Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Milton Friedman is dead

John La Plante on the horrors of a “graduated tax system,” a post that Spot discussed a day or so ago:

A graduated tax system invites bad policy. To paraphrase the late economist Milton Friedman, you're going to be a careful shopper if you buy something using your own money—and rather careless if you're spending other people's money.
For La Plante, the great thing about Milton Friedman is that he is dead, because no one can go to Uncle Milty and ask, “You didn’t really mean what John La Plante thinks you meant, did you?” Friedman’s passing makes him the go-to guy for quotes for conservative commenters, whether in context or out, and even whether made or not.

We’ll get back to Uncle Milty in a minute. But recognize, boys and girls, that La Plante is really mourning for the good old days of yesteryear when you had to be Somebody to vote:
Typically, white, male property owners twenty-one or older could vote. Some colonists not only accepted these restrictions but also opposed broadening the franchise. Duke University professor Alexander Keyssar wrote in The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States:

At its birth, the United States was not a democratic nation—far from it. The very word "democracy" had pejorative overtones, summoning up images of disorder, government by the unfit, even mob rule. In practice, moreover, relatively few of the nation's inhabitants were able to participate in elections: among the excluded were most African Americans, Native Americans, women, men who had not attained their majority, and white males who did not own land.
You see, La Plante believes that the lower classes are really unfit to make decisions about spending the public treasury. Rabble. Wastrels. Liable to fall prey to “majoritarian impulses.” Only the monied classes have the judgment to make these kinds of decisions. Harrumpf.

Since we’ve made the regrettable decision to let the rabble vote, the least we can do, says - or at least thinks - La Plante, is levy no more than a head tax, or maybe a “flat tax” if we’re really generous.Just so you know where Johnny’s coming from, okay, boys and girls?

Now back to Uncle Milty. In addition to being dead, Uncle Milty was wrong about many things. The so-called Chicago School spawned malignacies that infected and damn near killed the economies of countries in Latin American and elsewhere (Iraq under Viceroy Bremer being a good example). Uncle Milty’s boyz are the kind of people you would hire if you thought economic decision making was just too hard and that Invisible Hand thing sounded kinda neat. It’s kind of like believing in the power of prayer to remove the boil from your arse. Uncle Milty’s boyz are also good if you’re just looking for shills for monied interests, too.

It is little wonder that Uncle Milty is the tin god for John La Plante, David Strom, and Captain Fishsticks. But here, really, is where Uncle Milty got us:
I'm not going to cut it too fine: I think you can very well blame the Chicago school [where Uncle Milty held court] for the fiasco of growing income inequality in the U.S. Nice triumph for deregulated capitalism, boys! Ronald Reagan listened closely to Milton Friedman and the Chicago school godfather's disciples have been rife in the Republican administrations that have dominated the White House ever since the Californian swept into Washington and started blaming government for our problems. Well guess what? It didn't work so well. The rich got richer and then screwed the pooch.
“Screwing the pooch” is an uncomfortable reference for Spot, of course, but just think of the pooch as a metaphor for the public good.

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