Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman: 1912-2006

It is never an easy thing when someone that you admire dies. It gives rise to myriad different feelings: appreciation for their inspiration, sadness for the loss of their presence and reflection on their legacy, to name but a few.

These were my feelings in part when I learned of the death of Milton Friedman. Dr. Friedman died at the age of 94 at his home in San Fransisco. Here is the press release from the University of Chicago, with links to other news stories on Friedman's death.

It is easy with a person like Milton Friedman to chalk up all of the accolades. Winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics. Co-Founder of the Chicago School of Economics. Advisor to leaders around the world from Great Britain and the United States to China and the former Eastern Bloc. Author of tens of books and hundreds of articles on every topic from money supply to school choice, from narcotics policy to consumption, from taxes to military conscription.

It is also easy to point to the changes that a person like Milton Friedman caused in thinking and policy. Countering the Keynesians, Friedman asserted that aggregate demand in an economy does not indeed fall with rising economic fortunes. In other words, Friedman presents a convincing argument that people do not save more when they make more and that demand rises regardless of the overall fortunes of a given economic system. He also famously argued that inflation precedes, rather than follows, changes in the overall economy. This argument, if general trends in the economy are considered, turned out to be spot on. To remedy this, he proposed what became known as the monetarist theory of money supply, which calls for control of money supply which in turn controls large-scale economic factors. Again, this proved to be nothing short of prophetic in its simplicity.

It is also easy, in pursuing these aformentioned easy tasks, to forget the larger implications of Friedman's thought and concept of economics and society. Yet it is in this field where he has been, in my mind, the most profound.

Milton Friedman saw society not in terms of the collective, but in terms of individuals. These individuals are free actors, or they should be: there is often much that stands in their way. Road blocks to the free exercise of human desire and will are erected by the artificial states that claim power over the lives of people. In an attempt to secure their power, they play the role of parent, schoolmaster and policeman, trying to limit the ability of the individual to act as they deem best for their interests.

What arises from such socioeconomic limits? An inherently unfree society that holds the synthetic state in higher esteem than the natural rights of the individual. Governments can only exist if they hold coercive power over the mass of people that they govern; this power is rarely exercised with the best interests of the individual in mind because they run counter to the inherently paranoid nature of state power. In other words, most states as they are could not handle a society of individuals completely free to choose their destiny.

Yet this is perhaps the only societal arrangement where the full rights and dignity of human beings can be protected and exercised. Friedman was not an anarchist, nor am I. The only purpose of the state is to provide a deterrent for those who would infringe on the rights of others. This small enforcement power, excepting all else, is the only proper function for the state. It is not regulation, enforced morality, prohibition, coercion or intrusion. The state should be the servant of the individual, not the master.

Friedman was an unabashed optimist, and so am I. He believed that people are smarter, better informed and at their core more attuned to their desires than any state ever could be. He believed that a society of free people would be not only orderly but humane. I believe this too, and it is through no small contribution of Milton Friedman.

Can we ever live in the world that Friedman envisioned? I certainly hope so, because that is the world in which I want to live. Wouldn't you? We would all do well to understand Milton Friedman and his legacy, for he believed in us to build a more free (and therefore just) society.

Thanks, Dr. Friedman. You helped to show us the way.

Will we be brave enough to take it?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld Out? No Big Shock Here.

This news, while doubtless important, was not really shocking in the least.

The pack has been baying for Rumsfeld's blood for quite some time now. Why, just two days ago, the various publications of the armed forces themselves called for Rumsfeld to go.

This added to the voices that had already been calling for the (for lack of a stronger word) embattled Secretary of Defense to go.

Will there be more shake-ups in the cabinet? Most likely yes, and some of them will not be at the president's behest. With a hostile Congress and time ticking down, many cabinet members will be looking to do some political "profit-taking," getting those cherry lobbying, lecturing, and consultant jobs that doubtlessly await departing cabinet members.

Just think about how many cabinet members left in the second terms of both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

They don't want to go down with the ship when there is a golden life preserver waiting for them on K Street or a university political science department (or sometimes both).

Would you?

I Should Have Had Money On This

Well, I didn't do too bad at all at calling the elections last night. Let's see somewhat of a statistical shake-out...

Gubernatorial Races
Total Predictions Made: 33
Total Correct Predictions: 32
Incorrect Prediction: MN (Maybe Hatch's "Republican Whore" slip wasn't nothing...)
Percentage of Accuracy: 96.97%

Senate Races
Total Predictions Made: 32
Total Correct Predictions: 31
Incorrect Prediction: VA (This race is still close as of Wednesday afternoon...I smell recount...stupid "macaca" factor).
Percentage of Accuracy: 96.86%

We'll have to see about Virginia in the coming days. In a political climate where recounts are almost de rigeur, it is not far-fetched that this resuly may change.

Yes, it is perfectly normal to feel incredibly impressed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Eve Special: U.S. House and Other Races

It would just be silly to predict all of the elections for the House, but I do offer this observation. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then a tidal wave lifts them across land masses.

