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  Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
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Walter Watts
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Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« on: 2006-11-16 17:42:59 »
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New York Times
November 16, 2006
Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94

By HOLCOMB B. NOBLE
Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility, died today. He was 94 years old.

A spokesman for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation confirmed his death.

Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes, Joseph A. Schumpeter and Paul Samuelson.

Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.

In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work. He was a spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that government governs best which governs least.

The only economic lever that Mr. Friedman would allow government to use was the one that controlled the supply of money — a monetarist view that had gone out of favor when he embraced it in the 1950s. He went on to record a signal achievement, predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that came to be called stagflation. His work earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976.

Rarely, his colleagues said, did anyone have such impact on both his own profession and on government. Though he never served officially in the halls of power, he was always around them, as an adviser and theorist. In time, his influence was felt around the world.

“His thinking has so permeated modern macroeconomics that the worst pitfall in reading him today is to fail to appreciate the originality and even revolutionary character of his ideas,” said Ben S. Bernanke, now chairman of the Federal Reserve, in a speech honoring Mr. Friedman in 2003.

Professor Friedman also a leading force in the rise of the “Chicago School” of economics, a conservative group within the department of economics at the University of Chicago. He and his colleagues became a counterforce to their liberal counterparts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, influencing close to a dozen American winners of the Nobel prize in economics.

It was not only Mr. Friedman’s anti-statist and free-market views that held sway over his colleagues. There was also his willingness to create a place where independent thinkers could be encouraged to take unconventional stands as long as they were prepared to do battle to support them.

“Most economics departments are like country clubs,” said James J. Heckman, a Chicago faculty member and Nobel laureate who earned his doctorate at Princeton. “But at Chicago you are only as good as your last paper.”

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said of Mr. Friedman in an interview Tuesday: “From a longer-term point of view, it’s his academic achievements which will have lasting import. But I would not dismiss the profound impact he has already had on the American public’s view.”

Mr. Greenspan said that Mr. Friedman came along at an opportune time. The Keynesian consensus among economists, which had worked well from the 1930s, could not explain the stagflation of the 1970s, he said.

But he also said Mr. Friedman had made a broader political argument, which is at the heart of his classic book “Capitalism and Freedom”: that you have to have economic freedom in order to have political freedom.

As a libertarian, Mr. Friedman advocated legalizing drugs and generally opposed public education and the state’s power to license doctors, automobile drivers and others. He was criticized for those views, but he stood by them, arguing that prohibiting, regulating or licensing human behavior either does not work or creates inefficient bureaucracies.

Mr. Friedman insisted that unimpeded private competition produced better results than government systems. “Try talking French with someone who studied it in public school,” he argued, “then with a Berlitz graduate.”

Once, when accused of going overboard in his anti-statism, he said, “In every generation, there’s got to be somebody who goes the whole way, and that’s why I believe as I do.”

In the long period of prosperity after World War II, when Keynesian economics was riding high in the West, Mr. Friedman alone warned of trouble ahead, asserting that policies based on Keynesian theory were part of the problem.

Even as he was being dismissed as an economic “flat earther,” he predicted in the 1960s that the end of the boom was at hand. Expect unemployment to grow, he said, and inflation to rise, at the same time. The prediction was borne out in the 1970s. Paul Samuelson labeled the phenomenon “stagflation.”

Mr. Friedman’s analysis and prediction were regarded as a stunning intellectual accomplishment and contributed to his earning the Nobel prize for his monetary theories. He was also cited for his analyses of consumer savings and of the causes of the Great Depression; he blamed government in large part for it, saying government had bungled early chances for recovery. His prestige and that of the Chicago school soared.

Government leaders like President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain were heavily influenced by his views. So was the quietly building opposition to Communism within the East Bloc, including intellectuals like Vaclav Klaus, who later became prime minister of the Czech Republic.

As the end of the century approached, Professor Friedman said events had made his views seem only more valid than when he had first formed them. One event was the fall of socialism and Communism, which the economist Friedrich A. Hayek had predicted in 1944 in “Road to Serfdom.” In an introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition of the book, Professor Friedman wrote that it was now clear that “progress could be achieved only in an order in which government activity is limited primarily to establishing the framework with which individuals are free to pursue their own objectives.”

“The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy,” he said.

Professor Friedman was acknowledged to be a brilliant statistician and logician. To his critics, however, he sometimes pushed his data too far. To them, the debate over the advantages or disadvantages of an unregulated free market was far from over.

Milton Friedman was born in Brooklyn on July 31, 1912, one of four children, and the only son, of Jeno S. Friedman and Sarah Landau Friedman. His parents worked briefly in New York sweatshops, then moved their family to Rahway, N.J., where they opened a clothing store.

Mr. Friedman’s father died in his son’s senior year at Rahway High School. Young Milton later waited on tables and clerked in stores to supplement a scholarship he had earned at Rutgers University. He entered Rutgers in 1929, the year the stock market crashed and the Depression began.

Mr. Friedman attributed his success to “accidents”: the immigration of his teenage parents from Czechoslovakia, enabling him to be an American and not the citizen of a Soviet-bloc state; the skill of a high-school geometry teacher who showed him a connection between Keats’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and the Pythagorean theorem, allowing him to see the beauty in the mathematical truth that the square of the sides of a right triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse; the receipt of a scholarship that enabled him to attend Rutgers and there have Arthur F. Burns and Homer Jones as teachers.

He said Mr. Burns, who later became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, instilled in him a passion for scientific integrity and accuracy in economics; Mr. Jones, who was teaching at Rutgers while pursuing a doctorate at the University of Chicago, interested him in monetary policy and a graduate school career at Chicago.

