CAPITALISM IN A FREE SOCIETY
Individual and Society
To Friedman, the free man is the man who thinks only of his own narrow interests. Country, government -- they are all the same to him: merely agencies to serve those individual interests.John
this hearkens back to the "real men..." line above. how free is this man, who is ruled by his narcisstic ego? he can't escape the system; he always wants more, and to get more he has to give more.
At the same time, he necessarily has intimate interconnections with the whole society of which he is a part, which he fails, or refuses, to take into consideration. How can he, how can a whole nation, expect to prosper if such a vital relationship is ignored?John
he simply can't. but this is a problem of taking things for granted. most specifically, taking an operating economy (and thus the consumers and producers) for granted.Eyler
As Warren Buffet, the muti-billionaire investor, recently said to a gathering, "I am here because of a tremendous society that surrounds me." Economically, we are all interdependent. But according to Friedman, government is to be used by citizens "to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom."(p. 2) That is, individual involvement is limited to (1) his own responsibilities, (2) his own goals and purposes, and (3) his own freedom. This is all that has meaning to him.John
certainly these should be a part of government, most especially of a good government, but it is not enough. what does it mean that government should "protect our freedom"? freedom from what? is it freedom from victimization? then we need police. is it freedom from terrorists? then we need agencies like the cia and fbi. is it freedom from corrupt business practices? then we need the epa, osha, etc.
I have always suspected that if we really extended to its ultimate meaning the personal needs that libertarians acknowledge, we would have just about the same governmental structure we have now -- including all those services and agencies that the libertarians say they hate.John
either that or we'd have a large number of competing private firms. of course, i believe that if we relied on privately owned consumer interest agencies, you'd have at least one for each corporation, all saying "corporation x (x1, x2....xn) has the safest, best product). what then? we as consumers wouldn't be any better off.
this is where i need to interject a point. for me, there are two forms of freedom: the freedom-to and the freedom-from. the one we call liberty, the other justice. which of these is more necessary? friedman would obviously say liberty; justice is difficult to attain because in some cases (if not most), justice for one entails a restriction in liberty for another. i have the opposite view; i think a condition of justice is necessary for the practice of liberty. should liberty extend to include racism, bigotry, prejudice and so on? i do not think so; being oppressed on the basis of color, sex, religion, and so on, is obviously not a condition of liberty.Eyler
A very good point. One thing that is overlooked by those who speak only of the rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence, is that the first point that is made in that document is, All men are created equal -- which is the foundation of justice in a free society. This is the first thing, and from that flows a series of inalienable rights. All of that together, then, becomes the foundation for a society of freemen. And this, of course, was the reason why all of that was set forth in the Preamble to the Declaration: not to establish the rights of isolated individuals, but to form the foundation of a free nation.
i like the french conception: liberty, equality, and fraternity. you can't have one without the other.Eyler
The public interest, the concerns that affect us all, even though they may act upon only a small segment of the population, do not figure into Friedman's equation. Those public services that are not utilized by everyone, but nevertheless uplift the culture, which we all draw our lives from -- these are not sufficiently narrow to meet his criteria.John
exactly the problem. like what are "pay-per-use" emergency services? you can see where that will lead. how much would police charge to show up at a sight of an accident. how much will an ambulance cost? how much for firemen? i could see how easily these services could cost in the thousands of dollars; and you can't bring competition into the equation. when your house is burning down, you don't have time for comparative shopping. plus, the "best" services would certainly be employed the most, and most often by the more well-to-do. what happens to the poor, unable to afford fire services or an ambulance ride? this is darwinism at its worst.Eyler
It has all the earmarks of theoretical, utopian fantasies -- ideas that have not been thought-through to their fullest and ultimate meaning. And this, I believe, is the reason why such ideas enjoy so little currency among the great bulk of the American people. It is the kind of thing that only a Dr. Strangelove could embrace; an ordinary day-laborer with ordinary common sense would not give it a second of consideration. That is why Jefferson had so much faith in the ordinary people.
i'm not so sure that the ideas haven't been thought out to their fullest meaning. i think some people have a very narrow interpretation of darwinism, and apply this to their political ideology. this is what you see in objectivism. those who can't pay for emergency services must not be "fit" to survive; this is presented as natural and unavoidable, rooted in biology and sound science.Eyler
Welfare services for those who happen to meet misfortune and whose wreckage diminishes our national life, do not figure in. Friedman's country is one for the well-to-do without social consciousness. It is for those who want to maximize their possessions at the expense of the whole society that provides them with opportunity.
Friedman's chief concern is for "freedom," and that for him means, based on the three criteria listed above, the ability of individuals to conduct their affairs in a society, free from the collective concerns of the whole society. The great threat to this kind of individualistic freedom is, of course, a national government that looks out for those concerns that extend beyond prosperous individuals and include what might be called the happiness and prosperity of the whole. Of course, a national government is often the only agency that can and will consider concerns that affect the nation in its entirety.John
see how it works? friedman creates these exclusivist, conditional definitions set up against an "us vs. them" paradigm. freedom is for us; totalitarianism is for them. who doesn't like freedom? who wouldn't want to be a part of us? the "free" are only out for their own interests (this is an exclusivist definition of "free", of course; it is entirely possible to be free and be completely selfless, but not in friedman's conception of things); therefore, anyone who even suggests that we look out for someone else's interests is branded a member of "them". this is propaganda plain and simple (not in the sense that friedman is trying to elevate himself to supreme ruler, but propaganda is not limited to this sort of application).