CAPITALISM IN A FREE SOCIETY
Concentrations of Power
Friedman's concern for his own brand of freedom leads him to distrust any powers given a national government. He writes, "Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power." (p. 2)John
no kidding. but what are corporations, if not concentrations of power? what are the wealthy if not individual accumulators of power? what are the poor and disenfranchised if not power-hungry?Eyler
We are led to wonder, however, how any government can function without a concentration of power. Thus, it is a meaningless statement, or worse, a misleading statement. Every government represents a concentration of power to some degree or other. And since any government can be a threat to freedom, it is perfectly safe -- and adds nothing to the discussion -- to state that every threat to freedom from any government will be from one that exhibits a concentration of power.
plus, the only way to counter a concentration of power is with another concentration of power. the purpose of a good government is to use its power in the interests of the great mass of its citizens (i can't say the entirety because obviously some citizens don't like what the government is doing). if corporations are polluting our air, water, and soils, who but the government (expressed as the will of the people, of course, and not the crutch of big business) can put a stop to it? will people stop buying the products? not likely. will another, rival, corporation with cleaner practices take over the market? only if it can outlast the original corporation in a sustained price war, or if it can resist integration.
friedman's argument appears to be: concentrations of power are bad; the government is a concentration of power; thus the government is bad. but as i mentioned earlier, concentrations of power may be utilized for good or bad purposes; they aren't inherently good or bad, but they do exist, and they will form under any condition (except, perhaps, for the self-sustaining and bartering family farm system; but what are the chances of establishing this sort of society?), and all we can do is harness their power for good, progressive purposes.Eyler
Excellent points! And if we try to remove these powers from the federal government, does anyone think those powers, the need for those powers, the occasions that give rise to those powers, will just disappear? How short sighted! What will happen, and what always happens, is, If government does not exercise those powers, some other forces that are not under the control of the people of this nation will move into the vacuum and exercise those powers instead.John
precisely. what can i say? find some historical examples. shouldn't be hard. look at the industrial revolution. look at how governments treat the oppressed indigenous people living within their borders. look at how dominant classes (socio-economic, race, gender) have oppressed the minority (political or actual).Eyler
Government power is unavoidable. The problem is not government power, but the control of government power. By focusing on government power per se, Friedman does a deceptive and a destructive service. By idenifying the problem as a need to reduce or eliminate the "concentration of government power," Friedman makes the problem a sophistic manipulation of anti-government concepts. Attempts at eliminating such concentrations could only ignore the real problem of control, and allow despotic forces to seize control. But then, all of this is just another outcome of Friedman's destruction of national community in favor of "Individualism."
All we need to do is look around the world today, in Bosnia, in the Middle East, in Africa, and every place where tyranny reins. If we look superficially, we could say that these problems arise from concentrations of government power. But the real problem is the evil forces that have seized that power. Just eliminating the power will only make it easier for evil forces to step in and to take over. This nation was founded on the recognition of the need for government power to be controlled by the people themselves, and for those people to be sufficiently elightened to be able to control that power rightly. Friedman's views, lacking insight as they do, encourages the destruction of popular control.John
as a summation, i don't think logic and rationality can solve this problem. as i have said before, and will continue to say, logic and reason are only tools; they can't be used to make value judgements. the reason being, logic and rationality are largely tautological. you have your precepts, you argue from your precepts to your conclusion, your conclusion supports your precepts. no one can make a rational argument supporting individual rights over social justice. it just can't be done. it's a matter of faith, really. the question is: can you have faith in other people, or just yourself? i think that's what it boils down to.Eyler
I think we agree on that, although I believe a rational argument can be made showing that individual rights and social justice are complementary. But that's what I mean by popular sovereignty: it is not an argument or a logical "system" but a matter of empowerment. Once in power, the will of the people can go anywhere, and not all of it necessarily good. But that is what happens when you have power, not a logical system. You hope that logic, reason, common sense, maturity, and all those good things will INFLUENCE those with power (i.e., the people), but it is the power of collective choice that really counts. And as far as the people making mistakes, I say, So what? Every other receptacle of power makes even more.John
As Jefferson wrote,
"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. ME 15:278John
agreed. education is key. but in the elitist mindset, only those who "deserve" it get the good education. it's good to keep in mind that the "liberal arts" were originally intended to teach people how to maintain and use their freedom.Eyler
That was the Founder's first goal in education for everyone: to enable them to participate in self-government. Logic and rationality, when they are used for building new ideological systems and not merely to analyze situations, to discover solutions, and to influence and direct those who administer government power, are just means for building blueprints and become the handmaidens of system-tyranny.