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On the death of Milton Friedman


I was broadcasting my radio show in Chicago this afternoon when I heard that neoliberal economist Milton Friedman died this afternoon at age 94. Indeed, my show airs on the University of Chicago’s own radio station, on the very campus where Friedman taught for many decades and where the decadence of what’s now neoliberalism first spawned. I’m reminded of two things in particular pertaining to Friedman. His 90th birthday celebration, which took place here in Chicago, happend to coincide with protests against the neo-liberal Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, which was taking place in Chicago at the same time. Friedman was here for the celebration, and I was tempted to organize a small protest of sorts against Milton Friedman — I could have even gotten some coverage in the corporate media in Chicagoland, as the local media outlets (for a change) were giving the protest activities against the FTAA ample and reasonably good coverage. I opted not to organize a protest. I’m not sure why — maybe I was too busy, maybe I felt it wasn’t the best use of my energy and resources at the time. I did pass by the room in Ida Noyes Hall where they were holding the 90th anniversary celebration and took a peek inside. The other thing I’m reminded about Friedman is his book Capitalism and Freedom, which is the longest and most painful 200-page book I have ever read — and yet I recommend everyone read it, because it encapsulates precisely the tone and contempt of anything outside of market regimes, enshrined in government policy decisions around the world in recent decades. We have seen that the ideas heralded by Friedman and espoused by neoliberal advocates have been losing their legitimacy. The corporate media and policy wonks haven’t gotten the hint yet; indeed, as Stephen Shalom notes, "capitalist apologists have been able to defend the status quo by proclaiming that there is no alternative". Fortunately, there’s no shortage of alternatives. Most of those reside in theory, others in practice. But expanding the realm of alternatives in both theory in practice — in essence, to defy the faith espoused by Friedman and his goons — is I believe a paramount task in the struggle for a better tomorrow.

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