In his first economic-theory class at Chicago, he was the beneficiary of another accident — the fact that his last name began with an “F.” The class was seated alphabetically, and he was placed next to Rose Director, a master’s-degree candidate from Portland, Ore. That seating arrangement shaped his whole life, he said. He married Ms. Director six years later. And she, after becoming an important economist in her own right, helped Mr. Friedman form his ideas and maintain his intellectual rigor.

After he became something of a celebrity, Mr. Friedman said, many people became reluctant to challenge him directly. “They can’t come right out and say something stinks,” he said. “Rose can.”

In 1998, he and his wife published a memoir, “Two Lucky People” (University of Chicago Press.

His wife survives him, along with a son, David Friedman, and a daughter, Janet Martel.

That fateful university class also introduced him to Jacob Viner, regarded as a great theorist and historian of economic thought. Professor Viner convinced Mr. Friedman that economic theory need not be a mere set of disjointed propositions but rather could be developed into a logical and coherent prescription for action.

Mr. Friedman won a fellowship to do his doctoral work at Columbia, where the emphasis was on statistics and empirical evidence. He studied there with Simon Kuznets, another American Nobel laureate. The two turned Mr. Friedman’s thesis into a book, “Income from Independent Professional Practice.” It was the first of more than a dozen books that Mr. Friedman wrote alone or with others.

It was also the first of many “Friedman controversies.” One finding of the book was that the American Medical Association exerted monopolistic pressure on the incomes of doctors; as a result, the authors said, patients were unable to reap the benefits of lower fees from any real price competition among doctors. The A.M.A., after obtaining a galley copy of the book, challenged that conclusion and forced the publisher to delay publication. But the authors did not budge. The book was eventually published, unchanged.

During the first two years of World War II, Mr. Friedman was an economist in the Treasury Department’s division of taxation. “Rose has never forgiven me for the part I played in devising and developing withholding for the income tax,” he said. “There is no doubt that it would not have been possible to collect the amount of taxes imposed during World War II without withholding taxes at the source.

“But it is also true,” he went on, “that the existence of withholding has made it possible for taxes to be higher after the war than they otherwise could have been. So I have a good deal of sympathy for the view that, however necessary withholding may have been for wartime purposes, its existence has had some negative effects in the postwar period.”

After the war, he returned to the University of Chicago, becoming a full professor in 1948 and commencing his campaign against Keynesian economics. Robert M. Solow, of M.I.T., a Nobel laureate who often disagreed with Mr. Friedman, called him one of “the greatest debaters of all time.” But his wisecracking style could infuriate opponents like the British economist Joan Robinson, who called him a “paper tiger.”

Mr. Samuelson, also of M.I.T., who was not above wisecracking himself, had a standard line in his economics classes that always brought down the house: “Just because Milton Friedman says it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily untrue.”

But Professor Samuelson said he never joked in class unless he was serious — that his friend and intellectual opponent was, in fact, often right when at first he sounded wrong.

Mr. Friedman’s opposition to rent control after World War II, for example, incurred the wrath of many colleagues. They took it as an unpatriotic criticism of economic policies that had been successful in helping the nation mobilize for war. Later, Mr. Sameulson said, “probably 98 percent of them would agree that he was right.”

In the early 1950s, Mr. Friedman started flogging a “decomposing horse,” as Mrs. Thatcher’s chief economic adviser, Alan Waters, later put it. The horse that most economists thought long dead was the monetarist theory that the supply of money in circulation and readily accessible in banks was the dominant force — or in Mr. Friedman’s view, the only force — that should be used in shaping the economy.

In the 1963 book “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960,” which he wrote with Anna Jacobson Schwartz, Mr. Friedman compiled statistics to buttress his theory that recessions had been preceded by declines in the money supply. The same was true of the Great Depression, he found, in attributing it to Federal Reserve bungling. And it was an oversupply, he argued, that caused inflation.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Friedman used his knowledge of empirical evidence and statistics to calculate that Keynesian government programs had the effect of constantly increasing the money supply, a practice that over time was seriously inflationary.

Paul Krugman, a Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist, said Mr. Friedman then managed “one of the decisive intellectual achievements of postwar economics,” predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that later came to be called stagflation.

In this regard, his Nobel Prize cited his contribution to the now famous concept “the natural rate of unemployment.” Under this thesis, the unemployment rate cannot be driven below a certain level without provoking an acceleration in the inflation rate. Price inflation was linked to wage inflation, and wage inflation depended on the inflationary expectations of employers and workers in their bargaining.

A spiral developed. Wages and prices rose until expectations came into line with reality, usually at the natural rate of unemployment. Once that rate is achieved, any attempt to drive down unemployment through expansionary government policies is inflationary, according to Mr. Friedman’s thesis, which he unveiled in a speech to the American Economic Association in 1968.

For years economists have tried to pinpoint the elusive natural rate, without much success, particularly in recent years.

Mr. Friedman, the iconoclast, was right on the big economic issue of that time — inflation. And his prescription — to have the governors of the Federal Reserve System keep the money supply growing steadily without big fluctuations — figured in the thinking of economic policy makers around the world in the 1980s.

Mr. Friedman also pursued his attack on Keynesianism in a more general way. He warned that a government allowed to regulate the economy could not be trusted to keep its hands off individual liberties.

He had first been exposed to this line of attack through his association with Mr. Hayek, who was predicting the failure of Communism and “collectivist orthodoxy” in the early 1940’s in his book “Road to Serfdom.” In an introduction to a 1971 German edition, Professor Friedman called the book a revelation particularly to the young men and women who had been in the armed forces during the war.”

“ Their recent experience had enhanced their appreciation of the value and meaning of individual freedom,” he wrote.

