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Thursday, November 16, 2006

There's no such thing as a free lunch

... unless you're the worms of San Francisco, of course, who will soon be feasting on the father of monetarism, Milton Friedman, who died today.

If that sounds a bit harsh on someone who was esteemed as the father of the free market and a Nobel laureate to boot, then consider his legacy - Reagan, Thatcher, the massive growth in the wealth disparity between rich and poor over the past three decades, and of course bubble markets such as our own property boom.

Now, obviously Milt did not intend all of that to occur when he first championed monetarism. And in later years, he was an outspoken advocate of equality of access in education.

But there is little doubt in my mind that, visionary though Friedman may have been, his theorems have proved incredibly destructive in the hands of lesser minds over the latter third of his life.

The destruction of the British Miners in 1984, the degradation of the American working class into what Barbara Ehrenreich has termed 'canned labour', and of course the phenomenon of overseas outsourcing are all direct developments of Friedman's ideology being put into practice for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the many.

His legacy, not presumably something he might have wished for, will be the enrichment of a tiny cabal of people worldwide at the expense of all the rest of us. His ideology, lacking as it does in human compassion, leaves itself open to the self-serving sociopathy of big business and big businessmen (and their puppet politicians.)

Farewell then, Milt. You've had your last free lunch, though the fat cats you inspired still have their head in the trough more than ever.

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