Milton Friedman and Power

Friedman ultimately never understood how to achieve a proper dispersion of power. Despite being in favour of the free market, he was willing to use the state to enforce matters.  This is problematic because if the state is a tool used by big business to rig the economic system in their favour, then why can’t they do the same under the guise of liberating the market from the state?

Even though Friedman understood that the state can, and will, be used to let vested interests manipulate the system in their favour; he was naive about the dynamics of it all. It is here that left-libertarianism comes into its own. Left-libertarians do have a greater grasp of the dynamics of power, making them better suited to critique policies that may or may not enhance specific interests in society.

Even left-libertarians can be too naive though. Is it possible to have a society in which no vested interests occurs? If not, then the key question of political, or anarchic, thought is how to structure and organise a society such that only specific vested interests are tolerable.

Consider, for instance, the herd mentality that Nietzsche loves to criticise the masses for. What is the insight here? There are two possible insights of interest here. First, that there is a such a thing as a herd mentality which can act pretty vicious and have its own interests at heart. Second, it is a representation of the elitist thought of Nietzsche exemplified most by the concept of the Ubermensch.

This is the key question of political thought. Reacting by monitoring the herd mentality, or ignorance of the masses, is a key paternalistic argument against libertarian-like philosophies, i.e., why a large state is needed. However, the existence of the herd mentality need not justify paternalism. A society organised under a specific set of principles maybe necessary to ensure a herd mentality does not have much significance in undermining the liberties of all. Then again there may be no herd mentality.

This is what Friedman fails to consider. Who is the herd? How large does the herd need to be? How significant? When leviathan is liberalising itself in favour of the market, is the herd it is appealing to or the market? If the former, then we have not decentralised power. Instead we have moved it somewhere else.

Gareth Mawer
I consider myself a left libertarian committed to promoting the philosophy of liberty, even though I do not always support proposals that are normally considered libertarian. Georgism and mutualism have had profound influences over my beliefs, though I'm not afraid to digress from them were necessary. My mains interests are politics, economics and philosophy.