Both political right and political left increasingly share a common cause critical of occupational licensing and residential zoning. Signs portend the possibility of a left-right coalition to reform these state- and local-level policies. But bitter national-level polarization would need to be put aside to coordinate a common front at state and local levels.
Don't miss the next Liberty Law Talk with Adam White on the significant power of independent federal agencies. The NLRB is just the tip of the iceberg. Garett Jones of Econ Log: To live undaunted in the face of spending cuts! Did the election save Obamacare? Healthcare policy meister, John Goodman, says call me skeptical. The ACLU, yes the ACLU, is suing Morgan Stanley over adjustable rate mortgages. Mission Creep? Nice post from Walter Olson at [email protected] on Sandy and the soft terror of occupational licensing. Olson writes In a sane world, if occupational licensure existed at all, it would be automatically relaxed at a…
A Practice to Justify a Theory of Freedom: Friedman’s Engagement with a Collectivist World
Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom is a modern classic. Along with F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Friedman’s 1962 book introduced many readers to classical liberal or libertarian ideas. Friedman stated his philosophy of freedom, and filled in the details with many examples and applications. He not only taught the reader the meaning of freedom, but how to apply the freedom philosophy to real-world issues.
For its time, it was a radical book. At the end of the second chapter, he identified 14 activities that could not be justified by classical liberal principles. These included all manner of price, wage and rent controls. But they also included social security, occupational licensure and national parks. It is a gutsy modern-day libertarian who would take on the national parks.
Included on the list of 14 indefensible activities was also peacetime conscription. In 1962, compulsory military service had reflexive and unthinking support. Friedman’s personal campaign against the practice helped lead to its abolition. Martin Anderson helped persuade Richard Nixon on the issue. For those who think the work of academics has no practical impact, Friedman’s work on conscription stands in refutation.
It is no exaggeration to say that two-and-one-half billion people today are enjoying a degree of freedom and prosperity that might not have happened, at least not when it did, but for the work of Milton Friedman and like-minded free-market economists. I am talking here of the opening up of the Chinese and Indian economies (and others in what used to be called the Third World). In the very first chapter, Friedman makes the case for the importance, indeed the primacy, of economic freedom over political freedom.