Milton Friedman

Coburn to Focus Retirement Efforts on Article V Convention

Last month, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced that he will retire at the end of 2014, cutting short his second Senate term by two years.  His decision was in part the result of his health struggles related the recent recurrence of prostate cancer.  But Sen. Coburn also cited the dysfunction in Washington D.C., and particularly in the U.S. Senate, in stating: “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere.”

John Ward’s HuffPost interview with Sen. Coburn last week sheds some light on exactly how Sen. Coburn intends to shift his focus:

“It’s time for me to go do something else,” Coburn said. “I know me. I’ve made lots of shifts in my life, and I know when it’s time. My faith comes into that. I pay a lot of attention to what I think I’m supposed to be doing. … And it’s just time for me to do something else. So I’m getting ready to walk through whatever door opens.”

“I don’t have any set plans whatsoever,” he said.

There are two exceptions to that statement. He has plans to play golf, a game he loves and has rarely been able to enjoy during his time in Washington. And he is going to lend his support to a growing effort in state legislatures across the country to call a convention to amend the Constitution with the aim of limiting the size and reach of the federal government.

VIDEO: Free Trade vs. Protectionism

Welcome, Instapundit readers!

The folks over at Learn Liberty bring a new lesson from George Mason University economist Donald J. Boudreaux (who blogs at Cafe Hayek) on free trade and protectionism as matters of policy, and their impacts on wealth creation:

Protectionism today comes in the form of Buy American restrictions (which were reinforced in the so-called stimulus bill), whose proponents argue that forcing manufacturers to produce goods using inputs created by American firms, or that the government buy/contract goods and services solely from American firms through its procurement process, will help preserve and create jobs at home.

Behind the Politics

Today is going to be a day of discussing sheer politics, and little more. At this point, we are well beyond talks of policy and the only thing that matters for the next 12 hours is whether some members of Congress can be convinced, for whatever reason, to cast a Yea or Nea vote on the House floor on the health care overhaul.

But let us not forget the important philosophic differences that are at play in this debate.

In this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, the editorial board takes a minute to look past the politics, and reminds us of what is behind the battle over true health care reform:

In our world of infinite wants but finite resources, there are only two ways to allocate any good or service: either through prices and the choices of millions of individuals, or through central government planning and political discretion.

That is really what it’s all about. Who decides. Who controls. And who you think makes better decisions.

The Journal even reprinted a 1996 essay from the late economist Milton Friedman on their op-ed page. Now, if something written nearly 15 years ago still has relevance in the current moment of contemporary politics, you know it must be something special.

So, in between your vote counting on this Sunday afternoon, take a moment to read Friedman’s immortal words.

Economics: A Science for Schizophrenics

An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal brings home a fact that I’ve known for a long time: Economists tend to be schizophrenic.

The article mentions Larry Summers’s double talk. Summers commented on Obama’s latest budget by saying, “There are no, no tax increases….” The article points out that there are tax increases, namely the death tax that will be returning to its 2009 parameters, instead of disappearing as it was scheduled to do in 2011. That wouldn’t be more than a fib, but the story gets worse.

In 1980, Summers co-authored a study at the National Bureau of Economic Research supporting the elimination of the estate tax.

Go figure. Schizophrenia, anyone?

Milton Friedman on the Phil Donahue Show in 1979

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Milton Friedman answers tough questions with well-reasoned answers, pointing out that many of the arguments against the free-enterprise system are based on questionable assumptions.

Pope Francis no Prophet on Profit

Pope Francis

Last month, Pope Francis, worldwide leader of the Catholic Church, in an address to a United Nations conference on nutrition, declared that food is a basic human right that should not be driven by profit concerns and market manipulations.

With all due respect to His Holiness, he has it exactly backward. The more important something is to basic human existence, the wiser we are to allow it to be provided by the free market. Because, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once noted, if you put the government in charge of the desert, within five years there would be a shortage of sand.

This is not an abstract, philosophical position. Just look at the nations that have followed the Pope’s advice, where governments have taken control of food production in the name of administering the precious commodity equitably. Russia, under the governance of the former Soviet Union, saw millions of its citizens either malnourished or dying of starvation, despite having land which contained among the world’s richest natural resources.

Obama declares a “right” to health insurance

President Obama's weekly address

Facing criticism and bad poll numbers over the 2010 healthcare law, known to most as “ObamaCare,” President Barack Obama extolled the perceived benefits of its provisions in his weekly address to the nation and proclaimed that Americans have a “right” to health insurance coverage.

“Right now, we’re well on our way to fully implementing the Affordable Care Act.  And in the next few months, we’ll reach a couple milestones with real meaning for millions of Americans,” said President Obama, in reference to the state health insurance exchanges that will open on October 1st.

The reality here is that the implementation of ObamaCare isn’t going all that smoothly. Many states are experiencing problems implementing the exchanges, the most recent of which is Oregon. The government is three months behind on data security testing, which opens up concerns about identity theft. The Obama Administration has also delayed two major provisions of the law, the employer mandate and consumer-cost caps.

That doesn’t leave much confidence that ObamaCare is being implemented when the administration has tacitly admitted that the law has very real, very concerning problems. And we have even mentioned the most serious adverse effect of the law yet, which is rising insurance premiums. What Writer Most Turned You on to Freedom?

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Happy 100th Birthday, Uncle Miltie!

Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Milton Friedman, the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics, was born on this day in 1912 and is probably the most influential economist of the 20th century. His work provided an intellectual foundation for the policies supported by the Reagan administration and British Prime Minister Thatcher’s government. He was a fierce advocate for school choice, which the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice continues to promote.

There are millions of people throughout the world who, even though they have never read Free to Choose, are benefitting from an improvement of living standards from the implementation of Friedman’s theories.

In the era of bailouts, QE2, and stimilus packages, Friedman’s work is more important today than ever. As a pragmatic libertarian, Friedman used impirical evidence to attack the war on drugs, the “spending multiplier,” “consumption functions,” and the Phillips curve- which falsely claimed there was an enduring functional and enuring relationship between the rate of price inflation and the level of unemployment. He famously proved that in the long run, unemployment returns to its normal rate regardless of the rate of inflation, which is a truth President Obama outright rejects still today.

With a brilliant use of a pencil, Friedman showed how, without central planning, entrepreneurs and workers from around the world come together to produce just the right amount of materials for production:

Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman!

Bringing back the military draft is a terrible idea


Perhaps one of my favorite Milton Friedman stories is when he was served on a presidential commission to look at military conscription. The Nobel Prize winning economist listened to General William Westmoreland, who was givening testimony before the commission. Here’s how it played out:

In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”

Friedman’s words ring just as a true today as they did some 40 years ago. But don’t tell that Thomas Rick, who earlier this penned an editorial in The New York Times explaining why we need to “draft our kids” (and yes, that sound you’re hearing is me banging my head against a wall right now):

In late June, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, called for reinstating the draft. “I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk,” he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.”

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