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David, Meet Milton


In a recent column—I can’t say when it appeared in the New York Times, but I came across it in the Palo Alto Daily News just this morning—David Brooks advocates policies to encourage the formation of human capital among the disadvantaged, helping the poor “develop the habits, knowledge, and mental traits they need to succeed.” 

When you ask free-market purists about wage stagnation, they either deny it’s a problem or brag about how Repbulicans have increased disposable income by reducing the tax burden.  When you ask orthodox liberals about wage stagnation, they never tell you exactly what they would do to counteract the epic forces of globalization and technological change….But this debate is not going to be won either by the free-market fatalists or by the angry but amorphous populists.  It’ll be won by the human capital reformers…who believe that the market fundamentally works and that social mobility requires what it has always required, skill and effort. 

As usual, David is thoroughly beguiling—but he’s guilty of a whopper here all the same. 

Wage stagnation?  “Free-market purist” Milton Friedman neither denies the problem nor brags about Republican tax cuts.  Instead, he acknowledges the problem, worrying, often and in public, about the effects of globalization, warning as early as a decade ago that competition with Chinese and Latin American labor would tend to depress wages for unskilled American workers.  His solution?  Education.  Which is to say that Milton Friedman, the granddaddy of “free-market fatalists,” has spent years encouraging the formation of human capital.   Really, there are no new ideas in American politics—just proposals by Milton Friedman that we haven’t gotten around to enacting just yet.

To learn about the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for school choice, click here.  And to meet Milton and Rose Friedman in person?  Hie yourself to the National Review reception here in Northern California on September 22, over which the Friedmans—the pleasantest world-historical couple you’d ever care to meet—will happily preside.


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