Murray Dobbin writes that both men are connected, despite the years. Friedman was famous for coining the phrase "Free To Choose." He sold right wing ideologues on the notion that the free market ensured absolute freedom. His acolytes believed, therefore, that free market capitalism was the cornerstone of democracy.
Except Friedman wasn't really sold on democracy. Dobbin writes:
At a conference on Freedom, Democracy and Economic Welfare in 1986, he challenged an audience member who had placed democracy at the pinnacle of human achievement -- not so, said Friedman. "You can't say that majority voting is a basic right.... That's a proposition I object to very strenuously." He later wrote: "One of the things that troubles me very much is that I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for a democratic society. But I also believe ... that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy."
Naomi Klein, in The Shock Doctrine, has documented how Friedman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago prescribed radical therapy for economies they considered weak. They could only accomplish that therapy by taking advantage of -- or by creating their own -- crises in those economies. Ultimately, the rules of democracy had to be suspended for their solutions to work. And, thus, Friedman helped Chile's Augusto Pinochet tackle inflation -- at horrendous human cost.
However, their solutions always resulted in a consumption crisis. Dobbins writes:
But this 30-year history of liberating capital has had exactly the effect that many predicted: a persistent consumption crisis. Capitalists cannot sell all the goods and services they are capable of producing. The crisis has been delayed a number of times -- most notably by the globalization of production.
But the 2008 meltdown stripped away all the camouflage from a system that could not prevail. In Canada as well as in other developed Western nations, the crisis has been delayed by cheap goods from China and other low-wage countries, and by the liberal use of credit. But nothing in nature or economies stays the same for long and these two factors can no longer save extreme capitalism from its crisis.
What Friedman created was a house of cards. Democracy -- real democracy -- would bring the house down. But, remember, Friedman believed that "a democratic society once established destroys a free economy." And that's where Edward Snowden comes in. We're told that he is destroying the bulwark which has been built to protect us from terrorists. But, according to Dobbin:
The massive invasion of privacy and violation of civil liberties in the U.S. exposed by whistle-lower Edward Snowden has been justified as the necessary price Americans have to pay to keep them safe from terrorism. It is more likely the price Americans -- and perhaps Canadians -- will be forced to pay as extreme capitalism anticipates future domestic resistance to its behaviour.
You knew Big Brother was watching you. You just didn't know why.