Author: Alex Hays

Friedman’s Ideas Are Our Most Potent Tool in the Struggle Against Seductive ‘Zombie Socialism’

Milton Friedman reminds us that nothing promotes social justice more than a free society.

Freedom promotes equality, because productivity knows no creed or color.

Freedom promotes justice, because choice creates order without violence.

Freedom promotes truth, because error is waste.

Truth, justice and equality.  This is the reality of a free society.  These are also the empty promises of the statist left.  Promises that are sweetly offered but never delivered by the advocates of big government.

If you’re reading this note, I suspect you agree with every word so far written.

But here’s the challenge: why is a free society not seen by more as a just society?  Why does the zombie ideology of socialism shamble on?

Friedman offers one clear answer: the left always hopes to be judged by their intentions, and never their results.  We live in the real world, they live in a fantasy, but oh so lovely a fantasy.  Humans are hard wired for optimism, and the inability for the statist left to deliver on their promises in the past is a niggling detail compared to the great rhetoric of hope and change.

Arrogance is another explanation.  The leaders of academia and the state have supreme confidence in their own abilities.  The possibility that elites lack the capacity to make things better is very difficult to believe.  Especially if you’re an elite.  We also depend on elites to evaluate public policy.  See a problem?

Self-interest is also present.  Where government intervenes it alters the economy, and some people, always win as a result.  Even the perfectly reasonable exercise of state power — e.g. buying a jet fighter – can be reduced to who do we buy that jet from.  Of course, we’re well past the reasonable exercise of state power and back to an age of crony capitalism.  Oft forgotten is the primary role played by government in the excesses of the so called robber barons of the late 1800’s.  Yesterday it was railroads and gifts of public lands, today it’s Solyndras and gifts of public credit.

Finally, the statist left offers the bargain of the pirate captain to his crew, “join together and we can live an easier life, if you help me steal what we want from the more productive members of society! Argh!”  While much of the lefts arguments are fallacies, this realpolitik analysis is true. The left embodies a form of public greed, where personal financial interest drives a large voting bloc.

Our challenge as classical liberals is to defend freedom.  Bastiat rebutted their claims in the 1800’s.  Friedman and the Austrians rebutted their claims in the 1900’s. You and I are obliged to rebut their claims in the 2000’s.  Our descendants will no doubt have this responsibility in the 2100’s.

Milton Friedman’s joyful and spirited defense of freedom has inspired many, myself included.

Hays: Friedman’s Defense of Liberty Must Be Carried On | Friedman Day 2012

Like many Americans, I loved liberty without much thought to its origins or utility, and then I encountered the great authors of liberty: Hayek, Bastiat, Rothbard, Von Mises and Friedman.

Revealed by these authors was a simple truth: liberty is one of the few values that is both a means and an ends.  Knowing the value of liberty as an ends is easy stuff.  We compare the oppression of fascism and communism to the joys of Democracy and limited government.  It’s true a few radicals fail to grasp this, but most normal Americans cannot escape the truth that it is better to enjoy liberty than oppression.

The great contribution Professor Friedman makes to society is to focus on liberty as a means – a means to a just and prosperous society.   Our belief that free people are more likely to be prosperous people is ultimately the defining difference between classical liberals and today’s progressive left.  The question of the utility of liberty is therefore the battlefield on which most all public policy is ultimately fought.

The great man’s work Free to Choose frames the debate in a way meant to be most persuasive to the left.  Something to remember is that today’s progressive movement has shifted far from the utopian and sometimes anarchic roots of the peace movement of the 70’s.   I urge you to read books from this period such as EF Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and Human Scale by Kirkpatrick Sale.  You will find much to admire in these books – and you will note the deeply disturbing shift in the left’s intellectual energy away from human liberty and towards affirming the power of the state.

As we acknowledge Professor Friedman on the anniversary of his birth I hope we all remember that the intellectual challenge of defending the utility of liberty will always be with us.   Good luck and Godspeed in this work.

Alex Hays is the descendant of Washington’s earliest pioneering families who settles in what is today Olympia in pre-territorial days. He serves as the President of the Justice for Washington Foundation, the Executive Director of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington and leads the youth leadership organization, Action for Washington. He attends St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tacoma and hopes to become a competent sailor sometime after Rob McKenna is elected Governor. 



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