Jim Hurley: Economics, morality should be part of same discussion | TheUnion.com

Jim Hurley: Economics, morality should be part of same discussion

In a recent op-ed titled “Free enterprise, the only moral system,” Manny Montes quotes Milton Freidman, Nobel Laureate in economics:

“There is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”

On this issue of free enterprise Mr. Montes follows up with:

“Our government’s basic purpose is to protect our individual rights to live as we see fit in the pursuit of our happiness.”

But on this subject of free enterprise and living life as we see fit, another Nobel Laureate in economics, Paul Krugman, wrote in an op-ed piece, New York Times, May 21, 2007:

“I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the FDA. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? ‘It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,’ he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.”

Krugman went on to quote historian Rick Perlstein who calls those free market economists who would allow industry to self-police, “E. coli conservatives, ideologues who won’t accept even the most compelling case for government regulation.”

It would appear that Mr. Montes counts himself among these E. coli conservatives (aka Salmonella peanut butter conservatives) free to “live life as we see fit in the pursuit of our happiness.”

How is it even possible to speak of this economic doctrine as “the only moral system”? It is, however, a step in the right direction to be talking about economics and morality in the same breath.

Jim Hurley

Nevada City

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