words, "I beseech you, in the bowels of
Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" about the course you and
President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more
police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh
penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can
only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics
without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is
devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are
tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people,
and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are
not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your
concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a
major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but
it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and
illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the
murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of
law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law
forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of
robbery, theft and assault.

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that
tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our
experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with
the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

I append excerpts from a column that I wrote in 1972 on "Prohibition and
Drugs." The major problem then was heroin from Marseilles; today, it is
cocaine from Latin America. Today, also, the problem is far more serious
than it was 17 years ago: more addicts, more innocent victims; more drug
pushers, more law enforcement officials; more money spent to enforce
prohibition, more money spent to circumvent prohibition.

Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, "crack" would never have been
invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it
profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer
addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent
victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our
major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man's lands. Fewer
people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.

Columbia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we
would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror. Hell
would not, in the words with which Billy Sunday welcomed Prohibition, "be
forever for rent," but it would be a lot emptier.

Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must
recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly
not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse,
and make the problem appear even more intractable.

Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs.
Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat
alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the
advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced,
while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of
the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to
treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment,
the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.

This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I
know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the
United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual
drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of
citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified
planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is
not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future

Professor Friedman, 1976 Nobel Laureate in economics, now serves as Senior
Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. This letter appeared in the
September 7, 1989, issue of The Wall Street Journal. Reprinted by permission
of Professor Friedman and The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Co., Inc., 1989.

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post Nov 17, 2006, 01:19 PM
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A seeming contradiction: how can a conservative like Friedman have such a liberal view on social issues?
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post Nov 17, 2006, 04:09 PM
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QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 17, 2006, 01:19 PM) *

A seeming contradiction: how can a conservative like Friedman have such a liberal view on social issues?
Keep in mind that, reportedly, the liberal-thinking (left wing) Canadian, John Kenneth Galbraith and the conservative-thinking (right wing) American, Milton Friedman, were friends.

Could it be that all of us--the body of the bird--will be much better off when both wings flap in Aristotelian balance? And don't forget the humble tail feathers, right over the anus. No bird can fly without them.

The following is a spiritual statement:
"Governments never learn. Only people learn." - Milton

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