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Yesterday would have been the 103rd birthday of Milton Friedman, who was one of the most brilliant economists of the last century. In honor of Friedman, here are his 20 best quotes.
20) “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
19) “Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.”
18) “It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing.” …
Another great man died a few days ago – Robert Conquest. Here’s the Wall Street Journal.
Robert Conquest, an Anglo-American historian whose works on the terror and privation under Joseph Stalin made him the pre-eminent Western chronicler of the horrors of Soviet rule, died Monday in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 98 years old.
Mr. Conquest’s master work, “The Great Terror,” was the first detailed account of the Stalinist purges from 1937 to 1939. He estimated that under Stalin, 20 million people perished from famines, Soviet labor camps and executions—a toll that eclipsed that of the Holocaust. Writing at the height of the Cold War in 1968, when sources about the Soviet Union were scarce, Mr. Conquest was vilified by leftists who said he exaggerated the number of victims. When the Cold War ended and archives in Moscow were thrown open, his estimates proved high but more accurate than those of his critics.
Mr. Conquest also was a much-decorated writer of light verse and a figure in the “Movement” poetry of 1950s England. He continued to publish into his 90s, applying an unyielding zest to poetry and prose alike. …
… The 1937-1939 Stalinist show trials, in which Stalin’s political rivals all admitted to serious crimes and were shot, shocked many left-leaning intellectuals in the West. The lurid trials set off mass defections from Communist parties in Europe and the U.S. and helped inspire anti-Communist tracts such as George Orwell’s “1984” and Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.”
But the wider slaughter of Soviet citizens had largely gone undocumented until Mr. Conquest’s narrative. Citing sources made public during the thaw under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev as well as émigré accounts, the Soviet census and snippets of information in the Soviet press, Mr. Conquest portrayed the trials as a mere sideshow to the systematic murder carried out by the Kremlin, which routinely ordered regional quotas for thousands of arbitrary arrests and shootings at burial pits and execution cellars. The latest data show that during a 16-month stretch in 1937 and 1938, more than 800,000 people were shot by the Soviet secret police.
These executions came on top of millions of earlier deaths amid the forced famines and collectivization of Soviet agriculture, which Mr. Conquest detailed in a later book, “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine.” Mr. Conquest wrote that Stalin summarily executed millions of people by cutting off food to entire regions, particularly Ukraine. …
… “Penultimata,” a critically acclaimed collection of Mr. Conquest’s poetry, was published in mid-2009 by the Waywiser Press. He was also an enthusiastic crafter of limericks, a form in which his irreverence and flair for language flourished. One version of an often-quoted one reads:
“There was a great Marxist named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
—That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.”
A good example of Conquest’s humor was a letter to the editor of New York Review of Books.
To the Editors:
In a footnote to John Banville’s review of Martin Amis’s House of Meetings [“Executioner Songs,” NYR, March 1] I am quoted as having suggested, for a title for a new edition of The Great Terror, “How About I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?” A few weeks earlier, in a TLS review of Zachary Leader’s The Life of Kingsley Amis (February 2), Clive James called me “unfailingly polite in controversy.”
Hard to reconcile the two views—except that the “I told you so, etc.” comment was actually made, and attributed to me, by the ever-inventive Kingsley.
This also gives me an excuse to join in the welcome to Martin Amis’s moving new book. I am particularly glad to read in his acknowledgments the tribute to Tibor Szamuely, who understood Stalinism better than I did. I remember saying to him that I could see why Stalin had Marshal Tukhachevski shot, but why did he do the same to his old friend Marshal Yegorev? Tibor’s answer was “Why not?”
Here’s the obit from UK’s Telegraph.
Robert Conquest, the writer on Soviet Russia who has died aged 98, was a polemicist and a serious, published poet; but above all he was an historian, one of the outstanding scholars of his time, whose books did as much as any other man’s to alter our view of the communist experience.
Conquest personified the truth that there was no anti-communist so dedicated as an ex-communist. His career illustrated also what the Italian writer Ignazio Silone, another former communist, meant when he said to the communist leader Palmiro Togliatti that “the final battle” of the 20th century would have to be fought between the two sides they represented.
An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet “Socialism”. He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as “one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism”. “He was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitsyn,” said Timothy Garton Ash.
Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had “closed the debate” about Stalinism. …
And to start off our weekend, late night humor from Andrew Malcolm.
Meyers: The White House opened a Twitter account to answer questions about Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Finally using Twitter for what it was designed to do: Explain complex, international nuclear agreements involving several nations.
Fallon: You know that Minnesota dentist who shot a famous lion named Cecil. He’s so evil Donald Trump is considering him as a running mate.
Conan: The Trump International Golf Course in Puerto Rico has filed for bankruptcy. This may be because of Trump’s rule, “No Puerto Ricans on my Puerto Rican golf course.”