Thursday, October 01, 2020

Greed Is Not Good...,

ksjomo  |   Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics advocating shareholder capitalism has influenced generations trying to understand the economy, not only in the US, but all over the world.

He was not just an academic economist, but an enormously influential celebrity conservative ideologue who legitimized ideas for the like-minded, including the belief that ‘greed is good’. Now, shareholder capitalism’s consequences haunt the world and threaten humanity with stagnation and self-destruction.
In 1962, Friedman published his most influential book, Capitalism and Freedom. In September 1970, the New York Times Magazine published his essay, The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits. The fiftieth anniversary of its publication has triggered an international debate of its contemporary significance, especially with the resurgence of ethno-populist jingoism embracing his neoliberal economic agenda.  

The article -- reiterating the Friedman Doctrine, presuming perfectly functioning markets that only exist in the minds and writings of some economists -- is a manifesto for American shareholdercapitalism. It inspired the counter-revolution against Keynesianism, development economics and other state interventions.
The word ‘competition’ appears only once, in the last sentence. Yet, some supporters insist that Friedman was not ‘pro-business’, but rather ‘pro-market’. But, unlike capitalism, the market has been with us for several millennia and has happily co-existed with unfreedoms of various types.
Perfect competition rarely exists due to inherent tendencies undermining it. Hence, various challenges to Friedmanite wisdom. For half a century, information and behavioural economics have challenged his many assumptions, certainly much more than the Austrian School advocacy and defence of capitalism.
Thus, Friedman conveniently ignored ‘market imperfections’ in the real world, although or perhaps because they undermined the empirical bases for his reasoning. So, even if Friedman’s logic was true, reality prevents profit-maximizing firm behaviour from maximizing societal welfare, if not cause the converse.
bMeanwhile, Friedman’s monetarist economics has been discredited, and has little practical influence anymore, especially with the turn to ‘unconventional monetary policies’, particularly after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Yet, his ideological sway remains strong, as it serves powerful interests.