17 Nov 2006
So Farewell Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman died a day or two ago and there is an obituary in the Guardian by Charles Goodhart (famous for `As soon as the government attempts to regulate any particular set of financial assets, these become unreliable as indicators of economic trends.' i.e the Monetary Policy committee will fuck up if you give the monkeys long enough on the typewriters)
From Friedman's days in the Ayn Rand School for Tots to his monetary history of the USA (co-authored with Anna Schwartz) to his work with Mrs Thatcher, he was at the vanguard of liberal free market economics.
They say one thing 'leave it to the market', polllution, poverty, education, pets...leave it to the market. You know my open source views on this perspective. If you don't look at my book Babylon and Beyond. Defeated by Keynes they regroup via the Institute of Economic Affairs, Adam Smith Institute and fought their way back to dominate economics in the 1990s.
Most controversially Friedman was one of the 'Chicago boys' who advised Pinchot in his free market revolution in Chile.
Friedman famously argued that 'inflation is every where and always a monetary phenomenon' yet if you agree that to control inflation you must control the money supply, you must control the banks.
Mrs Thatcher tried to control M4 money supply, broad money made up of not just notes and coins (the cash in our pockets) but bank account deposits, some bills and bonds, etc.
Monetarists like Friedman and Thatcher were once famously described as 'the unspeakable in pursuit of the unmeasurable'. as Schumpter a rather more interesting liberal argued that understanding views on money 'is like understanding shifting clouds'.
Money is difficult to control...one thing is certain free market liberals have no chance, Mrs Thatcher liberalised banking allowing them to lend without government restriction, hated socialist mutuals the building societies were allowed to become banks...money grow and inflation in the late 1980s rocketed, big increases in interest rates led to the 1990 recession and the eventual demise of Thatcher.
Thatcher tried to and failed to cut government spending to cut money supply in the 1980s....her rule was about crushing the unions to push down pay, class confict was key, esoteric economics less so.
Don't get me started on social credit, 'monetary reform' or Major Douglas, let alone conspiracy theories of banking.
Money may be the root of all evil but trying to understand and control money is surprisingly difficult.