In 1962, Mr. Friedman took on President John F. Kennedy’s popular inaugural exhortation: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In an introduction to “Capitalism and Freedom,” a collection of his writings and lectures, he said President Kennedy had got it wrong: You should ask neither.

“What your country can do for you,” Mr. Friedman said, implies that the government is the patron, the citizen the ward; and “what you can do for your country” assumes that the government is the master, the citizen the servant. Rather, he said, you should ask, “What I and my compatriots can do through government to help discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all protect our freedom.”

It was not that Mr. Friedman believed in no government. He is credited with devising the negative income tax, which in a modern variant — the earned income tax credit — increases the incomes of the working poor. He also argued that government should give the poor vouchers to attend the private schools he thought superior to public ones.

In forums he would spar over the role of government with his more liberal adversaries, including John Kenneth Galbraith, who was also a longtime friend (and who died in May 2006). The two would often share a stage, presenting a study in contrasts as much visual as intellectual: Mr. Friedman stood 5 feet 3; Mr. Galbraith, 6 feet 8. Though he had helped ignite the conservative rebellion after World War II, together with intellectuals like Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr. and Ayn Rand, Mr. Friedman had little or no influence on the administrations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. President Nixon, in fact, once described himself as a Keynesian.

It was frustrating period for Mr. Friedman. He said that during the Nixon years the talk was still of urban crises solvable only by government programs that he was convinced would make things worse, or of environmental problems produced by “rapacious businessmen who were expected to discharge their social responsibility instead of simply operating their enterprises to make the most profit.”

But then, after the 1970s stagflation, with Keynesian tools seemingly broken or outmoded, and with Ronald Reagan headed for the White House, Mr. Friedman’s hour arrived. His power and influence were acknowledged and celebrated in Washington.

With his wife, Rose Director Friedman, in 1978 he brought out a best-selling general-interest book, “Free to Choose.” and went on an 18-month tour, from Hong Kong to Ottumwa, Iowa, preaching that government regulation and interference in the free market was the stifling bane of modern society. The tour became the subject and Mr. Friedman the star of a 10-part series on public television in 1980.

In 1983, having retired from teaching, he became a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The economic expansion in the 1980s resulted from the Reagan Administration’s lowered tax rates and deregulation, Professor Friedman said. But then the tide turned again. The expansion, he argued, was halted by Presidents Bush’s “reverse-Reaganomics” tax increase.

What was worse, by the mid-1980s, as the finance and banking industries began undergoing upheavals and money began shifting unpredictably, Mr. Friedman’s own monetarist predictions — of what would happen to the economy and inflation as a result of specific increases in the money supply — failed to hold up. Confidence in his monetarism theory waned.

Professor Robert Solow of M.I.T., a Nobel laureate himself, and other liberal economists continued to raise questions about Mr. Friedman’s theories: Did not President Reagan, and by extension Professor Friedman, they asked, revert to Keynesianism once in power?

“The boom that lasted from 1982 to 1990 was engineered by the Reagan administration in a straightforward Keynsian way by rising spending and lowered taxes, a classic case of an expansionary budget deficit,” Mr. Solow said. “In fairness to Milton, however, it should be said that one of the reasons for his wanting a tax reduction was to force the spending cuts that he presumed would follow.”

Professor Samuelson said that “Milton Friedman thought of himself as a man of science but was in fact more full of passion than he knew.”

Mr. Friedman remained the guiding light to American conservatives. It was he, for example, who provided the economic theory behind such “prescriptions for action,” as his one-time professor, Jacob Viner put it, as the landslide Republican victory in the off-year Congressional elections of 1994.

By then the 5-feet 3-inch 130-pound Professor Friedman had grown into a giant of economics abroad as well. Mr. Friedman was sharply criticized for his role in providing intellectual guidance on economic matters to the military regime in Chile that engineered a coup in early 1970s against the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. But, for Mr. Friedman, that was just a bump in the road.

In Vietnam, whose constitution was amended in 1986 to guarantee the rights of private property, the writings of Mr. Friedman were circulated at the highest levels of government. “Privatize,” he told Chinese scholars at a meeting in Shanghai’s Fudan University, as he told those in Moscow and elsewhere in Eastern Europe: “Speed the conversion of state-run enterprises to private ownership.” They did.

Mr. Friedman had long since ceased to be called a flat-earther by anyone. “What was really so important about him,” said W. Allen Wallis, a former classmate and later faculty colleague at the University of Chicago, “was his tremendous basic intelligence, his ingenuity, perseverance, his way of getting to the bottom of things — of looking at them in a new way that turned out to be right.”

Louis Uchitelle and Edmund L. Andrews contributed reporting.
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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #1 on: 2006-11-20 15:32:48 »
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[Blunderov] I'm not sure that I can subscribe entirely to Friedman's radical libertarianism with regard to economics. However his libertarianism with regard to drug prohibition will get no argument from me.

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Ethan Nadelmann: Remembering Milton Friedman
20 November 2006, 21:28:27 | Ethan Nadelmann

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman passed away on November 16 at the age of 94. One of the world's foremost public intellectuals, Friedman was a longstanding drug war dissident and longtime supporter of Drug Policy Alliance.

Friedman didn't view America's drug war as an economic problem. For him, the drug war remained primarily an immoral government endeavor. As he once told a reporter, "It's a moral problem that the government is making into criminals people [who] are doing something that hurts nobody else. Most of the arrests for drugs are for possession by casual users. Now here's somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he's caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it absolutely disgraceful that our government [should] be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail."

Friedman championed personal freedom throughout his distinguished career, including his book Free to Choose and the accompanying PBS series.

He lambasted America's drug war in the pages of Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. In the latter publication, he once wrote to then-Drug Czar Bill Bennett:

"The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

"Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations."

