General William Westmoreland, the U.S. Commander in Vietnam, strongly supported involuntary conscription, and told the [Gates] commission that he didn’t want to command an army of mercenaries. “General,” [Milton] Friedman interrupted, “would you rather command an army of slaves?”
Replied Westmoreland indignantly, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Friedman shot back: “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries.” Friedman moved in for the kill. “If they are mercenaries,” he told Westmoreland, “then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; and we are served my mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”
From I Am John Galt by Donald Luskin and Andrew Greta
While many credit the left with ending the draft the Gates Commission which addressed the problem included the likes of Alan Greenspan and Milton Freedman and was enacted by Richard Nixon. It was a shining moment for libertarian thinkers and disciples of Ayn Rand.
Friedman’s exchange with Westmoreland was also a shining moment for the supremacy of reason. Friedman was excellent at making his point without the yelling and interruptions which poisons the debates we are too often treated to on television. Another excellent example of how easily Friedman used his reason and his smile to address critics was this famous interview on Phil Donehue:
This two and a half minute interview is the best defense of capitalism I have yet to find.