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Milton Friedman And Economic Moralism

Paul Krugman notices that the new right-wing hard money view is ideological and anti-empirical, as opposed to Milton Friedman's monetarist views:

What did I mean here when I said that Milton Friedman was on the same side of the divide as Keynes, and the other side from people like Ron Paul? I meant that Friedman-type monetarism was technocratic, not moralistic; he advocated a constant growth rate of the money supply on the basis that it works better than activist policy, not on the grounds that printing money is confiscation.

There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of right-wing economic logic. One is the argument from rights -- big government is an imposition upon freedom, the argument goes, so it is wrong regardless of its practical impact. The other kind is purely practical -- big government backfires, harms its intended beneficiaries, stifles growth, etc. Liberal economic arguments dwell almost entirely on the second grounds, while conservatives mix the two.

Ironically, Friedman himself was one of the most powerful moralists for economic libertarianism generally, arguing, "freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself." Likewise, former Bush economist Greg Mankiw has a paper arguing on moral grounds that the government should not redistribute income. Friedman and Mankiw are both brilliant economists. But their technocratic skill can't be viewed in isolation from their deep-seated moral beliefs.