EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
On August 9, 2010, the Lethbridge Herald published an article titled, “Friedman’s ideas alive and well” by Brett Skinner of an conservative think tank, the Fraser Institute.
Despite the recent meltdown of the global economy and the lingering economic woes, Brett Skinner of the Fraser Institute still touts the gospel according to Milton Friedman with its doctrine of total freedom of market. I could not believe it. I thought, “Wow! Empire strikes back.” Even Allan Greenspan, the cheerleader-in-chief of capitalism, was shocked by the devastating effects of uncontrolled greed. Naturally, I have many qualms with Mr. Skinner.
1. Friedman advocates total economic freedom and antipathy to regulations. That does not fit Canadian reality. Skinner says, “a reduction in the burden of regulation” has to be the foundation of the public policy. Fewer restrictions will “increase economic growth.” If that is the case, Mr. Stephen Harper must not be proud of Canadian banking system. Our current Prime Minister is the most free-market-oriented political leader I know hence a disciple of Friedman. As such, by definition he should be against all regulations restricting the activities of the banks. But he says he is proud of our banking system. He says, that Canada’s banks are well regulated unlike that of many other countries. Regulations saved our banks and Harper is proud of it? This must be contrary to Friedman’s dictum.
2. Friedman preaches, according to Skinner, ”the body of research” shows that “freer economies tend to be more prosperous” and that “economically free societies are also more politically free.” That’s not the reality. How can he explain the rapid rise of Chinese economy, for example? I had never seen an economy that grew so fast and a country that became so prosperous in such a short time as China. Yet politically, it is one of the most repressive countries in the world. Another example in the same vein: the most brutal dictator in recent history, Augusto Pinochet was praised most enthusiastically by Margaret Thatcher, a champion of the free market. She once said famously, “There is no such thing as society, there is only market.” Political repression helps capitalism too.
I am not a dogmatic socialist. I accept that the market economy is good at creating wealth. But I also believe in justice. Everybody is entitled to a piece of pie. “Capitalism produces and socialism distributes.” Therefore, I believe that there have to be rules. Greed must be harnessed. We live in a society, not a jungle.