In honor of the event, here’s an interview that’s stayed with me:
Sowell discusses his constrained/unconstrained formulation from a Conflict Of Visions as he and the interlocutor test it out (on current politics as well).
Sowell suggests those that adhere to the constrained vision believe that human nature is flawed, the basis for all else, and must be constrained by checks and balances, which also spring from human nature. These institutional checks and balances move forward much like our legal system (or separation of powers), and on a case by case basis with some respect for the actual experience of the people involved, though questions of law and fact for example, will often decide the outcome. He compares/contrasts the French and American Revolutions.
The unconstrained vision seeks to use the political/legal system to enact justice, fairness, equality etc and other ideals which are assumed to be universal, and in the best interests of all, but whose pursuit often ends up creating just as much inequity, injustice and unfairness, and often lines the pockets of just those pursuing the ideals in the process (addition: or at least the kind of idealism that invests in one person or a group of people is kept in check by our separation of powers).
Friedman doesn’t dispute that people have responsibilities to other people, but rather that the government is simply an inefficient means to meet those responsibilities (by interfering with the free market, which Friedman asserts has been the best way to lift the greatest number out of poverty). Furthermore, he argues that the government causes and maintains poverty in the case of black teenagers by failing to provide a decent education so that they fail to learn basic skills in government-run schools, and through the minimum wage which distorts the market, preventing more opportunities for work.
On the other hand, one of the moral cornerstones of the progressive movement is that but for the Civil Rights Act among others, and building the Great Society (and but for a group of people acting on principles, and eventually making those principles into laws and institutions) black folks would have remained not only excluded from the job market, but from the legal rights granted to citizens and held in slavery and bondage by the laws.
Here is Thomas Sowell (heavily influcenced by the same Austrian School Of Economics) debating welfare and schools with the then State Of Pennsylvania Secretary Of Welfare:
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Addition: It just occurred to me that Friedman’s view of liberty is one of voluntary cooperative action. Anything more is an injustice to the individual and a serious threat to individual liberty (transferring too much power to the State through social programs like Social Security, Welfare etc and the injustice of taxation upon individuals and the dangers of the well-intentioned and do-gooders from the New Deal on). The voluntary exchanges that occur between people pursuing their own self-interest in the marketplace has been the greatest driver of human freedom and the greatest liberator from the natural human conditions of poverty, privation and want. Friedman merges Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Thomas Jefferson’s separation of powers: Free To Choose
Noam Chomsky also shares a view that the individual ought to be free to enter into voluntary cooperative action (community councils or faculties in universities), but believes that to be achieved by perhaps only anarchy (where he retreats) or anarcho syndicalism, or libertarian socialism. I don’t find anarchy to be tenable in protecting individual liberty. Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge.