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Strauss, Friedman and the Failures of George Bush

By Thomas L. Walsh  Posted by Michael Germain (about the submitter)     Permalink

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Leo Strauss. Milton Friedman. These two names have deep roots into George W. Bush's administration, and each in its own way bears responsibility for his colossal failures in both the international affairs and financial arenas.

Both have one other thing in common. The University of Chicago.

Strauss is considered by many to be the father of modern day neo-conservatism. His book On Tyranny is considered sacred reading by the Wolfowitz, Abrams, Perle, Feith, Bolton, Shrum, Kristol, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Krauthammer, and Bolton cabal who have exerted so much influence over our hapless president.

The neo-cons are also inextricably bound by a singular commonality. They have been wrong….dead wrong, on virtually everything they have done regarding Iraq and the Middle East.

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This column is not about Strauss as much as it is about the sainted Milton Friedman.

Friedman's legacy becomes important as we look at the current Wall Street meltdown, and the subsequent taxpayer-financed bailout of Bear Stearns.

A highly educated and honored recipient of such awards as a Nobel Laureate and Fullbright Visiting Professorship, and having served as economic advisor to Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Newsweek columnist and television show host, Friedman was a driving force behind the Republican Party's obsession with radical free-market economics. Under Friedman's influence, the free market economy, with little if any governmental influence or restrictions became the party's mantra.

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Milton Friedman laid the cornerstone for the present-day Republican Party's fanatical devotion to deregulation, privatization, and cutbacks.

While unquestionably brilliant, Friedman's theories overlooked one rock-hard-reality: Left completely to its own devices, and with no moral equation whatsoever, pure capitalism can be devastating for the lower economic classes.

Not many of the writings praising Friedman's accomplishments mention the devastating affect he had upon Latin America during the '70's and '80's, when he or his "Chicago boys" were working closely with the likes of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, Indonesia's General Suharto, and Argentina's military junta.

If one wants to see how viciously murderous and depraved the followers of Friedman's free market "shock doctrine" were, you should read Naomi Klein's excellent volume, "The Shock Doctrine --- The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." In my mind, it is an absolute must read.

Look at what Friedman's theory of unfettered capitalism accomplished in Chile. Under the Pinochet government, 3,200 citizens were known to have been murdered or "disappeared," another 80,000 imprisoned, and at least 200,000 fled their native country. Much of this was done in support of the radical free-market changes pushed by the Chicago group of economists.

In accord with Friedman's philosophy, three years after Salvador Allende was elected, a coupe, supported heavily by the American C.I.A., saw Allende killed in a military attack. Following the installation of Pinochet, after the murder of Allende, inflation hit 375% in Chile. The Friedman theory suggestion; two more years of increased deregulation and privatization.

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By 1975 public government spending dropped by 27%, then to 50% in 1980. Healthcare and education spending were also slashed in half. By 1980, 74% of a family's income in Chile was spent on purchasing bread. Milk for children was cut from the public school program. Friedman was also a fierce proponent of charter schools, a sentiment still cherished by the more radical modern day Republicans.

By 1982, the laissez-faire economic doctrine of Friedman, as implemented by the murderous Pinochet, caused the Chilean economy to implode, with 30% unemployment. Ironically, Pinochet was forced to nationalize some of the businesses and governmental functions.

By 1988, the Chilean economy somewhat stabilized, but 45% of the population was now living below the poverty line, while 10% enjoyed income growth of 83%.

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Does this sound at all like the current administration in America?

Nowhere in our history have we waged war while at the same time retaining irresponsible tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest 1%.

George Bush and his cronies have driven the United States into precipitous debt, while the oil companies, the Blackwaters, Halliburtons and KBR's have looted our nation's treasury with non-bid contracts.

What is so vulnerable about the "Friedman Doctrine" is the fact that, left to their own mischief, the perpetrators of this economically unsound situation that Bear Stearns finds itself in are now looking to the American taxpayer to bail them out, at tremendous costs, while authors of the scam walk away, with much of their ill-gotten wealth intact.

Friedman and his followers in essence certainly did and do believe in a welfare state. It's just that they apply it only to the nation's wealthiest.

 

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I am a lifelong progressive activist working for a better future. This has included work to create head of household green jobs, strengthening education, from pre-K to Higher Education, enactment of a single payer health insurance system, and (more...)
 

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