It’s not an idea that ever occurred to me, but it is a truly great one. What if we could arrange a debate between democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and the late Nobel Laureate economist Dr. Milton Friedman?
Turns out, the people at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) had that idea, and made it into a 2:30 video reality.
I have no illusions that this tightly edited give-and-take will change Left/Socialist minds to Right/Capitalist or Right to Left. But on reflection after having watched it twice now, I think perhaps those divisions are not really what this debate is ultimately about. What I hear is one speaker (Sanders) basing his assertions on what he wishes were true, and the other (Friedman) basing his on what demonstrably, historically has been proven to be true.
Kudos to FEE and its President Lawrence Reed for making this clear distinction of philosophies available in such an immediate and accessible manor.
I am pleased to be able to call Larry Reed a friend and former colleague, as he and I taught at the same university in Michigan. At that time, he founded and was President of the Mackinac Center (pronounced “MACK-ih-naw”), still a thriving and vital think tank.
Larry’s research and writings are important documents for our times. Fortunately many are made available on the FEE website. Here are a few that I particularly recommend:
Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism (2015) “Each of the 52 chapters of Excuse Me, Professor is a stand-alone rebuttal to a myth that ‘progressives’ promote, as well as its many associated slogans and false premises. Imagine thousands of students emboldened by the information in this book, raising their hands in class to declare, ‘Excuse me, professor, but what you’ve just offered as fact would seem to be completely false in light of what I’ve just learned in this book.’ True, many ‘progressive’ professors are incorrigible. They may dismiss what the student says and even intimidate the class into silence. But just one student, well-armed with powerful arguments, can make a big difference with the other students. This is how we win the future for liberty.”
5 Ideas at the Heart of Socialism: Liberty and the Power of Ideas (2016) “The good news is that more millennials are skeptical of economic intervention than trust the government to improve anything. The bad news is that a growing minority of young voters embrace the term socialism, which has an increasingly positive connotation even with those who don’t identify as socialist.”
Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist? (2015) “I first heard ‘Jesus was a socialist’ and ‘Jesus was a redistributionist’ some forty years ago. I was puzzled. I had always understood Jesus’s message to be that the most important decision a person would make in his earthly lifetime was to accept or reject him as savior. That decision was clearly to be a very personal one — an individual and voluntary choice. He constantly stressed inner, spiritual renewal as far more critical to well-being than material things. I wondered, ‘How could the same Jesus advocate the use of force to take stuff from some and give it to others?’ I just couldn’t imagine him supporting a fine or a jail sentence for people who don’t want to fork over their money for food-stamp programs.”
Are We Rome? (2013) “Monumental sums for bailouts. Staggering increases in public debt. Concentration of power in the central government. A mad scramble by interest groups with endless claims on the treasury. Mushrooming regulations on enterprise. Demagogic class warfare appeals. Higher taxes on the productive. Decline of virtues once widely embraced as essential for strong character. These things ring familiar in 21st century America just as surely as they dominated the ill-fated Roman welfare state of two millennia ago”
Great Myths of the Great Depression (2012) “Old myths never die; they just keep showing up in college economics and political science textbooks. Students today are frequently taught that unfettered free enterprise collapsed of its own weight in 1929, paving the way for a decade-long economic depression full of hardship and misery. President Herbert Hoover is presented as an advocate of ‘hands-off,’ or laissez-faire, economic policy, while his successor, Franklin Roosevelt, is the economic savior whose policies brought us recovery.”