Saturday, January 25, 2020

Defending Walter Block

Walter Block
At the post, Walter Block Says Milton Friedman Was a Socialist and Twitter Erupts, I want to address a couple of points made by commenters that need further contextual understanding.

One commenter writes:
And FA Hayek and Wilhelm Rokpe called for even more intervention than Friedman did. Hayek's Constitution of Liberty is much more socialistic than Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. But waiting to hear Austrians call Hayek "socialist".
 I am not suggesting there are not legitimate points of differences but why some Austrians have this obsession with Friedman when there are plenty of other fire worse targets to focus on makes me think something else is at work here.
RW note:

Well, it just so happens that Dr. Block did call out Hayek. See:  WALTER BLOCK. On Socialist Tendencies in Hayek and Friedman.

And in a 27 page critique of Hayek's Road To Serfdom, Dr. Block concluded:
For a long time, until I read him more carefully, I too considered Hayek one of the champions of free enterprise. Unfortunately, it will not suffice. There were
many other authors writing at about the same time, several of whom wrote even before Hayek, when the prospects for liberty were, if anything, even worse. Consider the works of Ayn Rand, Henry Hazlitt, Ludwig von Mises, Lysander Spooner, Leonard
Read, Benjamin Tucker. These scholars made far fewer compromises with state intervention into the economy than Hayek. Thus, it is problematic to resort to the epoch in which he wrote as an explanation for Hayek’s interventionistic views. The
long and the short of it is that he was a rather weak and conflicted supporter of the market—one who for some reason was widely interpreted as a staunch and radical proponent of economic freedom. 
Then, we have Astro-Punk who comments:

Unfortunately for Block, Friedman called for abolishing the Fed. Right from his mouth:

RW note:

But this clip is misleading. Friedman may have been against the Fed but that is because he wanted a different method of government intervention with the money supply. He was not advocating a free market in money. He wanted government-controlled constant growth in the money supply. As this clip makes clear  (Sarts at 3:49 mark).

In other words, he was, indeed, a statist when it comes to monetary policy.

1 comment:

  1. For all of his pro-liberty advocacy, Friedman contributed to the development of the two key ways in which government can finance its statist programs: central planning of the money supply, and the withholding tax. And no apologies on either.

    From his 1995 interview in Reason magazine:

    "I played a significant role, no question about it, in introducing withholding. I think it's a great mistake for peacetime, but in 1941–43, all of us were concentrating on the war...I have no apologies for it, but I really wish we hadn't found it necessary and I wish there were some way of abolishing withholding now."