Several of Friedman's drug policy articles and interviews may be found here.
Drug Library Friedman


Drug Policy Alliance mourns the passing of Milton Friedman and sends its heartfelt condolences to his wife Rose and their family.
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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #2 on: 2006-11-20 18:18:09 »
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His other significant achievement about which not enough people know is the role that he played in eliminating the draft. A role of which he claimed to be most proud.

See http://www.antiwar.com/henderson/?articleid=10042 for more.

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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #3 on: 2006-11-20 19:02:35 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2006-11-20 18:18:09   

His other significant achievement about which not enough people know is the role that he played in eliminating the draft. A role of which he claimed to be most proud

[Blunderov] I see the democrats want to recall the draft. I can agree with Friedman that it is better not to have the draft but I don't think that it can always be avoided.

If troop levels are insufficient then that is that; faced with an existential threat it would be irrational not to call up all able bodied persons to meet it.

But to institute the draft as a means of discouraging politicians from going to war seems to me to be a very bad idea. In the first place it does not seem as if it would work. As we have seen, politicians coupled with a docile media can manipulate events in such a way as to cause wars whenever they wish. And, as we have seen, the protests from the public only begin once the casualties begin to mount by which time there may be, as we have seen, no easy way to stop the carnage.

In the second place this solution seems to address the symptom rather than the disease. Surely it would be better to make sure that political arrangements are such that they cannot be abused?Or to make sure that the population are well educated and informed enought to be able to tell a hawk from a Handsaw?

It seems a very grave admission to make that democracy can only function properly if most of the population must be conscripted to defend it from abuse by its custodians.

Link: My Way article

Nov 20, 12:48 AM (ET)

By JOHN HEILPRIN
WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 under a bill the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says he will introduce next year.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation on conscription in the past, has said the all-volunteer military disproportionately puts the burden of war on minorities and lower-income families.

Rangel said he will propose a measure early next year. While he said he is serious about the proposal, there is little evident support among the public or lawmakers for it.

In 2003, Rangel proposed a measure covering people age 18 to 26. It was defeated 402-2 the following year. This year, he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42; it went nowhere in the Republican-led Congress.

Democrats will control the House and Senate come January because of their victories in the Nov. 7 election.

At a time when some lawmakers are urging the military to send more troops to Iraq, "I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft," said Rangel, who also proposed a draft in January 2003, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I think to do so is hypocritical."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Standby Reserve, said he agreed that the U.S. does not have enough people in the military.

"I think we can do this with an all-voluntary service, all-voluntary Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. And if we can't, then we'll look for some other option," said Graham, who is assigned as a reserve judge to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.

Rangel, the next chairman of the House tax-writing committee, said he worried the military was being strained by its overseas commitments.

"If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft," Rangel said.

He said having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve. Instead, "young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals," with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.

Graham said he believes the all-voluntary military "represents the country pretty well in terms of ethnic makeup, economic background."

Repeated polls have shown that about seven in 10 Americans oppose reinstatement of the draft and officials say they do not expect to restart conscription.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress in June 2005 that "there isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back."

Yet the prospect of the long global fight against terrorism and the continuing U.S. commitment to stabilizing Iraq have kept the idea in the public's mind.

The military drafted conscripts during the Civil War, both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. An agency independent of the Defense Department, the Selective Service System, keeps an updated registry of men age 18-25 - now about 16 million - from which to supply untrained draftees that would supplement the professional all-volunteer armed forces.

Rangel and Graham appeared on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #4 on: 2006-11-21 02:19:35 »
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[Blunderov] Not everyone is a Friedman fan as witness the appended piece which takes him very severely to task, perhaps a tad unfairly at times. My own view, FWIW, is that the era of lassaiz faire industrialist economics, whatever its merits or lack thereof, has now foundered on the assumptions that there are unlimited resources available for exploitation and that the environment is a miraculous self-cleaning fish-tank.

If there is to be a future, ISTM that this future will have to be rather more socialist in outlook than has previously been the case. Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out to be necessary to globalise socialism instead of capitalism?

Best regards.

http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=14075

November  Tuesday 21st  2006 (02h35) :
Milton Lost: Can We Regain Paradise?

by Jason Miller
[I dedicate this essay to the untold millions who suffered as a result of Milton Friedman’s creation of an intellectual bulwark for economic brutality. On 11/16/06, Friedman died of heart failure, an ironic cause of death for a heartless individual.]

We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth’s resources, the land and its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These positions are maintained virtually without taxation; they are immune to the demands made on others. The very poor, who have nothing, are the object of compulsory charity. And the rest -- the workers, the middle-class, the backbone of the country -- are made to support the lot by their labor.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Agnes George de Mille (granddaughter of Henry George), New York, 1979
Note that Ms. George de Mille penned her observations before the patron saint of the “have mores” established residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In less than three decades, a Friedman-inspired Reagan and his successors made astounding gains for the “very powerful” de Mille described.

Reagan wielded the scalpel that emasculated organized labor and convinced America that “regulation” is a four letter word. George H.W. Bush further crippled unions and condemned many poor Mexicans to corporate exploitation through his relentless efforts to make NAFTA a reality. Convincing the multitude of his compassion and empathy, Clinton proceeded to sign NAFTA into law and cheerfully eviscerated public assistance.

Embarking on a “divine mission, George W. Bush has taken “free trade”, deregulation, fiscal strangulation of social programs, enervation of We the People, and militarism to breath-taking heights. In spite of W’s failure to eliminate the “Death Tax”, Milton Friedman is beaming with pride as the flames of eternal damnation incinerate his corporeal shell and render his wicked soul vulnerable to the divine castigation he so richly deserves.

