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Milton Friedman: Father of the Tea Party?

Today is the 101st anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birth, and it will be widely celebrated among the vast number of Americans who march in Tea Parties and wear tricorn hats in public. He will be hailed by the vast number of “libertarian populists” now burgeoning within the Republican ranks. But the new “libertarian populism” is increasingly at odds with the possibility of a shared future.

Libertarian populists love markets. One of their favorite proposals is privatization: If there is a problem, they look to markets to solve it. Milton Friedman wrote, “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.” The statement fails to take into account that parties can only perceive potential benefits and, in the case of poor workers, may be unable to find the optimal market exchange. But there is a deeper problem.

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