At the Adam Smith Institute they are celebrating Milton Friedman’s centenary with a series of talks about his achievements and surprisingly much of the discussion has nothing to do with economics. Eamonn Butler told us about Friedman’s early success, long before he won the Nobel Prize, in persuading the Nixon presidency to do away with conscription. In a famous television debate Friedman was asked if he wanted an army of mercenaries, to which he replied: “Do you want an army of slaves?”
Friedman was unsuccessful in his campaign for the legalisation of drugs, but he was fearless in making the case, in a world where the politicians are almost always gutless. Guest speaker Peter Lilley MP, the former deputy leader of the Conservatives, bravely wrote a pamphlet called “Common Sense on Cannabis”, in which he called for its partial legalisation. Friedman went much further. He wanted people to be free to produce and possess all drugs. He had witnessed the prohibition of alcohol and saw that its only effect was to enrich and empower criminal gangs. Some politicians would be happy to see the possession of soft drugs decriminalised, but as the odious Peter Hitchens has pointed out in his new book, this is logically absurd, because if it’s wrong to supply, it must be wrong to use. Friedman believed that it’s the right of every man to go to hell in his own way and that the prohibition of drugs is causing as much misery as the prohibition of alcohol once did.