Consider the words of Henry George, a US American economic and political thinker who advocated a balance of free markets, government regulation, and social programs:

The forces of the new era have not yet had time to make status hereditary, but we may clearly see that when the industrial organization compels a thousand workmen to take service under one master, the proportion of masters to men will be but as one to a thousand, though the one may come from the ranks of the thousand. "Master"! We don’t like the word. It is not American! But what is the use of objecting to the word when we have the thing? The man who gives me employment, which I must have or suffer, that man is my master, let me call him what I will.

— -Henry George, 1883

Inculcating and deluding the masses with a multi-billion dollar barrage of agitprop and sophistry potent enough to penetrate the minds of the most adroit thinkers, the moneyed interests behind corporatism and exploitative Capitalism have created a false dichotomy that clings to our collective psyche like a cocklebur deeply embedded in a wool sock. They are intent on retaining mastery over their wage slaves(1).

According to “conventional thinking” proffered by the corporate media, only two choices exist: the extant form of rapacious Capitalism or the gross perversions of Communism implemented by Stalin and Mao. Socialism might be considered as a third alternative at times, but since it is theoretically a transitional state leading to Communism, is “Leftist”, and advocates the needs of the collective over the desires of a few avaricious individuals, the MSM generally tends to equate it with Communism.

As all freedom loving denizens of the United States and its satellite bastions of Corporatism know, Communism is inherently evil while Capitalism is intrinsically good. Which is why the Bush Regime recently rescinded a ban on training right wing military forces in several Latin American nations. It is imperative that we keep the world safe for corporate plunder, human exploitation, and rape of the environment. Even if that means supporting murderous dictators like Pinochet or the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians by right wing paramilitaries trained and supplied by the United States.

While it is true that there are potentially insurmountable problems with implementing a purely collective economic system that ignores the natural human propensities for greed and self interest, “prevailing thought” leaves no room for middle ground. As obedient wage slaves, we must labor to our dying breath to preserve an economic order that ensures the suffering of billions to afford a few million the means to satiate their every whim and desire(2).

Forget the existence of alternative economic theories like Distributism or Social Democracy. Potential economic models which threaten their stranglehold on prosperity are anathema to the plutocracy. Adopting an economic system with at least as much emphasis on society’s needs as on the pursuit of individual riches would almost certainly achieve a modicum of economic and social justice. However, as evidenced by their tenacious efforts to eliminate public funding for socially beneficial programs (rather than improving them), our opulent overlords have little interest in down-sizing their fleets of expensive cars so that children can eat.

And why do the wage slaves accept these pernicious lies, gross injustices, and moral aberrations?

Many have yet to shake free of insidious abstractions like uber-nationalism, xenophobia, racism, militarism, narcissism, and consumerism. These ludicrous conceptualizations effectively manacle their very minds and souls. Those who have awakened face the stark reality of nearly insurmountable economic barriers to freedom from some degree of complicity in the fascist designs of the Corporatocracy.

Virtually every member of humanity barring the pecunious class faces a brutal dilemma. Do they serve the elite as wage slaves or languish as one of their deeply impoverished victims? (In some cases both fates befall them simultaneously). While there are those precious few who win the lottery, exploit extreme athletic or musical talent, or miraculously embody the Horatio Alger myth, most people find themselves choosing between the Scylla and Charybdis.

To maintain their affluence and power, the haut monde need a relatively compliant stable of wage slaves to enable them to exploit the rest of humanity. Bread and circuses ensure the cooperation of most. As for the nuisances who begin to feel the agonizing prick of conscience and start questioning the system, the Sirens of consumerism, conformity, and fear often draw them back to devotional obedience and spiritual ruin.

And as for incorrigible dissidents, humanity’s subjugators exercise isolation and ridicule to arrest the spread of their influence on the rest of the population. And extortion virtually ensures a reasonable degree of servility from dissenters. As Solzhenitsyn observed in the Gulag Archipelago, even the most recalcitrant will fold when their families are threatened or jeopardized.

Leaving little to chance, the oligarchy has erected significant structural and psychological barriers to meaningful dissent, significant opposition, or escape from wage slavery. Consider this summary, which is by no means exhaustive:

1. Maintaining nearly monopolistic control of the means to disseminate information (excepting the Internet)

2. Providing seductively alluring offers of “success” in the form of material wealth and trophy spouses

3. Dispensing immediate gratification via easy credit, pornography, and fast food

4.Devoting insane levels of financial and human resources to law enforcement and the military (creating a formidable means of employing physical force)

5. Manufacturing sufficient mass hysteria (first the threat was Communism and now it is “Terrorism”) to virtually eliminate civil liberties with little more than a whimper of objection from the populace

6. Deflecting responsibility to scapegoats like Muslims, Gays, and illegal immigrants

7. Promulgating a militaristic, commercialized form of Christianity via the mega churches of the Religious Right

8. Allowing corporations to set our government policy, write our laws, and bribe Congress with impunity

9. Wantonly deregulating corporations

10. Implementing numerous free trade agreements

11. Virtually eliminating the existence of organized labor

12. Dumbing down many of our children by bombarding them with rote learning to prepare for barrages of standardized tests (which seriously limits their capacity to think critically and independently)

13. Wal-Martizing the economy

14. Demanding higher productivity for lower wages and decreased benefits

15. Increasing the staggering number of people without health insurance

16. Widening the wealth and income chasms

17. Financially starving social programs

18. Creating incestuous relationships between the state and major corporations (as exemplified by the military-mass media complex) and in turn endowing their government with power approaching omnipotence

19. Waging perpetual wars

20. Indenturing the poor and working class to creditors by seriously weakening bankruptcy protection

21. Passing the Military Commissions Act and the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act

22. Creating and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction

23. Accelerating privatization around the globe (which is placing people at the mercy of ruthless corporations which sell them health care, education, utilities, fuel for their vehicles, and even drinking water)

24. Perpetuating an unjust mandatory income tax (enforced by a jack-booted IRS) on people who ultimately have no real say in how the money is used

25. Hijacking the vote in the United States for two consecutive presidential elections

In the face of such severe oppression, some of the victims in developing nations have resorted to fighting back with asymmetrical warfare. Choosing a path of non-violence, larger numbers in the developing world are employing political and economic power to defy the Neoliberal and Imperialist despots.

