I've been meaning to blog this for the past week, but better late than never, I guess. Over on the Becker-Posner blog, Richard Posner has a nice comment on Milton Friedman's passing. In it he discusses Friedman's influence and liberal economics, and takes a position I find myself largely in agreement with. Frieman's greatest contribution, Posner says, was to hammer home the point that, in general, people are better at representing their own interests than third parties (i.e. the government) are. But, Posner argues, there are exceptions to this general rule (and Posner gives an example of one), and Friedman failed to recognize them. Friedman's market efficiency advocacy became a dogma in which he was too deeply personally invested.
Additionally, Posner takes issue with Friedman's theory (shared with Friedrich Hayek) about the correlation between economic and political freedom. He looks at China and India as counterexamples running in opposite directions (and also mentions European social democracies).
I tend to share Posner's caution with respect to market dogmatism. I feel the need every now and again to point out that this is not necessarily the same as being a market skeptic. Posner certainly is not a market skeptic; he's a legal pioneer precisely for his tendency to bring economic arguments into legal analysis. I'll take this opportunity to duck behind his cover to note that I am a great fan of distributed solutions to many problems, and markets are a wonderful form of distributive problem-solving. But I tend to doubt that there are any one-size-fits-all solutions to human social problems, and dogmatism for any particular solution will sometimes run amiss.