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Megan McArdle

There's No Shame in Joining the Trump Administration

We want the smartest wonks to be in the room where it happens.
What would Milton Friedman do?

What would Milton Friedman do?

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 1975, the economist Milton Friedman gave a series of lectures in Chile, as well as a small amount of advice to Augusto Pinochet, the country’s right-wing dictator. The advice was not on how to best crack down on political dissent, or where to hide the bodies of dissidents you were trying to disappear; it involved economic policy, and was advice that was similar to what he’d have given any government. Nonetheless, Friedman’s left-wing critics somewhat predictably used this brief interlude in a decades-long career to tar him and his ideas.

Whether Friedman should have advised Pinochet has long been a matter of cocktail-party debate in right-wing circles. Is it better for experts to send a message by withholding their expertise? Or if you have good advice to give, is it better to offer it to bad governments -- to benefit their people, even if incidentally the advice benefits the bad governments as well? The utilitarian calculus is, to say the least, unclear.