Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bane/Bain…Friedman/Romney...Hughley /Malice

I’ll propose a toast to Milton Friedman on his hundredth birthday tonight shortly after 7pm at a Belfry Bar gathering of libertarians on 14th Street.  But allow me to explain why, below. 

•This blog’s “Month of Heroes” ends, perhaps fittingly, on what would have been libertarian economist Milton Friedman’s hundredth birthday – though of course I devoted much of the month to talking about heroes more along the lines of Spider-Man.  If only the sapient tiger named Tawky Tawny were a Marvel character, perhaps he too could be explained as a product of biotech.

(NOTE: I have hereby fulfilled an earlier promise to blog about Tawky Tawny, which I misspelled last time – and you don’t want to know how long it took me to find an acceptable Tawky Tawny link for the paragraph above.) 

•The villain Bane is a good deal darker than old Tawky Tawny, and though I didn’t like Dark Knight Rises, I actually sort of liked Bane, who was a bit like a cross between Lord Humongous and Patrick Stewart.  And now we associate that film with such a dark event that at least Romney will likely be spared any more lame Bane/Bain jokes from the DNC.

•More disturbing than Romney’s lameness, by the way, is my realization that by libertarian standards, he may still be the best GOP presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan.  Think about it: Bush twice, Dole, Bush II twice, McCain – that’s it.  And suddenly, here we are, twenty-four years later, $16 trillion in debt, and with government even larger as a percentage of the economy.  And the presumptive nominee denounced one of his primary challengers for wanting to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. 

And still Romney gets likened to an anti-government “Ayn Rand” radical – with the bizarre side effect that Andrew Sullivan praises Obama as more “conservative” (h/t Gina Duclayan), as do some other “Obamacons,” surveyed by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the piece linked in Sullivan’s first sentence.  They seem to be using an absurd (and dangerous and Orwellian) definition of “conservative” in which (for instance) defending existing government-run healthcare programs constitutes conservatism (how profoundly British to treat existing healthcare programs less than a century old as if they are ancient, inviolate traditions, even while they run down or go bankrupt!). 

If Sullivan were merely indifferent between Obama and Romney, I might not be forced to declare him loony (I’m voting for Gary Johnson, after all, so I can understand being wary of Romney), but Sullivan’s praise of the “grace” and wisdom of Obama is painful, and is accompanied by the left-paranoiac assertion that milquetoast Romney will destroy entitlement programs.  How can Sullivan, who (like me) favored Ron Paul mere months ago, suddenly imagine Romney to be so – well, so terrifyingly Paul-like??  Sullivan’s paradoxes aren’t worth working out. 

•Economist Don Boudreaux laments that in the piece “How conservatives misread and misuse Milton Friedman” (Washington Post, July 28), Nicholas Wapshott leaps from the fact that Milton Friedman was no anarchist “to the conclusion that
Friedman supported a larger role for government than the ‘near-nihilistic’ (!) role allegedly advocated by Mitt Romney and other leading political conservatives.  This is crazy talk by Mr. Wapshott.”  Boudreaux’s own, better informed, appreciation of Friedman on his centennial is here.  (In related news, as it happens, Friedman’s co-author Anna Schwartz passed away last month.)

Romney, in a moment that was actually a nice combo of ideology and pathos, did say, in a somewhat pained way during one of the primary debates: “I wish Milton Friedman were still alive.”  That sentiment, if it was sincere, will have to be my one tiny morsel of hope from the two main parties (though that’s weak stuff compared to the clarity that Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party are offering in a year when clarity is urgently needed).  

To the deranged, Naomi Klein-like leftists who think Friedman was some authoritarian ghoul: Do note that in addition to being one of the most popular popularizers of free markets of all time (and a Nobel Prize winner in economics), he was pivotal in ending the draft, opposed the drug war, and encouraged education reform, you assholes.  (On a related note, conservatives who care more about the military than about markets might want to consider the possibility that the military is, after all, a big-government phenomenon, and that “War Is Still a Racket.”  I do not object to the military in principle, as I’ve made clear over the past decade, but neither do I think perpetual warfare should be mistaken for a “conservative” mode of life.)

And here’s the odd close to a recent Wall Street Journal interview of George Schulz by Rob Pollock:

As the interview closes, I am treated to a song – not a note out of place – that was sung by the secretary [Schulz] on Milton Friedman’s 90th birthday: “A fact without a theory is like a ship without a sail.  Is like a boat without a rudder.  Is like a kite without a tail.  A fact without a theory is as sad as sad can be.  But if there’s one thing worse in this universe, it’s a theory...without a fact.”

Free To Choose Network is leading a multi-organization effort to make 2012 a year of celebration for Milton Friedman, by the way.  I think I’ve done my part by losing one friend, a leftist comedienne with surprisingly little sense of humor, over my Friedman-inspired comments about the desirability of privatizing all education.  I will try to make up for it on Friday by visiting a 6pm social event at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington on Hudson and no doubt making at least one new friend who has a better grasp of econ and, in all likelihood, a better sense of humor. 

•Also planning to attend that event is a man with (A) a good sense of humor and (B) a book being published today, itself an occasion for celebration and political tumult: Michael Malice, with comedian D.L. Hughley, has co-written a book with the memorable title I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up.  Hughley’s a leftist but not fond of nonsense, and so often in life that’s what matters most. 

Tom Hanks is no conservative or libertarian either – but despite his support for Obama, maybe he’s not such a leftist.  He’s created and stars in an animated online sci-fi series called Electric City featuring as villains a low-tech, tyrannical matriarchy that forbids trade between cities.  Odd.

•By contrast, I must go (mostly) offline if I am to accomplish even .01% as much as Hanks or Friedman – the latter of whom told me two decades ago to keep up the good fight.  So catch me at Belfry tonight but expect me to be toiling out of sight much of the time thereafter (or hire me to write, edit, or speak on nearly any topic and see me all the time).

As I threaten periodically, I will also really try to restrict the blogging (and even the tweeting and Facebook-updating) to little more than one weekly entry, usually about a book or the ongoing Dionysium bar events I moderate (such as the Occupy/Tea Summit I’ve got coming up on Sept. 17 at Muchmore’s – mark your calendars). 

I’ll start the less-frequent, more bookish blogging in two days (as this blog shifts gears from a “Month of Heroes” to a “Month of Partisanship” followed by a “Month of Reform”) with a look at a biography of angry anti-communist columnist Westbrook Pegler – on the occasion of his 118th birthday, which I suspect will be less celebrated than Friedman’s 100th.  

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