Even though her latest book was reviewed in the “Economics” section of last-week’s Washington Post Book World, Naomi Klein’s books are to economics what Spiderman comic books are to arachnology. Here’s a letter that I sent last Sunday to Book World.
In her new book, Naomi Klein reveals what she sees as a smoking gun in the hands of the late Milton Friedman. It’s true that Mr. Friedman wrote that “only a crisis - actual or perceived – produces real change” (“Doing Well by Doing Ill,” November 25). From these words Ms. Klein draws the fantastically mistaken conclusion that Mr. Friedman was summoning capitalists to wreak havoc upon an unsuspecting world. Unfortunately, reviewer Shashi Tharoor’s defense of Mr. Friedman – that he should not be read literally – also misses the point.
Ms. Klein’s mistake is the sophomoric one of confusing description with prescription. Mr. Friedman’s claim was descriptive. It is of the same genre as the claim made to my family years ago by a physician who shared our frustration at my overweight father’s refusal to eat a healthier diet: “It’ll likely take a heart attack to convince him to eat less and exercise more.” If Ms. Klein had heard this statement, I suspect that she would have warned us that my dad’s doctor was prescribing for him a heart attack!
Donald J. Boudreaux