Saturday, April 28, 2007

Milton Friedman on drugs

Or, at least, talking about them.

From the comments at YouTube:

as a lefty - I have to say this guy was a genius.
how can we convince the rest of the west to see sense?
Yes, he was.

While I was watching it, I was struck by something. I used to be left wing, and I know most people who feel themselves to be libertarian began elsewhere on the political plane. Critics of libertarianism - especially but certainly not exclusively on the left - get the sequence wrong. People don't, for example, think drugs should be legalised because they are libertarians. They think drugs should be legal because of the consequences of illegality - because of what's actually happened. Because the consequences of prohibiting drugs have been the same as were the consequences of prohibiting alcohol in the USA, and therefore it's reasonable to think that the consequences of removing the prohibition would also be the same. It's a practical thing.

In other words, they haven't reached this conclusion because they are libertarian. They are classified as libertarian because they've reached this conclusion. Obviously, once you've started reaching this sort of conclusion about a number of things you start to see the pattern, reclassify yourself and bring to new subjects the orientation you've noticed with the previous ones, but this is where it starts: being mugged by reality.

There's a parallel with debates about religion. Religious people have certain beliefs and often suggest that atheists are also driven by belief. This is especially true of the argument between creationists and Darwinists.

In fact, because of the way we are brought up, most people start out with religious beliefs albeit, literally, childish ones. Atheists arrive at their standpoint because of their observations of reality. They have come to lose their belief, and therefore we call them atheist - they didn't suddenly become Atheists, join a club, get a membership card, and thereby lose their beliefs.

Free market advocates don't want there to be free markets, so much as observe that free markets seem, without exception, to make people - all people - richer.

Note that free markets are as much an anathema to Bill Gates as to Arthur Scargill.

Anyway, click to play, and to learn how much we gained, and how much we have lost.

1 comment:

David Gillies said...

I approached libertarianism from a standard Conservative background. That Margaret Thatcher's election was the first significant event in UK politics whose ramifications I fully understood might have had something to do with this. I think it's inarguable that libertarianism as a political standpoint is in general arrived at via much more densely reasoned process than a point on the normal left/right continuum. I'm not saying that libertarians are necessarily more intelligent than the norm (although they certainly tend to be), but that dogma is much more closely examined and rejected if found to be wanting. I'm surprised there aren't more scientists and engineers in the libertarian camp because ratiocination and a willingness to overturn dogma are prized in those professions.