Mona of Unqualified Offerings sends us to the usually-excellent FireDogLake, where Jane Hamsher does bad bad thing in introducing Naomi Klein. Jane writes:
Firedoglake: The political impulse to take advantage of social upheaval in order to implement unpopular policies that a citizenry would otherwise fight against seems to be throughout history a rather intuitive one. In The Shock Doctrine, however, Naomi Klein looks at how Milton Friedman and “The Chicago Boys” — fundamentalist free marketeers whose orthodoxy was incubated under Friedman at the University of Chicago — codified it into economic writ:
[Friedman] observed that “only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
Those who remember the hasty passage of the Patriot Act and wondered at how the government could suddenly disgorge a tome of civil rights-infringing legislation the size of the Manhattan phone book only weeks after 9/11 and then proceed to bludgeon members of Congress into voting for it in the name of combating terrorism will find the blueprint achingly familiar. If Ronald Reagan was the original White House prophet of Friedman’s views, George Bush has been its most devoted acolyte...
One would imagine from this that Milton Friedman approved of the Un-Patriot Act--which he most definitely did not. Unlike Hayek, Friedman believed in individual liberty and autonomy first, and order and hierarchy second if at all.
One would imagine from this that Milton Friedman approved of George W. Bush. Friedman did think that George W. Bush was a better president than almost any Democrat, but Friedman did spend much of his 90th birthday lunch at the White House telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster.
I take the Friedman quote to be a totally unexceptionable statement of the duty of the intellectual. It is the duty of the intellectual to think and discuss and argue, so that when the crisis does come the plans that are picked up off the shelf and hastily implemented are not-stupid ones.