David Frum

07.06.12

Why Conservatives Dumped Milton Friedman

mises-friedman

One of the odder trends of the past four years: in the throes of a depression, conservatives turned their back on the greatest conservative explicator of deflation, Milton Friedman, in favor of economists who conspicuously failed to understand the Great Depression at the time it happened, the so-called Austrian school associated with the name Ludwig von Mises. Why? Josh Barro has a theory:

There are two big reasons today's right loves the Austrians. One is that Austrian economists reject empirical analysis, and instead believe that you can reach conclusions about correct economic policies from a priori principles. It's philosophy dressed up as economics; with the Austrians, there is never any risk that real-world events will interfere with your ideology.

And that is how so many on the right have pulled off the remarkable feat of going through the 2008 crisis and its aftermath without revisiting any of their policy views. ...

But if you have Mises at your side, you "know" that empirical findings have no bearing on what policy should be. Leaning on Austrian thinkers is a great way to avoid further thinking.