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November 17, 2006


Igor Belanov

It says that he was an economist rather than a politician. That didn't stop the right welcoming some of his ideas that they could use- ie. the ones that did hit the poor.


Being resolutely in favour of the smallest state possible is probably the reason that he is considered of the 'right'. A big centralised state is very much more associated with the 'left' than the 'right'.

chris strange

sorry, the above post is mine I put in my usual name without thinking. It has nothing to do with the site author.


Because it's the term we use to describe members of the Republican Party.


Friedman didn't fit easily fit any simplistic political labelsuch as "right-winger," which is pretty nebulous at this point. Near the end he was decrying the War on Drugs as futile. I used to think right wing meant small government, small government spending, and states rights. With the current US Administration, placed in power when the Supreme Court intervened in the Florida recount, we have the opposite of those three.


Who supports the minimum wage putting poors blacks out of work? Who supports the reinstating the draft who will put poor blacks on the frontlines? Who supports welfare programs that trap poor blacks in perpetual poverty? Who is against school choice, trapping inner city blacks in the worst schools in the nation?

Why it is the left-wingers! The left opposes leaving individuals free to choose who to work for, what school to go to, and self reliance. Left wingers support using government violence to force you to engage in transactions in which the left thinks you should be engaged. Deviate from their edicts, and bash, the left cracks you over the head with the full force of government.


Remember in the earily 90s when Bill Clinton was president and both the Senate and the House where controlled by Democrats? Remember when they legalized all drugs in the US? What you don't remember that?

Remember when a Republican president made drugs illegal in the US? What was his name? FDR? What! FDR was a democrat?

Nick Kran

I think Friedman is regarded as right-wing for his advocacy of economic freedoms. His views included reducing regulatory restraints on trade, business, and labor: all considered right-wing ideas. He was also anti-union for the reason that he believed people should have the right to voluntarily organize and bargain collectively, but that being required to join various unions was detrimental to freedom.


1) "Right winger" as used by most of the MSM is just a near-meaningless boo word. In this case, the man was pro free market - and as most journalists/politicians/'intellectuals' know, the free market is just a fancy theory thought up to justify the exploitation of the common man. So a right winger he is, closer to the BNP than to, say, Chris Dillow.

2) I was appaled by the treatment he got in my newspaper in Belgium: a minuscule article on page 2, and an article in the Economics&Finance section under the headline 'Adviser to Thatcher, Reagan, Pinochet dead', in which they mainly talked about Pinochet . At the end of the article they also mentioned that he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, though they didn't mention why. Based on the paper's description of his career, my best guess is that Pinochet tortured the committee until they had no other choice than to give him the prize.
I didn't check what the 'left-wing' ('left wing' as in 'illiberal twats with a superiority complex') newspapers wrote...

Sorry, had to get this off my chest.


FYI: The Volstead Act(Prohibition) was sponsored by Andrew Volstead (R-Minnesota) and passed in Congress over the veto of President Wilson (Democrat). The Volstead Act (18th Amendment) was overturned by the 21st Amendment (ending Prohibition) in 1933, during the Roosevelt (Democrat) Administration.

Alex Gregory

A lot of beef in these comments about "the left" (TM).

Anyway, isn't the obvious answer that Friedman had far more faith in markets than he did in the government? That looks like the defining characteristic of the (libertarian) right to me.



Actually, I wasn't taking about alcohol, but since you brought it up. Here is some history about prohibition and the saintly Democratic President Wilson's role in it:

"In December 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment. A month later, President Woodrow Wilson instituted partial prohibition to conserve grain for the war effort. Beer was limited to 2.75 percent alcohol content and production was held to 70 percent of the previous year's production. In September, the president issued a ban on the wartime production of beer."

"National Prohibition was defended as a war measure. The amendment's proponents argued that grain should be made into bread for fighting men and not for liquor. Anti-German sentiment aided Prohibition's approval. The Anti-Saloon League called Milwaukee's brewers "the worst of all our German enemies," and dubbed their beer "Kaiser brew.""

Source: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=441


Congressed passed Prohibition over Wilson's veto. The President had to issue the ban. I appreciate the additional info, though, especially about Roosevelt's martinis. I think the left and right (whatever and whomever they are) have both demogogued on the issue of drugs, booze, morality, and the like.



Prohibition was a constitutional amendment, which the president has no role in. That is, a constitutional amendment goes to both houses of congress and must get 2/3rds of the vote, then it is sent to the states for ratification. Note, the president has no role in the passage of a constitutional amendment, nor can the president veto a constitutional amendment.

Second, the ban President Wilson issued was in September of 1917. The statutory law which you refer to, the Volstead Act (which is not the same thing as the Eighteen Amendment to the Constitution) passed in 1920, more than 2 year after President Wilson issued his ban on the production of beer.

Larry Teabag

Well there's only way to find out - we have to hope his corpse is still fresh enough to take my test (http://tamponteabag.blogspot.com/2006/05/which-wing-are-you.html).

Larry Teabag




Whatever. The real question, though, is what, if any, role did Prohibition have to do with young impressionable Milton Friedman's view of the appropriate role of government in the marketplace? He would have been a young man toward the end of Prohibition. Did rot-gut whiskey and 2.75 beer sour his view of ham-handed government regulation? Did the end of Prohibition and the ensuing fairly mild consequences have a "ripple effect" on his grand economic theories and convince him that the War on Drugs was unnecessary?


TG the Guardian published a suite of articles yesterday which acknowledged his intellectual contribution, but argued that it had been muddied by politicians in the real world.

tom s.

"What does it say about our politics that he is regarded as a right-winger?"

I agree with Alex Gregory that it is faith in the market that got him that label. He may have believed that much of what he was championing would help the poor, but it didn't.

And if his ideas have been "muddied by politicians in the real world" well perhaps we should not blame the politicians too quickly, but perhaps the fact that some ideas don't work as intended in the real world.

Laurent GUERBY

I've heard he also advocated an end to the trade embargo of Cuba, but could not find a speech/book reference, any taker?


The terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" are politically meaningless, except if you specify a particular place and time - the terms refer to the two largest political alliances in a particular polity, not to political philosophy. Trying to use the terms to refer to political ideas only leads to confusion.

Specifically, the idea that "left-wing" = "nice-to-the-poor" and "right-wing" = "nasty-to-the-poor" is historically ludicrous, even if it is widely touted by the media.


He didn't believe in equality as a value, and he regarded it as important to break the power of labour unions. He was always and reliably on the side of capital against labour. That's why he was generally and correctly considered to be a right-winger and why, for example, he was invited to give advice to right wing governments in Latin America.

I think a more interesting question is why so many people are trying to rehabilitate Friedman as a genius and a friend of the working class, who were happy to say the vilest things about JK Galbraith after his death, despite the fact that Galbraith was never on the side of a single dictatorship, was correct in almost all of his big economic predictions and constantly did things to help other people at expense to his own career.

angry economist

The lesson I draw from Friedman is that as an economist he gave clear messages and insights, and didn't use the usual economists advice of "on the one hand X, on the other hand Y" etc etc

This made him fairly influential and well favoured by a lot of politicians and political thinkers. Simple, direct messages work. As an economist myself, its useful to use this idea to present my own work.

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