While some awakened souls amongst the wage slaves in developed nations have freed themselves physically by dropping out of the system, many have settled for spiritual and intellectual freedom as they strive to evoke change while enduring their bondage.

A relatively tiny number of craven and malevolent individuals hoard a majority of the planet’s wealth and have bullied billions into economic subjugation or a form of indentured servitude. Given the elites’ stacked deck, loaded dice, and crooked croupier, what play can the enslaved make?

How about an organized and unified effort to drive a stake through the heart of a vampiric system crafted and championed by compassionless bastards like Milton Friedman?

Despite facing economic tyranny of immense proportions, we wage slaves are far from impotent. In fact, we possess two strengths which give us incredible leverage:

1. The system would collapse without our cooperation.

2. We outnumber our “handlers” by a wide margin.

Prolonged massive boycotts coupled with widespread sustained strikes would catalyze a rapid implosion of a system already teetering on the brink of collapse. Businesses would shutter. Currency and market values would race downward. War machines would grind to a welcome halt. Governments would collapse. Hubristic malefactors would scurry as mice fleeing the imminent pounce of a hungry tom.

And chaos would ensue.

Would reason and humanity triumph to the extent that the emergent economic order would reverse the devastation inflicted by Neoliberalism, Corporatism, and predatory Capitalism?

Let’s hope we get the answer to that question before the criminal class crosses the Rubicon.

Notes:

(1)Karl Marx decried wage slavery and its inevitability in a Capitalist system. But one doesn’t have to subscribe to Communism to recognize the smothering oppression and egregious social injustices associated with the prevailing economic paradigm which is championed and maintained by nexus of economic power in the United States.

(2)Thankfully the United States has a “mixed economy”. Imagine the depth of human misery if unadulterated Capitalism was unleashed with men like Cheney at the helm.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically, his essays have appeared widely on the Internet, and he volunteers at a homeless shelter. He welcomes constructive correspondence at willpowerful@hotmail.com or via his blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/

By : Jason Miller
November Tuesday 21st 2006


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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #5 on: 2006-11-21 05:38:44 »
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While I did read the obligatory Ayn Rand as an early teenage "rite-of-passage", I am glad that I had read sufficient of the real Vienna School by then to be able to recognize both her origin and her philosophy's ultimate destination. Which meant, I think, that I started off at a bit of an advantage to Milton Friedman (miaow!).

A stint at Eskom (creator of an utterly impossible under conditions of unadulterated laissez faire national grid), convinced me that his boat was not mine and left me waving a paddle, ensconced in the stern of your canoe.

Having said that I generally agree with Friedman about conscription, no matter how lame his argument could become. If there isn't enough public support for your war, then you probably don't have a terribly good case, and no matter how many people you conscript, you will never have a particularly effective military. I was surprised to see him figure that out, because highly educated people, being susceptible to "moral theorising" tend to be more blood thirsty than the less educated whose blood we tend to float in.

That said, I think, I hope, that the proposed draft is a smart (but not clever) poison pill intended to give the administration grounds to reconsider their aggressive position (Your wars have lead us, the Patriotic Congress, to the need to re-institute the remarkably unpopular draft in order to properly protect America (listen carefully and you can hear the Empire's bugles call) being within argumentative reach and legislative scope of congress, and probably not much of an election winner for the Republicans).

Unfortunately, when you have the army, there is a tendency to want to use it, and history shows that the Democrats tend to be overly susceptible to the kind of "moral theorising" I mentioned a paragraph or two ago. Now that they are about to run Congress, their latent passive-aggressiveness is quite capable of giving the US's "War President" unceasing war-after-war (especially if portrayable as somehow being in Israel's favor, which is why Nancy Pelosi's relationship with AIPAC makes me exceptionally nervous. Refer Another Day in  the Empire and even America in Israel's Service caveat extremely violent and I have seen the latter spun as propaganda). Details which might have evaded the Republicans and antiwar campaigners until very recently (but which hopefully, I put it no stronger than that, can be tamed by the rank and file of the party).

So yes, like Milton Friedman, who eventually saw Bush War II as an act of naked aggression, I see a draft as an unmitigatedly bad idea no matter how smart it may seem to some.

Kind Regards

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Re:Milton Friedman, a Leading Economist, Dies at 94
« Reply #6 on: 2006-11-29 11:43:50 »
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[Blunderov] Great writing. Great thinking. Backed by tremendous experience. Awesome.

OpEdNews link

November 29, 2006 at 07:00:57

An Ex-Pat Officer's Notes on the Draft

by Mark Sashine

http://www.opednews.com
 
 

Range-ling with Resposibility

'A state exists not to build Paradise
It exists to prevent Hell'
-- V. Solovyov

'I have six honest serving men
They Taught me all I knew
Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who'
-- R. Kipling

Among many unfortunate events I had to go through when I was leaving Russia for good many years ago one was particularly hurtful. That was the surrendering of my military reserve certificate to the military district authority, the military commissariat.

That certificate stated that I was by training a senior lieutenant in the Russian combat anti-aircraft unit in reserve, ready for duty whenever my country calls me. By surrendering it I relinquished my obligations and detached myself from the sacred obligation my ancestors held so dear for generations-to defend my country from its enemies when requested and with no questions asked.

