by Paul Kelleher
Krugman opens today's column on the Wolf Blitzer-Ron Paul exchange thus:
Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.
But that was then. Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”
As so frequently happens in these contexts, the libertarian bogeyman du jour is contrasted with the presumably more enlightened of his/her libertarian brethren. Liberals really love to call upon Friedrich Hayek to prove that libertarians can support the social insurance state without renouncing everything that made them libertarians in the first place. Krugman does just that today, quoting Hayek's words of support for “a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life."
I have no problem with this move, as long as it serves as the beginning of a meaningful conversation about whether Hayek's statement is in fact true, and not just an argument from (libertarian) authority. In that spirit, I present you with a passage from the preface (pdf) of Income from Independent Professional Practice (1945) by one Milton Friedman and Simon Smith Kuznets: