The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Just How Nutty are Far Secular Leftist Academics? …

Posted by iusbvision on August 19, 2008

…This op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher education shows us just how nutty. Marshall Sahlins’ hateful screed against Nobel Prize winning economist Dr. Milton Friedman, whose work is a staple of economic study, compares Friedman to Louis Farrakhan, and blames Friedman for the tyrannical excesses of Pinochet.

This screed contains such ideological silliness that anyone with access to a search engine and a couple of hours to spend could deconstruct it and rightly call it out as the neo-Marxist propaganda that it is. [What I am saying here is that his argument is so silly that it hardly merits serious refutation – however a reader asked me to tackle some of the arguments in detail so be sure to read the comments section below.]

What I find most interesting is that Marshall Sahlins believes that this will be the “extra-academic, partisan interests” that will be passed for Academics. Sahlins, who hails from the school of social work science, (some online sources said Sahlins was in social work but after firing up the peer reviewed material and examining one of his books its clear that he is in social science) big shocker there isn’t it, should take a close look at this field where many students are forced into partisan activity often against their will (and this link is one example of many).

Most parents would find it unacceptable that radicalized, out of touch, neo-Marxist propagandists like Sahlins were/are able to get in front of a classroom filled with their children in the first place. Most parents are not aware that a large number of liberal arts academics hold similar view and gobble up nonsense such as this and work every day to convince our children of it.

Sahlins treats words such as “capitalist” and “free market” as if they are terms of sheer horror. To a Marxist [and many assorted leftists] they are. Such academics tremble at the thought that American prosperity and exceptionalism came not from the government ran by his elitist friends, but rather the common man, who holds Marxist views in contempt, whose genius and creativity was unleashed in greater amounts by the American system than any other that had come before it.

Here is how the article starts off. Follow the link for more:

Institute Will Give the U. of Chicago a Bad Name


The University of Chicago has announced the establishment of a multimillion-dollar Milton Friedman Institute for the study of economy and society on prime real estate it has acquired for that purpose adjacent to the central campus. The projected cost of the institute is $140- to $200-million, to be financed largely and directly by private donations – indeed, donors who contribute a million or more will thereby be qualified to participate in its academic deliberations. Why not also a Louis Farrakhan Center for Religious Studies? Or a Friedrich Engels Institute for Political Science?

Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who died in 2006 after a long career at the university, was known for his radical laissez-faire approach to society and the economy. Of course, to many observers at home and abroad, the establishment of a monumental institute named after Friedman and directly subsidized by private funds, will brand the University of Chicago as an academic instrument of a certain ideology. It will make the university party to an extremist version of liberal capitalism that has proven to serve the welfare of the ruling elite in a number of countries at the cost of whom it may concern – notably the society in general and the poor in particular.

When I have the financial resources, provided that Marxist academics are not allowed to invade it for the purpose of destroying it (remember the Hamilton Center), I intend to make a large donation to the Milton Friedman Center for the Study of Economics at the University of Chicago, in Marshall Sahlins’ name.

3 Responses to “Just How Nutty are Far Secular Leftist Academics? …”

  1. BW said

    Sahlins is NOT in the school of Social Work, he is emeritus in the Dept. of ANTHROPOLOGY. You not only got this wrong, but you simply fail to engage any of his arguments. You may say he treats terms like “capitalism” as horror, but you never address the fact that actual, genuine despots in in Chile and Argentina RELIED on Friedman’s students to implement their tyranny. Just the historical record. For the academic record, within anthropology, Sahlins is seen as one of the strongest CRITICS of Marxism, so your bloviage has as little accuracy as it does merit.

  2. BW – Some online sources when he is googled say social work and some said social science – so I mentioned this in the article. Since I don’t know Sahlins other than what he has written. I fired up the peer reviewed databases and it seems clearer that he was into social science. Thanks for bringing this to my attention so I added to the article with the new information.

    So now on to your arguments. Documented facts demonstrate that the rest of what you have had to say is long since discredited known Communist Party propaganda that lacks genuine objective truth. Read on for details.

    I say that Sahlins treats “capitalism” as a horror because anyone who can read can see that in his article. I did not tackle his arguments one at a time because they are so preposterous that they hardly merit serious refutation. However BW for YOU, a valued reader, I will be happy to tackle the arguments that you have presented here.

