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Facets of Friedman

To the Editor:

After reading “When They’re Reeling, Knock ‘Em Down” [Oct. 18], Brian Lynch’s story about Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, one is tempted to conclude that either Mr. Lynch and Ms. Klein haven’t read much Milton Friedman, or else they realized that nuance doesn’t make good copy. You want your bad guys to be all bad and your good guys to be all good, but life is seldom that simple.

Milton Friedman was an autodidact on the subject of free-market capitalism, to be sure. But he is also famous for quotes such as: “The case for free enterprise, for competition, is that it’s the only system that will keep the capitalists from having too much power. . . . The virtue of free enterprise capitalism is that it sets one businessman against another and it’s a most effective device for control.” Friedman believed, rightly or wrongly, that the free market was the best way to achieve prosperity and freedom for the general population, and his life and work were dedicated to these ideals. The legacy he was proudest of was his work in ending the draft, and he was a crusader for drug legalization—hardly what you’d expect from someone bent on controlling the masses for the benefit of corporations.

Yes, Friedman met once (once!) with Pinochet, as he did with many other heads of state, some of them in Communist countries, to give advice. Knowing Friedman’s views on individual liberty, it is the extreme of intellectual dishonesty to imply that he was Pinochet’s “personal economic adviser” or that he condoned the use of force in dealing with Pinochet’s adversaries.

Similarly, Klein trots out examples of authoritarian government intervention in the economy, and labels them “capitalism” (light is dark! slavery is freedom!) so that she can offer up her kinder, gentler ideas as the alternative. Only someone with this narrow focus could call an unprovoked invasion of a foreign country, and the subsequent awarding of lucrative contracts to politically connected companies, to be paid with public money, “capitalism” or a “free market.”

This false dichotomy has an obvious casualty, namely, the principle of natural, inalienable rights, which Friedman believed was the proper basis of a free market economy. A system based on inalienable rights would not permit a government to abolish fishing villages and hand them over to developers—and neither would it allow implementation of “progressive” ideas simply because they have “popular support,” if those ideas would violate people’s inalienable rights. Just because an idea has “popular support,” doesn’t make it a good idea.

A serious discussion of Friedman’s legacy, or of the problems posed to the free market by disasters, would be a good thing. It appears that Klein’s book is neither.

Phil Spoor, Waterford

License to Empower

To the Editor:

Gov. Spitzer’s intrepid decision to support immigrant access to driver’s licenses [“The New Rules of the Road,” Newsfront, Oct. 18] will empower hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to rise from the shadows of fear and become fully contributing members of society. Restoring immigrant access to driver’s licenses will enable hundreds of thousands of motorists to obtain a New York State driver’s license and automobile insurance, resulting in safer roads for millions of New Yorkers. This landmark policy also does not overlook security concerns. The policy includes enhanced safeguards against fraud and requires immigrants to produce secure and verifiable identity documents, such as foreign passports, to become licensed drivers. In addition, the policy does not violate the Federal Real ID Act. Under the act, New Yorkers will be able to use their licenses to board planes at least until May 2013. Although the policy has been the target of fear-mongering politicians, the fact is that providing immigrants with access to driver’s licenses is a sound policy which will only enhance the safety and security of New York State.

Melanie Trimble, Executive Director, Capital Region Chapter, New York State Civil Liberties Union, Albany

A “Yup” for Yip’s

To the Editor:

As a weekly reader of Metroland, as well as a regular patron of Yip’s Restaurant, I was dismayed by B.A. Nilsson’s review of one of my favorite places to dine [Food, Oct. 11].

First of all, Yip’s is in East Greenbush, not Rensselaer, and although at one time the menu did have “column B combo specials,” the “yellow tablecloth” reference must be a private joke that I didn’t get. Also, why would he be astonished that Yip’s would fill rapidly, when he states that bargains abound, and “it was one of the most fun dining experiences my family and I have enjoyed in a long time”? Might it be that people know where to find delicious, reasonably priced Chinese food, and not an all-American meal as Nilsson suggests? Finally, after admitting that he “reviles” tofu, Nilsson states that it was “almost palatable.” What kind of left-handed compliment is that? As for the “spicy” request, remember that spicy is relative. What was “hardly . . . with a bit of a bite” to such a connoisseur as Nilsson might in fact be just right to the Middle Americans that he alludes to. Also, did he forget that he is not in Middle America, but the Northeast?

I think that Mr. Nilsson would agree that preparation and presentation are important factors in the restaurant business. Maybe the next time he travels somewhere that is so obviously out of his element, he will follow suit. Jimmy, Ling, and all of the Yip’s staff serve a first rate meal in a pleasant surrounding, and I heartily endorse Yip’s to all I know.

Joe Donahue, Green Island

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters addressed to the editor. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are anonymous, illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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