David Thompson


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February 09, 2009



It's a good comparison. The Friedman-Donahue interview is here:


As the title of the post suggests, I wanted to highlight the difference in motives on which Friedman and Klein rely for their arguments. Whatever issues one might have with Friedman’s work more broadly, he does seem to keep in mind how people are generally, most often motivated. And he does seem willing to highlight popular but questionable assumptions. (For instance, the assumption that altruistic motives exist on a sufficiently large and reliable scale; or that confiscating others’ property is necessarily altruistic; or the assumption that political self-interest is somehow inherently more edifying than economic self-interest.)

I’m not sure I’d say the same about Klein, who strikes me as unrealistic, even whimsical, in several rather important ways. (Note also her assumption that “egalitarianism” is synonymous with “just”.) And with the Norberg piece in mind, it’s also worth asking whether Friedman would have been willing to distort an opponent’s stated views to the same degree, which is to say, egregiously and repeatedly. (I’m not sufficiently familiar with Friedman’s output to rule this out, but the question seems worth asking.)

Karen M

Friedman: "Where in the world do you find these angels who are going to organize society for us?"

Klein ain't no angel but she wants the job anyway.

Karen M

And happy birthday David's website. Keep it up! :)


I don't really understand what Friedman means at around 2.15. Is he arguing against all forms of taxation? Is he an anarchist?

Every example I know of economic growth has always involved the government. The most important element in China's recent massive export surpluses is the government's policy of artificially suppressing the value of the Yuan. If the Yuan were allowed to float freely, according to Friedmanite economic theory, Chinese goods would become expensive, eventually eliminating the surplus.

Happy birthday!



“Is he arguing against all forms of taxation? Is he an anarchist?”

Er, no and no. It’s been a long time since I read any Friedman, but I’m pretty sure he was in favour of the state providing *some* services, albeit not necessarily exclusively, and this necessitates a degree of taxation. He is, I think, simply making the point that redistribution entails a violation of some people in order to help others. Friedman was often presented with the idea that redistribution is by default an unassailable virtue, as if it entailed nothing that a decent person could resent or take issue with on moral grounds. Hence, I think, his tone. And the point about spending other people’s money with less care than one’s own seems fairly uncontroversial. (Friedman might well have argued that such redistributive help is a mixed blessing and often counterproductive, but I wasn’t attempting to explore Friedman’s every pronouncement, many of which changed over the years. I just wanted to highlight the difference in basic motives to which Friedman and Klein appeal.)


Happy birthday David's blog. I've enjoyed looking in.

Is the cat head a guild of evil prototype?


There's a longer version of Norberg here. Worth reading in full. http://www.cato.org/pubs/bp/bp102.pdf

>"War is a friend of the state. . . . In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do," said a famous economist explaining why he opposed the Iraq War. That economist was Milton Friedman — the person Klein claims longed for war and disasters to ram through laissez-faire. Friedman was right when it came to the Iraq War. The Bush administration used the war to expand the federal government's powers dramatically, and Bush has increased federal spending more than any other president since Lyndon Johnson (another war president), even excluding spending on the military and national security...

[T]he follower who says nice things about dictators is Naomi Klein herself, who has nothing but praise for Cuba, Che Guevara, and Hezbollah when she mentions them in her book, and who defended the Iraqi radical leader Muqtada al-Sadr as representing the mainstream of Iraq and as fighting only in self-defense. And the leaders who implement the "economic nationalism" Klein asks for are people like Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavéz, and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who do it while dismantling independent and democratic institutions. In other words, Klein does not seem to mind dictators, fascists, and murderers, as long as they don't lower taxes and trade barriers...<

See the part on Tiananmen Square too. Klein should be ashamed.



Thanks very much for that; I hadn’t seen the longer version. And, yes, Ms Klein is a pretty shameful figure.

Klein claimed that Thatcher used “shocks” and “crises” to advance her dastardly reforms. But Klein didn’t live in Britain during the period she describes, or before it, and her grasp of the country’s history is to say the least sketchy. Klein doesn’t acknowledge that those crises were largely the fallout of entrenched socialist policies (from both major parties) – policies that led to the grimmest of economic prospects and barely functional state-run monopolies billions in debt.


As a child I remember trying to read by candlelight due to routine power cuts. I remember trash piled in the streets and news reports about unburied dead. I also remember Trotskyite ideologues taking centre stage and openly talking about “class war,” which they felt to be much more important than any practical solutions. And I wonder if Ms Klein can imagine just *how* desperate things would have been in this country without the painful remedies that she misrepresents and then casually dismisses. Clearly, she’s the angel we’ve all been waiting for.


“Is the cat head a guild of evil prototype?”

It’s a work-in-progress, yes. If we can perfect the cloning process they’ll soon be filling the skies, raining fiery destruction on our enemies.



The policy of concentrating on exports is at the expense of the economy for the people of china.

As we can now see Chinas policy of relying on credit driven exports is an extremely unwise one.


So is the cat head another version of the rainbow-cloud of death, or are the lads at the guild creating a more mobile small market weapon?


It’s proprietary technology. I’ve said too much.


I am eagerly awaiting Naomi Klein's next book, in which she will passionately denounce the "disaster socialism" that is now overtaking Western nations, as left-wing politicians seek to take advantage of the financial crisis to enact disastrous Keynesian policies, expand the power of government, and reward favoured constituencies.


Disaster socialism is a tautology.


"Klein… strikes me as unrealistic, even whimsical, in several rather important ways."

She's not whimsical, she's a zealot.


“She’s not whimsical, she’s a zealot.”

Well, the two aren’t necessarily exclusive, insofar as Klein pursues memes rather than plausibility. Whimsy can often lead to zealotry, and with surprising ease. There’s a kind of obstinate fancifulness in much of what Klein writes, not least her belief that “egalitarianism” is synonymous with “just”. Another example is her conviction that the continuation of the Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t about territory, security and religion, but is actually a result of Israel’s expertise in the counterterrorism business: “The rapid expansion of the high-tech security economy created a powerful appetite inside Israel’s wealthy and most powerful sectors for abandoning peace in favour of fighting a continual, and continuously expanding, War on Terror.”

How and why that expertise came about doesn’t impede Ms Klein’s sense of certainty on this point. As the left-of-centre (and much more reliable) Jonathan Chait noted, Klein would have her devotees believe that, “Israel decided to provoke bomb blasts in its buses and pizzerias largely… because building blast walls and bomb detectors became more profitable than living in peace.”


The North Briton

Milton Friedman day was the 29th of January. Well kind of, it was 2007, but i celebrate it annually:


Congrats on making it two years. By the standard of your blogging, I'd have thought it would have been way longer. Keep up the excellent work.

sackcloth and ashes

'And with the Norberg piece in mind, it’s also worth asking whether Friedman would have been willing to distort an opponent’s stated views to the same degree, which is to say, egregiously and repeatedly. (I’m not sufficiently familiar with Friedman’s output to rule this out, but the question seems worth asking.)'

Particularly if said opponent was still alive. Klein knows full well that it's easy to libel someone if they're dead.


Speaking of Friedman this may be of interest:

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