Monday, November 20, 2006

If you weren't drafted, thank Milton.

I was reading something Sheldon Richman wrote. Sheldon is one of those writers who I find that I agree with alnmost 100% of the time. And he was speaking about the influence of Milton Friedman especially when it came to military conscription.

Sheldon wrote that Friedman’s “advocacy of the all-volunteer army was powerful and perhaps even crucial. The draft was abolished and hasn’t been revived. Everyone to this day who would have been at risk of being drafted should say ‘thank you’ to Milton Friedman.”

What I like about this is that it makes clear the importance of ideas on people’s lives. Now I know that there is a brainless kind of extreme Leftism, a sort of nihilistic hatred for everything Western, everything modern, everything that requires competency and effort. These are the morons who we used to call “rent a mob”. Every time a demonstration of any size was called these parasites would crawl out of the woodwork and riot. They merely were looking for an excuse to tear things down.

But most the Left is not that way. They, like the Right, may have their prejudices but, unlike the modern Right, they usually are not closed minded and open to evidence.

Now very few of these people like Milton Friedman. And even fewer ever read what he had to say. And even fewer still actually understood what he had to say. (Before I proceed I should say that the typical conservative today is just as ignorant about Friedman and about as far from his ideas as the typical Leftists. There is a reason Friedman said he was not a conservative.)

But most of them also dislike the idea of military conscription. So then how do they respond to the death of Friedman? Now they can ignore the man, which is hard to do if you have any brains at all. Or they can chide him. They can selectively attack him for not being a Leftist while ignoring the things he did which even they say were good. Or they can thank him as Sheldon suggested.

Since conscription was abolished almost 30 years ago hundreds of millions of young people have grown up without fearing that they would enslaved and told they would have to learn how to kill people. One reason they did not have this fear was because of Milton Friedman. We are basically talking about every person in the United States who is under 50 years of age. That is somewhere over 200 million people.

There ought to be a lot of people saying thank you to Dr. Friedman if only for this. I remember Dr. Friedman say that the abolition of conscription was one of the things in his career that he was most proud of accomplishing. I can understand why.

Sheldon reminded me of one of the great exchanges that Dr. Friedman had when he was on the presidential commission that pushed through the abolition of military enslavement. General William Westmorland appeared and was defending forced servitude to the military saying he did want a military where the soldiers were serving because they were paid to do so. He said he did not want to lead “an army of mercenaries.” Friedman was not about to let this get past him. “General,” he replied, “would you rather command an army of slaves?”

Westmorland was displeased and responded, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Friedman returned that volley, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries.” He continued: “"If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general. We are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher."

Rack up one for Friedman. And one for liberty. Thanks Milton. I forgot this debt. And thank you Sheldon for reminding us that this was not just an “issue” for something real and tangible. Love him or hate him Milton Friedman made a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans just on this one issue alone.