When I gave to them my certificate and left the building I felt uprooted for the first time; in case of danger my country would not rely on me -- I was the part of it no more. I was alone. That symbolic act disconnected me from the history of Russia full of victories and defeats, horrors and tragedies, full of unbelievable acts of courage and equally unbelievable shame, full of love, hate, death, hope and sacrifice beyond imagination.

I still loved my country but it did not need my love; it was my private business from that moment. And it hurt. It broke my heart.

I am much older now and I went through many unfortunate and fortunate events. There were suicides in the refugee settlements, girls sold for several dollars, vagrancy, poverty, shadow of hunger. There was a tough work and a series of disappointments, loss of the sense of happiness and profound melancholy. All of that made me wiser and also moved that moment into oblivion. But a man does not exist without a sense of duty and I live here now.

So I adopted a duty to this country through the same ways but different means. As such the issue of the draft or whatever mandatory service is important to me and also after many years of living here I have a right to voice my opinion with certain authority as a person of unique experience. I thus would like to approach it in all honesty using the Six Honest Serving Men who served Kipling so amicably.

What.
The draft is first and foremost an act of violence. It is an imposition of the will of the state upon the fate of the individual. It is profoundly unfair especially due to the fact that it is exercised upon the very young individuals, who, while experiencing the overwhelming power of the state directed towards them have a very limited way if any to resist it. I would characterize a draft as a historical unfairness, the weight of history being used to fortify and justify it over and over again.

That, of course, does not mean that draft is useless or stupid or some kind a malicious enterprise always. Of course, not. As any human endeavor it has been embedded into the practice of many nations and became a part of cultural inheritance. At the same time, while having certain different features from nation to nation, it retained a lot of common ones:

· It is a huge bureaucracy and is always wasteful.
· It makes sense only under a military doctrine involving the idea of the possibility of the country being attacked by an overwhelming enemy with the goal to take it over or destroy it totally.
· It is based on a nationalism- one nation, one army, one language.
· It presumes that an army is a part of the society and that it is customary among the people to respect it as an institution
· It presumes censorship and restriction of the media when it comes to the army and its duties.
· It retains an enormous core apparatus of mid level petty officers whose sole purpose is to train and handle the recruits.
· It presumes the preparation to the military service to start in Middle School through introductory courses.
· It requires the recruits to take an oath of allegiance to the nation and its government.

I have listed quite enough above to state that in its primary mission the draft or the mandatory service contradicts absolutely to the American Way of Life. It is not only because we here in the US are not threatened with an overwhelming force or the total annihilation. It is not only because we here hate waste although there are no bigger wasters than our power structures.

No, the draft undermines the first and foremost cornerstone of our the society- the Freedom of Choice. All our laws, all our customs, all our pros and cons are based on this premise and it makes this society unique. Changing of it, limiting it, abolishing it will makes us a different society, something essentially another, something what we are not and do not know if we want to be. That's what it is and that 's how we have to look at it. Maybe some people are ready to embrace such change. I am not.

Why.
As I have stated above the draft is instituted for only one purpose- to protect the country from an imminent danger. It is thus a tool chosen to address a specific problem. Not the problem of justice, not the problem of equal responsibility and not the problem of fairness in the duty. In short, it is not a tool of the people's policy; it is a tool of the national defense.

It has been proven through all the draft institutions from Spartans to Chinese that only for the national defense you can institute it. Thus the idealistic dreams of some i liberals about a ' Mandatory Peace Corps' are naďve and very American if I may say. Americans, unlike other nations keep an illusion that the world needs their benevolence, their idealism and them as people. That is not true; in fact it is very arrogant.

Americans are the same as everyone else and as such the world puts on them the same obligation it puts on all: take care of your own house first and politely ask if anyone else wants your help. There is also no such thing as organized goodness, there is only an organized force. Thus we make a full circle and return to the truth: mandatory service is only viable if there is such thing as a permanent threat. I hope all the readers of this article will agree that as for now the US is not under the permanent threat. That makes a call for the draft what it is –a political posturing.

When.
Most of the nations who have the draft have it for generations. It changed, evolved but it was always there. In some cases the draft was instituted temporarily, like in the US during WWII ( I am not even considering the Vietnam atrocity) due to the absolute necessity to raise a standing army when attacked. Temporary drafts, though, proved themselves extremely wasteful and were, especially here, in the US the primary drivers for the development of the Army of the Professional Volunteers recruited among the nation and based on the Freedom of Choice.

Such army, whatever its activities was had proven itself as a successful capitalistic enterprise and other nations are turning to it as an example. But I digress. The question is when and compared to all the other times the draft had been imposed, this particular period in our history is certainly the worst to even think about such endeavor. Not only our country is in a terrible financial condition; it is being lead by criminals in power.

We all know that power is their game, that they grab power whenever they can and by all means at their disposal, that they are essentially our domestic enemies and that they have no soul. Knowing all that it is inconceivable to me that someone could even consider to give those individuals an utmost power over the fates of our children, literally to deliver our children as hostages.

At this moment I imagine the face of a liberal reader, the Rangelite who would argue that the US armed forces disproportionably use the poor people to fight the wars of the rich and that fairness requires all the nation to have a stake in the war. To that I will respond that our society as well as any other human society on Earth is not based on fairness. It is based on Freedom of Choice. We here in the US declare this.

Whatever Americans we are, our goal now is not to install fairness or even equality. Our goal is to get rid of the evil government. Per this goal the draft as a tool is not useful. It is harmful to the cause. Thus everyone who in this time mingles with the idea of the draft is either an irresponsible fool or a demagogue of the worst kind.

