I was participating in what some economists might consider the “free market” society when I heard the news on the radio. I was out shopping. My experience of going to the market, or bazaar has long been truly bizarre. I know that economists speak of “supply and demand” and how this principle governs the marketplace. Experts claim the consumer perceives a need and the corporations then deliver. Companies provide the products people prefer; however, that is not my perception. Nevertheless, I digress.
The broadcaster announced that Milton Friedman had passed. A long eulogy followed. I listened intently, for I knew I would wish to pay homage to this man. Nobel Prize winner Friedman played an important role in Economic Science and in American life. Actually, his influence is felt worldwide.
I am still grappling with my own guilt; I did not write of John Kenneth Galbraith when he passed and I was raised on his teachings. Perchance, I will need to correct that omission, for it may haunt me forever.
Yet, here I sat, listening to the reports, reflecting, and knowing it would be challenging for me to pay homage to a man whose policies, practices, and philosophies were so far from my own. I do believe, from all I ever read and heard his marriage was a very happy one.
I pondered; what might I say. I recall even those that differ with me have made statements I admire. Perhaps, I could offer a notable citation or two. I discovered one that resonated within me; “The power to do good is also the power to do harm.”
I contemplated Milton Friedman’s own words, “In the realm of policy, I regard eliminating the draft as my most important accomplishment.” As I studied this construct, I discovered his influence was not as strong as his words might suggest. There were others, even a nation crying out for change. From the time the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Force met, till the time of deliverance, the draft ended, three years passed.
I did discover that Milton Friedman was very influential in advancing this transition. Still, I did not believe that this issue could be my focus.
I pursued further, feeling frustrated and yet acknowledging what is true for me. Differences need not divide us. Among humans, there are similarities that lay beneath the surface. Therefore, I continued to ask myself, “How might I honor a noteworthy man?” Then I found this
“Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.
This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence.”
~ Milton Friedman, in a 1990 open letter to Bill Bennett, another conservative.
I understand the oft-stated qualms for decriminalization; I have my own. Nevertheless, for me, the waste when we focus on punitive measures is enormous. I truly believe only preventative procedures will assist society as a whole and individuals at large.
Oh dear Milton, as I consider your life I realize that what I believe is true. Foundations are often more similar than facades. I do not struggle with your love of freedom; I embrace it. I believe in free speech, freedom of religion, and a free press. If the “free market” society or “free enterprise” ever truly addressed the needs, wants, and desires of people, perchance I would support that philosophy as well. I do not experience that “free markets” as they exist or endorsed promote equality. I experience that unless we are all equal, none of us is authentically free. Perchance we can discuss this when we are together again, in the after life.
Until then, I offer my reverence for your Earthly life. I appreciate your accomplishments. I am grateful that you cared to create change and that you were active in your pursuits.
We may not share a belief in what is best for America; nonetheless, I truly appreciate that you were never apathetic. For me, that was your greatest teaching. You showed a nation of people how to make a difference. You were the personification of government, of, by, and for the people.
Following Friedman . . .