Rhetorical Analysis Final [Osmond]


In “An Open Letter to Bill Bennet” by Milton Friedman, Friedman tries to persuade Bennet to reconsider their stance on the War on Drugs to a more forgiving method of going after drug users. Bennet uses forms of pathos, such as appealing to emotions, forms of logos by citing key events that lead to the increase of drug use and builds credibility through ethos to try and persuade Bill Bennet and the Bush Administration.

The type of rhetoric used in the letter is deliberate rhetoric, meaning that the letter focuses on how the government should respond in the future (passing legislation, laws etc.) in response to the increase in drug use. In Friedman’s eighth paragraph, he states, “Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately,” (306). Friedman believes that the government should decriminalize drugs in order for drug use to go down. He concludes that by decriminalizing drugs, dealers will have less incentive to sell because of the decreases profits and that more of the government’s resources can focus on rehabilitation on drug addicts.  

 In the second paragraph, Friedman attempts to level with Bennet and build ethos; by starting his sentences multiple times stating “you are not mistaken…”(306), Friedman address that he hears the other side of the of the argument. By being able to address the other side as an equal rather than someone who is inferior to him, Friedman builds ethos by demonstrating that he has an understanding of the other argument. Starting his letter off with building ethos allows the reader to take the letter more seriously as he or she will have a higher chance of listening to his argument.

Friedman then, in his third paragraph, points to where he disagrees with Bennet and the Bush Administration and uses forms of logos to build his argument. Friedman states that “Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of drug lords; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft, and assault,” (306). By using logos based off of facts right after he built credible ethos, Friedman creates a stronger argument by showing he has analyzed both sides of the argument thoroughly. Furthermore, the use of facts show that Friedman knows the root cause of the problem for the war on drugs; by focusing the law enforcement resources on trying to criminalize drug users, they are unable to stop drug users in the first place. 

In Friedman’s seventh paragraph, he uses a combination of pathos and logos to convey his argument. Friedman states that “Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror,” (306). On the surface, logos is prominent because he is stating obvious facts that if the United States did not oppose drugs so aggressively, these Latin American countries would have less crime. However digging deeper, the United States has a moral obligation to stop the terror in these countries because the United States is at fault and Friedman is trying to make the Bush Administration feel that it is their obligation to stop the war on drugs so these people can live a better life.

Friedman’s final paragraph relies solely on pathos. He begins with, “This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence,” (306). America becoming a police force goes against its founding ideals on personal freedom and liberty.  By putting this at the end of his letter, Friedman is able to make the reader walk away from the letter with a feeling of obligation to make a change with the current situation. 

Friedman’s letter uses forms of logos, pathos, and ethos to build a persuasive argument. Using all three forms of rhetoric, Friedman is able to allow the three forms of rethoric to synthesize and build off each other. By ending his letter with an emotional call to action, citing facts in the middle, and building credibility in the beginning, Friedman creates a strong argument on why the United States should be more passive on their drug policy.   



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