How much.
I am always wondering about a strange feature of our draftmongers- in their quest for fairness and equality they want to use the exact unfair and deeply unequal tools they resent so much. Really, folks, strictly speaking the only group of people which has the stake in that directly are the young adults. It should be only fair and logical to first ask their opinion through say, referendum of some sort or maybe through organizing a special youth conference with the participation of the young people from other countries with the draft.

Let them tell us what they think. Maybe we should exercise the tools of our democracy and conduct a series of polls? Say we ask the young people, 'Rangel thinks you all are to be in one pair of shoes. What do you think?'

Nothing of the kind is even sought. Instead, as we did before in the issues of abortions, immigraion, war in Iraq, etc. we want to impose the new order on the vulnerable group of population covertly, secretly, through Congress so corrupt and hopeless that it exceeds in those fine qualities even the Ukrainian Rada. We are cowards; we want to make harm to our young but we are afraid even to ask for their opinion! Practically speaking, the draftmongers want to sell our young to the war machine. How much are they getting for that, I wonder?

Where.
As I have said above this country is anything but the draft materiel. But there is also a matter of specifics. In the nations with the traditional draft the inhabitants of different provinces were used for different occupations. Like in the old Iran the Mazanderan people were the best cavalrymen. In the Tzar's Army of Imperial Russia Cossacks constituted a 'military population' and had privileges and their own regiments. In the Hilter's Army SS- divisions were separate and there were also Bavarian regiments.

In the Red Army the majority of the petty officers were Ukrainians. In our army now there is a high percentage of black sergeants and sergeants from Texas but there is not many black officers in the rank of a captain, say. I am not engaging myself in some racial statistics: I am making an observation that there is such thing as army culture, something which we have on a limited level and what other nations had cultivated through generations. There arenumerous small but extremely significant things associated with mandatory services and until we here understand all those, project those on us and make our own conclusions imposing such institution on our nation would be a criminal stupidity to say the least.

Who.
Congressman Rangel the primary draftmonger represents the 15th Congressional District. The district constituents are about 40% Hispanics and 37% Blacks. On his site Mr. Rangel promotes the draft as a tool of 'fairness'. How fair is the draft I discussed above. But I wonder how does the draft effort benefit the people of the 15h District. How does that thing help them to overcome their problems, to live better, to raise children, etc?

I suspect that the draft has nothing to do with all those issues. Mr. Rangel plays a 'fair ness' card deliberately and with malice to instigate the darkest emotions among his constituents and thus doing them a great disservice. But at least his demagoguery is understandable. The position of many respected liberals is not understandable at all.
Through my tenure on opednews I read many pieces dedicated to the issue of the draft and all of them were very emotional without much substance. I myself got emotional too several times. But how can a normal person not get emotional when reading the following bizarre perceptions:

1. Let Bush girls enlist ( what they have to do with that? - MS)
2. Let all the children of members of Congress enlist every time the proclaim war ( again, what do the children have to do with that? - MS)
3. If we have a draft we will have a fair stake of anyone in the war (nonsense, historically unproven statement – MS).
4. JFK was right ( right in what? That dangerous and unstable man was a compulsive womanizer and totally useless. He was catapulted to power by his father's money. Why do people admire him her, for goodness sake? He was killed, that is very unfortunate, but that is mainly what he is famous for - MS).
5. Draft will push the people to be involved and not to let politicians go nuts ( Notice that ' push' thing -MS).
6. Our young people owe the country ( Wow, that's a big one. Tell that to the young people).
7. Not everyone will have to serve in the military ( who decides?- MS) but men and women are to be enlisted ( Hooray, we have reached the Israeli type of the society, what an achievement! - MS).

I could proceed but the message is clear: the arguments for the draft presented in the articles by various liberals ( funny, but conservatives do not entertain an idea of a draft and some of them like the folks from www.antiwar.com vehemently oppose it- MS) are emotional, hysterical, bizarre. They have nothing to do with logical thinking and are in fact malicious in nature. Lack of clear thinking on the part of an adult is malice, sorry.

The 'Horrible' Conclusions
The progressive community I have an honor to belong to is full of people who are desperate to do good. Desperation is a very right word here. Whenever they see injustice, lack of fairness or a blatant violation of human rights, they are eager to go there guns a blazing and restore, change, fix and liberate. That is why they openly and honestly hate Bush because he and his cronies are criminals and abusers. And that is why many of them openly and honestly support an idea of a draft or a some kind of mandatory service as a tool to make things fair. And that is why they easily fall into the Devil's trap.

I am not here to judge. But I would like to remind to my fellow-progressives that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I would also like to remind that we are here not to make everyone happy and not to make the world a fair place. We are here to get rid of a malignant parasite which is Bush and the last thing you could do in that fight is to supply the parasite with the more nourishment by delivering our children to him.

I would like to remind that we are not idealists or socialists. We are the people who fight for our own selfish interests. And as such I do not think that mandatory service in any form serves those interests. It certainly does not serve mine. I could never support any endeavor which increases the odds for my only son to die young also violates his Freedom of Choice.

It is my hope that I made my case for any reader to appreciate. And now, when I return in my memory to that moment when I surrendered my military certificate, I do not feel hurt. I did the right thing. I am doing the right thing now too. That's where I stand.

Mark Sashine is an engineer and a writer. Working hard in trying to love and understand the new country he has to live in.

[Bl.] PS It belatedly occurs to me that the "fairness" argument in any case appears to fail on both philosophical and empirical grounds. The wealthy and the well connected have far better prospects of avoiding combat if they so choose - witness the current president and just about all of his cronies. There does not seem to be any reason to suppose that biases present in a society will not usually play themselves out in the bureaucracy of a military draft.



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