Last year, on November 16 (the anniversary of the Federal Reserve System, ironically), Milton Friedman died at the age of ninety-four. The editorial in the next day’s Wall Street Journal carried the headline “Capitalism and Friedman,” playing off the title of his 1962 work Capitalism and Freedom. The article’s subtitle read: “The man who made free markets popular again.”
Frank Quattrone has just become the greatest businessman in three generations to escape the anti-business persecutions of twentieth-century liberalism. On August 22, government lawyers offered investment banker Quattrone a laughable “deferred prosecution agreement” that will result in their dropping all charges against him after a year, in return for his agreeing to such onerous conditions as not associating with known felons for the next twelve months.
Robert L. Bradley Jr. was a long-time employee of Enron Corporation, the collapsed corporate giant. During the company’s last seven years he served as speechwriter and regulatory advisor for Ken Lay, Enron’s CEO, who was convicted on May 25, 2006, on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy.
“You’re right to point out the contrast I make between capitalism and morality.” So said New York Times columnist John Tierney in response to my 2002 article about his ongoing efforts to defend free markets. I had called my piece “Two Cheers for John Tierney,” because, after praising the libertarian columnist, I took him to task for the ethical sentiment embodied in one of his headlines: “Good? No, But Greed Is Useful.” “That expresses Tierney’s view perfectly,” I wrote.
Eliot Spitzer became the attorney general of New York in 1999. In addition to carrying out the routine functions of that office, he has used a broad anti-fraud statute to conduct a series of aggressive and well-publicized campaigns against businesses, most notably in the financial industry. His purpose in these campaigns has not been the narrow one of punishing law-breakers. Rather, he has sought a sweeping restructuring of the business landscape in order to make it accord with his moral vision, as though he were a religious dictator suddenly transplanted from the Middle East to Manhattan.


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