Thursday, October 04, 2007

Considering Milton Friedman, a month from the anniversary of his final wretched breath

I do not know who "Stephen Lendman" is, but his longish (near 5000 words) excoriation of the ghost, the legend, and the myth of Milton Friedman is a bracingly factual account and truthful interpretation of the career of the man responsible for more misery on Earth in the prime of his influence--which still persists--than any dozen dictators you'd care to name.
Friedman was an implacable foe of Social Security:
"...he called "The Biggest Ponzi Scheme on Earth" in an article with that title. He described the current system as "an unholy combination of two items: a flat-rate tax on earnings up to a maximum with no exemption and a benefit program that awards subsidies that relation to need (forgetting it's our most successful poverty-reducing program) but are based on (criteria like) marital status, longevity and recent earnings."

He wanted it privatized, abhorred the "tyranny of the status quo," and agreed with Barry Goldwater that it be voluntary which, of course, would kill it. He added it's "hard to justify requiring 100% of the people to adopt a government-prescribed straitjacket to avoid encouraging a few (many millions, in fact) 'lower-income individuals to make no provision for their old age deliberately (even though most cannot), knowing they would receive the means-tested amount.' " Addressing only eligible retirees, he ignored millions of others getting Social Security benefits. They include disabled workers and spouses and children of deceased, retired or disabled workers. They comprise around 37% of all recipients, are left out of Friedman's calculation, and would get nothing under a privatized system.

For Friedman, we're on our own, "free to choose," but unequally matched against corporate giants and the privileged with their advantages. The rest of us are unequally endowed and governed by the principle, "To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces," in a savage world where economic freedom trumps all other kinds. This was right from Friedman's 1962 laissez-faire manifesto, "Capitalism and Freedom," that's long on free market triumphalism and void on its effects on real people.
The millionaire Friedman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and rabid critic of any "unearned" largesse from the State, collected and cashed his own Social Security checks til the day he died.
For these and a whole catalog of other offenses--which Lendman assembles with admirable comprehensiveness--committed either by him or in his name, his is another grave site I would be pleased to sweeten with the fruits of my bowels.

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