Chiefly, the latest collection of Friedman's Newsweek columns--70 or so, from 1975-82--preceded by the justly lauded...

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BRIGHT PROMISES, DISMAL PERFORMANCE: An Economist's Protest

Chiefly, the latest collection of Friedman's Newsweek columns--70 or so, from 1975-82--preceded by the justly lauded Friedman Playboy interview and a typical wide-swinging address. The editing has been done, not by Friedman himself (cf. An Economist's Protest, 1972, and There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, 1975), but by UCLA economist and columnist Allen, a Friedman enthusiast but no elucidator: the separate sections--Economic and Political Freedom, Government Regulation, Money and Monetary Policy, etc.--are not chronologically arranged and Allen's introductory puffs provide no context or perspective. So what we have, mostly, are capsule variations on familiar ideas: the superiority of a free-market economy (as conceived by Adam Smith); the evils of government regulation (in consumer or business interest); the preeminence of monetary policy for managing the economy (and how the Fed should have been controlling monetary growth); the fallacies of economic planning (via taxation or federal spending) and of government spending for social ends. Friedman, true to his free-trade credo, denounces ""restrictions of any kind, legislated or voluntary."" Less auspiciously, he praises Pinochet's Chile (where he was a much-criticized advisor) as an economic and political ""miracle."" But Friedman the pragmatist as against Friedman the dogmatist can claim some solid hits and near-misses--the fiat-rate tax, the negative income tax, the vouches (school-choice) system--which show up best in the course of his impromptu defense of his views to the Playboy interrogator. (Elsewhere he gets to chortle over his prediction that oil prices would decline--and reiterate his expectations of an OPEC break-up.) The interview also throws into relief both the doctrinaire certitudes and the individualistic, libertarian impulse (on a higher level, and more sharply, than Free to Choose)--and clearly reveals the difference between Friedman and traditionalist conservative George Will (below). Scrappy but not useless.

Pub Date: May 31, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983