Where did this "Democratic tide" come from, exactly? I suspect that it is a sentiment of "anyone but Bush" and people figure that voting for the other group of buffoons will make things better...right?

The truth is that I am not sure I believe all of this. It seems to me that our foci need to be elsewhere than picking someone we've never met to do a job we don't understand for money we don't control in a city far away. Sounds like trouble to me...

As for Wisconsin ballot measures: the marriage amendment will sadly pass. This, striking another blow against freedom of choice and the right of gays to be free is embarassing and I hope that I am wrong on this one. As for the death penalty thinggummy, it hardly matters as it is an advisory referendum, but expect it to pass.

Now, get beer, watch TV and see the monkeys dance tomorrow night...

Election Eve Special: Gubernatorial Races

Now, for the state houses...

Incumbent Republican Governors WHO Will Be Re-Elected
Riley-AL (CM)
Schwarzenegger-CA (BB)
Rell-CT (LS)
Perdue-GA (CM)
Lingle-HI (LS)
Heineman-NE (LS)
Carcieri-RI (CM)
Sanford-SC (LS)
Rounds-SD (LS)
Perry-TX (BB...Perry is not popular and has faces serious independent Kinky Friedman - Go Kinkster!)
Douglas-VT (CM)

Incumbent Democratic Governors Who Will Be Re-Elected
Napolitano-AZ (LS)
Blagojevich-IL (CM...Blago is months away from trouble...just not now)
Sebellus-KS (CM)
Baldacci-ME (CM)
Granholm-MI (CM)
Lynch-NH (LS)
Richardson-NM (LS)
Henry-OK (LS)
Kulongoski-OR (CM)
Rendell-PA (LS)
Bredesen-TN (CM)
Doyle-WI (BB...I think it will be closer than Doyle would want, but...)
Freudenthal-WY (CM)

Incumbents Who Will Be Unseated (With Opponents)
Maryland- O'Malley (D) def. ERLICH (R) (BB)
Minnesota- Hatch (D) def. PAWLENTY (R) (RT)

Open Seats
Alaska- Palin (D) def. Knowles (R) (CM...maybe)
Arkansas- Beebe (D) def. Hutchinson (R) (BB)
Colorado- Ritter (D) def. Beauprez (R) (CM)
Florida- Crist (R) def. Davis (D) (CM)
Iowa- Culver (D) def. Nussle (CM...weak)
Massachusetts- Patrick (D) def. Healey (R) (CM)
Ohio- Strickland (D) def. Blackwell (R) (CM)

Election Eve Special: U.S. Senate

Here are my calls for the Senate races up for election tomorrow:

Incumbent Republican Senators Who Will Be Re-Elected
Lott-MS (LS)
Kyl-AZ (CM)
Lugar-IN (LS-He is running unopposed...yep.)
Snowe-ME (LS)
Ensign-NV (LS)
Hutchinson-TX (LS)
Hatch-UT (LS)
Allen-VA (RT...actually, razor thin is hardly the word for this call.)
Thomas-WY (LS)

Incumbent Democratic Senators Who Will Be Re-Elected
Feinstein-CA (LS)
Lieberman-CT (CM...I know that he is an independent technically, but, c'mon...)
Carper-DE (LS)
Nelson-FL (LS)
Akaka-HI (LS)
Kennnedy-MA (LS)
Stabenow-MI (CM)
Nelson-NE (LS)
Menendez-NJ (RT)
Bingaman-NM (LS)
Clinton-NY (LS)
Conrad-ND (LS)
Sanders-VT (LS)
Cantwell-WA (LS)
Byrd-WV (LS)
Kohl-WI (LS)

Incumbents That Will Be Unseated (With Opponents)
Missouri - McCaskill (D) def. TALENT (R) (RT...almost too close to call)
Ohio - Brown (D) def. DEWINE (R) (CM)
Pennsylvania - Casey (D) def. SANTORUM (R) (CM)
Rhode Island - Whitehouse (D) def. CHAFEE (R) (CM)

Open Seats
Maryland - Cardin (D) def. Steele (R) (RT)
Minnesota - Klobuchar (D) def. Kennedy (R) (CM)
Tennessee - Corker (R) def. Ford (D) (RT...again, almost too close to call)

Election Eve Special: A Note On Abbreviations

Just to let you know, here are the abbreviations and such that I will use in the above predictions:

STATES: States are denoted using their two letter postal code abbreviation.

PARTIES: "R" is for Republican, "D" is for Democrat...unfortunately, that's about it.


CONFIDENCE OF PICK: This is based somewhat on polls, somewhat on news and mostly on my prejudices and hunches in looking at races from the outside. LS=Land Slide (I am 50% confident in my choice or higher); CM=Comfortable Margin (I am between 49% and 25% confident); BB=Barn Burner (I am between 24% and 10% confident in my choice); RT=Razor Thin (I am between 9% and 1% sure on these).

I think that does it.

Ready to enter the depths of punditry hell? Let's ride...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happenstance, I Know. Still...

I, for one, thought that this was great. It is a random generator to determine what the movie of one's life story would be called and the director.!

Take'>">Take this quiz at

I will have something real (or as real as elections get anymore) tomorrow.