The Corner

Uncle Milt and Empirics

A reader:

You wrote:

“I don’t know enough about Milton Friedman’s biography, but I’d guess he thinks his philosophy

cannot be separated from the empirical arguments which support it.”

This is exactly Friedman’s position, which he spells out in

a 1975 letter to Friedrich Hayek, which can be found at the Hoover

Institute — and in my files (I’ve got a copy).

It turns out Friedman didn’t understand Hayek’s position.

Hayek believe the _empirical_ facts of the division of knowledge

and the limits of the mind _empirically_ made socialism _empirically_

impossible. For Hayek that is the most decisive and powerful

empirical place to go to show what socialism would mean for the poor

and everyone else (plus a bit of empirical and logical stuff about

capital and value theory).

Friedman, who had a degree in statistics (he’d planned to go into

the insurance industry) thought the empirics was all in the “data” you

historically collected over time (NOTE that this does not give you

empirical scientific laws, as you get with Hayek).

Sorry to nerd you out like this.

greg ransom, editor of the Hayek Scholars Page

And:

Jonathan says that “true conservatives” oppose government intrusionon ideological grounds first

and only secondarily or marginally on empirical grounds.<<

Conservatives who are economists have put together an _empirical_

science called economics which leads them to empirical judgments about

what will work empirically and what won’t.  Leftist call this science

an “ideology” — the word as currently used goes back to Marx.

Jonathan is simply using the old Marxist technique to smear successful

science.  This strategy almost always works for leftists among leftists.

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