Question regarding Milton Friedman on capitalins and communism

Hi
I came across the following while searching for articles on Milton Friedman. I’m not sure what he means by “not only do the two forms of decentralized popular control have an elective affinity as forms of democratic empowerment”. I have never associated communism with democracy/democratic empowerment. What am I missing here?

I look forward to your feedback
"Friedman’s major thesis is that there is an “inescapable connection between capitalism and democracy” in the sense that not only do the two forms of decentralized popular control have an elective affinity as forms of democratic empowerment, but also unconstrained governmental power to supplant the market undermines political democracy and ultimately leads to dictatorship. Capitalism, then, is a prerequisite for freedom. "

Communism isn’t one of the two forms, is it? Because communism would be centralized control (assuming Friedman’s talking about Marxist-Leninist communism or Stalinism) rather than decentralized.

Do you have context? It strikes me as unlikely that Friedman was talking about Christian Communism or Anarcho-Syndicalism, because he rarely did - when Friedman mentioned communism it was usually in the context of the Soviet Union, China, or Eastern Europe in the Cold War.

Very sorry wevets. I misread his text. You’re absolutely correct.

For what it’s worth, communists do consider their form of government to be a democracy. They just have a different definition of the term. They feel that democracy means “rule by the people” and they consider communism to be a system where the people are in charge. They dismiss claims by Western countries that their governments are democracies because they say that elections are meaningless and it’s the wealthy capitalists who really run things.

This was one of the issues that came up after WWII. American and British diplomats were surprised when the Soviets agreed so easily to allowing democratic governments in Eastern Europe. They didn’t realize that the Soviets were agreeing to governments that matched their definition of democracies.

The “two forms” Friedman is talking about are democracy and capitalism, not democracy and communism.

Yes, in capitalism man exploits his fellow man; in communism, it’s the other way around.


But this is very true. The reason some place like North Korea is such a strictly controlled authoritarian place is to prevent capitalism and the accumulation of riches. They already went through an episode where they recalled the currency and re-issued it to put a lid on black market/free enterprise profiteering. The regime knows that rich people can ignore the government, co-opt officials with bribes, and essentially end up being an alternative power structure - up to and including buying their own set of leaders who might take control. The only way to keep full control is to ensure nobody has the economic means to do an end run around the power structure.

Plus, a populace that can turn to the market is less dependent on the government and so less controllable. At the very basic level, you can’t control people with the threat of unemployment if they have options.

Is a capitalin a particularly avaricious munchkin?

This. Capitalism and democracy are both “forms of decentralized popular control.”

Or at least they are until 1 or 2 capitalists control all the capital. Then it’s pretty much a dictatorship: 1 dollar 1 vote.

Not really. A Free Market is a form of decentralized popular control. Capitalism, on the other hand, is not inherently decentralized. Anyone who believes otherwise should talk to Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Jeff Bezos, J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, or the De Beers Syndicate.

I’ve been beating that dead horse for years to no effect. Whether we like or not, Capitalism and Free Markets are so identified that it’s essentially pointless to argue anymore. Unfortunately, it’s actually more important now than ever, because in large portions of the globe, capitalism does not go hand-in-hand with free markets.

This is a form of decentralization - GM or Goldman Sachs can’t tell Bill Gates or Warren Buffet what to do. (mostly). So you have multiple independent actors. Just… not enough of them.