    First, your argument that Sahlins is not a Marxist; according to peer reviewed reports and book reviews Sahlins is a “dedicated Marxist”. This Jstor article is but one example of many:

    Sahlins is shrewd but offensive: incisive but muddled; a skillful wordsmith but prone to simplistic statements. Neale even says that one could remove every reference to Marx from this book [Sahlins’book] without effecting his argument one iota. I choose to believe that there is no paradox if one sees Sahlins for what he is, a dedicated Marxist theoretician with activist tendencies.

    I can give you more but for the sake of brevity I think I have made my point. You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but you can’t say that I didn’t support my argument. You say that Sahlins has critiqued Marxism, as if that makes him a non-Marxist. Anyone who has spent much time around far left academics becomes aware that most Marxist’s critique the practice of Marxism and say something akin to “that it just hasn’t been done right yet” which is why after the many failures of it, they keep trying to implement some flavor of it with “the right people”. Perhaps the word Hegelian would make you feel more comfortable.

    Now on to the Pinochet argument.

    Let us start with the most obvious. Sahlins and perhaps even you blame capitalism and Friedman because some students of Friedman were economic advisers to the Pinochet government. Well Admiral Yamamoto went to Harvard. So shall we find who his professors were and blame them for the Japanese Empire and the millions of lives it had taken? To blame Friedman or Harvard with such guilt by association is so preposterous that anyone with a residue of common sense knows not to make such an argument. This is why I stated that it was not necessary to refute the article point by point. The real question is, BW, why academics like you and Sahlins would make an argument that the average person knows that you shouldn’t.

    It is interesting to have a conversation about Pinochet – while he was a free-market guy, whose policies lead to wealth and economic growth, he brutally suppressed communist political opponents. Why was Pinochet so harsh in his tactics? Cuba, East Germany and the Soviet’s were sending arms to communist insurgents as was often the case in Central America and South America during that time period. Pinochet, like so many who are in power for too long, eventually saw his own power as an end to itself and used tactics not just to stop communist insurgents, but to preserve and promote his own power.

    Leftist and Marxist writers have gone to great lengths critiquing and even trashing Pinochet and anyone or anything around him because he was so aggressive at suppressing communists. While I too am a critic of Pinochet, I do not apply an ideologically leftist, rose colored view of his time in power.

    Milton Friedman understood that political freedom is a partner with economic freedom which is why the economic policies in Chile under Pinochet, while a success, could have been more successful for even more people if there was more political freedom in the country. As Pinochet grew old and Chile made the transition to a more traditional representative government, the new elected government was able to expand on the market-based economic policies and since that time the country has suffered very little recession and has enjoyed economic growth, relatively low inflation, improved GDP and an improved standard of living. It is worthy of note that Chile’s noted recession was partially brought on by droughts that effected Chile’s dependence on hydro-electric power. A lesson that the USA could learn from, as affordable and plentiful domestic energy is a key component to stay off economic recession.

    Marxists and other flavors of leftists go to great lengths to draw some equivalency between economic freedom and tyranny. If Friedman’s views on economic freedom and freer markets is so horrible, why did Chile ditch military rule in favor of a representative government, but kept and even expanded upon the Friedman like market based economy that Sahlins’ reviles so much?

    So lets sum up –

    No political freedom combined with more economic freedom can lead to limited economic success. We not only learned this from Pinochet but China is a great example of this. However economic freedom is always limited when there is not enough political freedom and consequently the benefits of that economic freedom is more limited.

    No political freedom combined with little to no economic freedom leads to near disastrous consequences. Old China, North Korea, the Soviet Union are all examples of this.

    More political freedom combined with more economic freedom often leads to great prosperity and a rising standard of living provided that those in power show restraint and wisdom in leadership. Here in the United States we have an energy policy that is very strongly influenced by neo-Marxists and radical environmentalists. The consequences are easy for normal people to see.

    Less political freedom and less economic freedom as demonstrated by many socialist countries often show low economic growth that over the years takes a toll on the countries infrastructure and economic prosperity.

