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Milton Friedman

I have been reading The Great Persuasion Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression by Angus Burgin (ostensibly in order to write an article on Michael Polanyi) and was taken with this Chapter o…

I have been reading The Great Persuasion Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression by Angus Burgin (ostensibly in order to write an article on Michael Polanyi) and was taken with this Chapter on Milton Friedman.

I hadn’t really crystalised for myself until the chapter pointed it out Friedman’s revolutionary modus operandi. Namely:

his preference for arguing about means and not ends,

his desire for persuasive engagement with those who disagreed with him and

the way this framed disagreement productively

the way this focused his energies on what I’ve called ‘policy hacks’.

I think these are very good things and discover that I’ve been channelling him – and that, though it’s not canvassed in the chapter, Keynes is similar with all his ‘plans’ for this and that – though Keynes’s plans were typically plans for the economy as a whole, and not the recipe book of ideas like the purchaser/provider split that I suspect began as debating points with Friedman.

We could do with more of this on the left.

He really was the economist as engineer rather than scientist in the sense that Herbert Simon spoke of the sciences as being about knowing the world and the professions as being about designing a better world. The chapter also makes clear how untutored and uninterested Friedman was in methodology or philosophy. In this he wouldn’t be the…

Posted On, Alan Shortt, Paul Frijters

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