Rhetorical Analysis Final [Lundstrom]

For decades, drugs have posed as a prevalent problem in society, inviting discussion and even debate as to how the issue should be solved. Many argue for a war on drugs while others believe that this will only heighten the problem. Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner and economist, writes “An Open Letter to Bill Bennett” which encompasses his position surrounding the war on drugs. Here, he argues that drugs should not be criminalized among other heinous acts, because this only does more destruction to society. In order to establish his argument against the criminalization of drugs, Friedman employs Aristotle’s elements of persuasion- ethos, logos, and pathos.

First, Friedman emphasizes that he agrees with Bennett’s pre-existing idea that drugs are, in fact, a danger to society. By appealing to Bennett’s beliefs and implying that he understands the situation, Friedman is able to establish a sense of trustworthiness. On top of this, Friedman’s accomplishments and title grant him a great deal of reliability, giving him an advantage in convincing others that his methodology is rational. Through these mechanisms, which take the form of ethos, Friedman sets his argument up in such a way that his logic does not need to be questioned for its validity.

This brings Friedman to his actual evidence and rationale, otherwise known as logos. While he neglects to provide statistical evidence, Friedman does mention how the severity of America’s drug problem has grown in recent years, insisting that there are now “more addicts, more innocent victims; more drug pushers, more law enforcement officials; [and] more money spent [on fixing the issue]” than there were in the past (Friedman 5). This illustrates that the methods that are being used to combat drugs are ineffective and may even be amplifying the issue. Elaborating on his theory, Friedman relates economics to the drug war, adding that “crack would never have been invented” if drugs were “decriminalized 17 years ago”(6). He further defends this strong accusation by explaining that the invention of crack is a result of the high cost of illegal drugs which made it profitable to provide a cheaper option. Then, he states that drug use could be drastically reduced if a portion of the money spent preventing drugs and punishing its users was instead spent treating drug users. In other words, this revised strategy involves changing the atmosphere of the problem from one of punishment to one of care and compassion. ¬†Through this timeline of the drug problem, along with its connection to the basic laws of economics, Friedman is able to clearly demonstrate his point. He establishes that the criminalization of drugs causes only catastrophic consequences, while rehabilitation might actually bring about solutions. Overall, Friedman’s use of logos calls Bennett to analyze the situation through his own logical processes.

Finally, Friedman sparks emotion by touching on the more tender sides of the drug war through his application of Aristotle’s rhetorical concept of pathos. He brings this element of his case into the picture at the very start of his letter and continues to weave it through the entirety of the letter. We see the first instances of this particular strategy when ¬†Friedman makes an effort to draw comparisons between Bill Bennett and himself, stating their shared values of “human liberty and individual freedom” (1). In doing so, Friedman implies that his intended solution upkeeps those values rather than violating them as past tactics have. This strategy also informs Bennett that Friedman sympathizes alongside him in reference to the drug issue at hand. Next, Friedman concentrates on the fact that the majority of the population agrees that drugs are a major problem, creating a sense of community. By presenting the severity of the situation and the magnification of the amount of people who care enough to fight it, Friedman is able to devise a call to action. In addition, Friedman utilizes connotative vocabulary including the words “devastating”, “tragedy”, and “evil” to describe the issue and the words “treatment”, “rehabilitation”, and “compassion” to describe the solution. Each of these words carries a heavy meaning intended to tug at the heart strings of those reading what Friedman has to say, introducing motifs of good versus bad. Lastly, Friedman concludes his letter by referring to his writing as a “plea from the bottom of [his] heart” (10). This final remark in his argument to decriminalize drugs demonstrates Friedman’s ties to human passion and captures the essence of his desperation for change. Ultimately, Aristotle’s concept of pathos aids Friedman in persuading his audience to comply with his beliefs by building connections to emotion.

Overall, Milton Friedman’s rhetorical use of ethos, logos, and pathos play a major role in making his argument believable, plausible, and agreeable. His application of the three concepts strategically grab the audience’s attention and inspire change within society, supporting his fight to decriminalize drugs.



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