Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dean Friedman and Milton Friedman

There's been a lot of comment in the last few days over a certain Lib Dem councillor who works as a stripper. As a result three other Lib Dems have switched to being independents. They were quoted as saying:

" We believe our integrity and principles will be compromised if we stay. Myrna just doesn't believe that she is the inheritor of Locke, Smith, Ricardo and the Mills. And we were shocked, shocked to find she hadn't read “Anarchy, State and Utopia” of Robert Nozick, “Persons, Rights and the Moral Community” of Loren E. Lomasky or “Principles for a Free Society” by Richard A. Epstein."

OK, I made the last bit up. They were concerned about her work as a stripper, not her economic knowledge. But maybe some people do get a little pre-occupied with all the stuff about our party's historical roots and associated economic theories. I've got to confess that I haven't read any of those books either. Nor do I know much about Locke, Smith, Ricardo and the Mills. And I know more about Dean Friedman the singer-songwriter than I do about Milton Friedman the economist.

One of the good things about reading Lib Dem bloggery is that you are exposed to all sorts of material. This week I've enjoyed the item at Lib Dem Voice on "The Greatest British Liberal" - my choice would be William Beveridge:

And tonight I've struggled through the comments on John Dixon's interesting article, also at Lib Dem Voice, on classical liberalism.

Now, I generally let other Lib Dems debate the finer points of what 'Liberalism' actually means - I'm happier to get on with being a councillor and focussing on day-to-day matters. But I have felt I've learned a little reading through the article and the comments below it.

However I must respond to a comment below John Dixon's article which said:
A century of welfarism has surely shown us that that policy has not only not delivered in terms of poverty reduction and opportunity growth, but that it is costing ever huger amounts of money to perform it as a government function

And that's where I disagree. Strongly. Looking back at my own family experience , my father had to leave school in 1914 - at the age of 13- because although he had won a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School, his family were so poor he had to go to work. Four or five decades later, thanks to the likes of Lloyd George and Beveridge, there was a sufficent welfare state for me to get a good education (though not in economics!) - and a sufficent NHS to give me adequate health care when I needed it. It certainly gave me opportunity growth.

I'm content for other people to discuss the party's historical roots. But let's avoid worshipping capitalism. Let's remember that the pace of technological and climatic change over the next 20 or 30 years will probably affect the world more than the scholars of 200 years ago. And also remember that in Milton Friedman's last interview, he said that the greatest threat to the world economy was "Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon." He might even be right on that.


Paul Walter said...

Well well, said the rocking chair!

Chris Black said...

Paul, It could be an economics exam question, couldn't it:


' It's been a while since I've seen such stark despair. Who told you life wasn't fair?' - Friedman, 1978 .



Anonymous said...

I doubt that people who would have read some of the books you mention and still would call themselves "liberal" would have left because somebody is a stripper.

You probably also know better Salma Hayek than Friedrich Hayek. Here's an interesting barchart, umm... scorecard:

Chris Black said...

Thanks for the link!

Tristan said...

Personally I don't consider Beveridge as a liberal... He was more a social democrat (which is the friendly face of socialism).
Then again, that's open to debate (I swear if you ask 2 self-identifying liberals what liberalism is you'll get 3 answers back)

The welfare state is harmful (look at the current problems of welfare dependency and the nationalism becoming popular with talk of 'foreigners coming here and taking our benefits'), although I'm not sure whether its inevitable that such problems would occur.
Even then I'd prefer private provision due to my intense skepticism of government and government action (when government mucks it up recovery is far more difficult).

I think we should look towards capitalism - but by capitalism I mean liberal capitalism which captures the essence of liberalism perfectly - it is entirely voluntary. There is no coercion, you are free to spend your money as you wish and to work as you wish (with the usual proviso of not restricting another's right to do so).

The thing which strikes me about that form of capitalism is it should be applied to all parts of life, so it enshrines freedom of speech and association, civil liberties and the social freedoms we fight for.

I think we really should as a party look away from the state for solutions. Its the natural outcome of localism (why should government do something voluntary association can do?).

Chris Black said...

Hi Tristan :)

When I joined the Liberals (in about 1979) one of the features that attracted me to them was their lack of dogma and liberal approach (i.e. tolerant approach) to society...

... and I guess I feel the same way today, although I'm not that friendly towards those who would destroy our current tolerant society...

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