Sunday, December 8, 2019

Noam Chomsky Attacks Milton Friedman (And Misses)

Ramin Zareian with Noam Chomsky in his office at the University of Arizona
During an interview with Ramin Zareian for The Red & Black, Noam Chomsky took a slap at Milton Friedman:
[T]he UBI was supported by Milton Friedman, for example, the far-right, but you have to look at his reasons. He wanted to do that to eliminate the entire welfare system. That’s a catastrophe. There are people who need things over and above. We’re not all identical, but with right-wing libertarian ideology, we’re all equal. We just enter the market, and everything goes wonderfully. In the real world, it just doesn’t happen to be like that. A mother with three kids enters a market differently than Milton Friedman does, needs special care. If you eliminate the entire welfare system, that’s a catastrophe for the part of the population that isn’t relatively privileged and wealthy. On the other hand, if you introduce the UBI as a kind of a floor along with a decent social-benefit system, it could make sense.
There is a lot wrong with the above.

Libertarians view Friedman as soft on the universal basic income issue. A true free-market economist would never support UBI. And Friedman, who has to be considered a mechanic for the state, was not against government payouts to the lower chunk of the masses. He was merely attempting to change the structure of the way payments are made via his negative income tax program. The money would flow as it would under a welfare problem just the technicalities of the money flow would change.

Chomsky also distorts libertarian ideology in his comment above. Nowhere in libertarian ideology is the view held that everyone is equal. Libertarians hold the exact opposite view. See, for example, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays by Murray Rothbard. 



  1. While chomsky is great on war and empire. He lacks any details of opposing view points on economics and thus offers very little. At least with libertarians and mises type economic folk, we can call out when people are correct and incorrect, no matter who they are. That is how you can trust people, when they are willing to say that others are right sometimes even when we know they cannot stand them as a personal overall.

  2. "We’re not all identical, but with right-wing libertarian ideology, we’re all equal. We just enter the market, and everything goes wonderfully." I think they say things like this intentionally to mislead.

  3. I have that Rothbard book that RW references above. There is an essay in it("Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor") that, after reading, I felt that the final scales fell from my eyes and the final piece of the puzzle fit into place. It truly is a phenomenal essay, that brings it all together.

    It can be found here:

    There is a shorter, condensed version here that is great also: