Paul Jacob

The outgoing Congress — including the lame-duck Republicans of the House — didn’t do a whole lot for the nation. Our representatives didn’t limit government. They didn’t halt government growth; in fact, they increased it in nearly every one of its dimensions. And for this they got punished. Voters turned on them. Their ranks diminished, enough will be replaced to make for a Democratic majority in the next session.

But in the remainder of their last session they did do something for freedom. A little something. They honored the late Milton Friedman, expressing their condolences to his family, asserting his importance to economics and public policy in America and around the world.

  • Congress rightly declared, “Doctor Friedman’s writings and ideas have influenced Presidents, other world leaders, entrepreneurs, and students of economics” . . .
  • And, too, that Friedman “gave himself generously to public service as an economic adviser to Senator Barry Goldwater’s campaign for the presidency in 1964, Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1968, the Nixon Administration, Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, and the Reagan Administration as a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board” . . .
  • His “ideas were the model for the free market reforms undertaken in eastern European countries as they emerged from communist domination in the early 1990s, helping extend the blessings of prosperity to millions who had long been denied them” . . .
  • And Congress noted that Friedman was “one of the world’s foremost champions of liberty, not just in economics but in all respects,” as I also noted in this space weeks ago.

After all the “whereases,” the House resolved to mourn and honor Doctor Milton Friedman. And I don’t really want to find much fault in that. Friedman was a man of many accomplishments, and his life warrants the acknowledgement of the House.

But it does smack a bit as “too little too late,” doesn’t it?

Which brings to mind a phrase people used to use all the time: “honored in the breach.”

That’s what liberty is like in America, too often. Honored in the breach. Or: honored in speech but not in practice.

Had the Republican majority actually taken Milton Friedman’s advice during the 109th Congress, and put principles of freedom above practices designed for getting re-elected, they would have been controversial, sure, and condemned by many. But they would also have earned some respect. They might even have been . . . re-elected!

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.