    Friedman supported market-based economies. But does that mean that he supported a politics of Pinochet’s abuses of power after the communist insurgents were defeated? The obvious answer is no.

    I support China’s economic reforms as it has brought some more freedom and wealth to more Chinese citizens, but does that mean that I support China’s political and religious oppression and can be blamed for it? The obvious answer is no. If China want’s to see even more prosperity for more of its people than it has to embrace more reforms embracing political, religious, natural and common law rights.

    Anyone with a dash of sense understands this – perhaps we have to ask ourselves why it is that many in the academy do not.

    In the next comment – we will examine what Milton Friedman’s work really said about situations like Chile had found itself in. If Marxist propaganda and accusations made my the likes of Sahlins and BW are accurate this is where we will be able to confirm it.

  3. BW – I am not someone who likes to use Wikipedia for much of anything – but Friedman’s entry is so well sourced that it merits examination. The sourced material the article links to explains the reality of what I have been telling you very well and, as I said, is fully sourced with Friedman’s own words and published work.

    Ok now before you try to spin this and go off into some tirade – I am NOT using Wikipedia as the source – but rather some of the the EVIDENCE they LINKED to – which are provided below and are fully sourced and totally verifiable.

    The evidence serves to confirm my argument. The evidence also serves to confirm the spin of the allegations that you and Sahlins made parrot communist propaganda and have little foundation in contextual truth. I have always said that you can usually count on the Marxist angle from many academics on campus today. Thanks for not disappointing me BW.

    Friedman encapsulated his philosophy in a lecture at La Universidad Católica de Chile, saying: “free markets would undermine political centralization and political control.”[38]

    According to his critics, Friedman did not criticize Pinochet’s dictatorship at the time, nor the assassinations, illegal imprisonments, torture, or other atrocities that were well-known by then.[39] Later, in Free to Choose, he said the following: “Chile is not a politically free system and I do not condone the political system … the conditions of the people in the past few years has been getting better and not worse. They would be still better to get rid of the junta and to be able to have a free democratic system.”[40]

    When he went to receive his Nobel prize in Stockholm, he was met by demonstrations. In an interview on the PBS program Commanding Heights in 2000, Friedman attributed these demonstrations by opponents he recognized from earlier occasions to communists seeking to discredit anyone with even the slightest connection to Pinochet — such as himself — adding that “there was no doubt that there was a concerted effort to tar and feather me”.[41]

    Friedman defended his role in Chile on the grounds that, in his opinion, the move towards open market policies not only improved the economic situation in Chile but also contributed to the softening of Pinochet’s rule and to the eventual transition to a democratic government in 1990. That idea followed from Capitalism and Freedom, in which he declared that economic freedom is not only desirable in itself but is also a necessary condition for political freedom. He stressed that the lectures he gave in Chile were the same lectures he later gave in China and other socialist states.[42] In the 2000 PBS documentary The Commanding Heights, Friedman continued to claim that criticism over his role in Chile missed his main point that freer markets led to freer people, and that Chile’s unfree economy had led to the military government. Friedman argued that the economic liberalization he advocated led to the end of military rule and a free Chile.[41]

    38 – “Interview with Jeffery Sachs on the “Miracle of Chile””. PBS. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.

    39 – O’Shaughnessy, Hugh (2006-12-11). “General Augusto Pinochet”. The Independent. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.

    40 – “Free to Choose Vol. 5”. Free to Choose. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.

    41 – “Milton Friedman interview”. PBS. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.

    42 – Friedman 1999, pp. 600-601

    By the way – for the sake of readers who may not be aware. The “Chicago Boys” were Chilean economics graduates from the University of Chicago. After the communist government fell and Pinochet came to power, these Chileans were among the few economists left that had not been tainted by the previous communist government. Communist East Germany had even dedicated a stamp commemorating Allende, the former communist ruler of Chile, who Pinochet deposed.

    Here is a high resolution scan of the stamp:

    BW – I am glad that you decided to just use your initials rather than your full name. If your peers found out that you just got bested by an undergrad, I am not sure you would be able to live it down :-). I still hope you keep reading The Vision.

    What worries me, is how many students have you and Sahlins spread this dishonest propaganda to?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: