In response to the nationwide announcement of an anti-drug campaign by George H. Bush, Milton Friedman wrote “An Open Letter to Bill Bennett” in hopes of not only deferring, but calling a cease to this war on drugs. Through Friedman’s comparison of a rather similar –and consequential– period in American history, prohibition and the criminalization of other drugs, he establishes a solid aspect of logical reasoning. Furthermore, he provokes Bennett’s values for the citizens with his concerned diction and the value for freedom with his arrangement. This thoughtful deliberative argument effectively implores Friedman’s proposition to legalize drugs rather than criminalizing them.
By understanding his audience, Friedman utilizes verifiable facts in the United States’ past and present to develop an indisputable argument regarding the consequences of criminalizing drug use. The author illuminates the similarities between “the experience with prohibition” and the situation with heroin and cocaine, describing them as a “replay” of what is being done now. He points out that in all of these instances, the situation digressed into a “disaster”: “…more drug pushers, more law enforcement officials; more money spent to enforce prohibition,…” He continues to compare alcohol and tobacco to drugs by further revealing that legalization could make it easier to regulate drugs –through laws preventing the advertising of drugs and others– unlike the resulting ungovernable crimes that will follow prohibition. This direct comparison to these historical and present day experiences suggests that Bush’s measures to prevent these consequences will only lead to more crime and a trail of money ensuing. Friedman finally concludes that this all could have been avoided in the past by the “decriminalization” of drugs, providing Bennett with a seemingly obvious solution to the problem at hand. All of these facts and references acts as concrete evidence supporting his logical and plausible refutation for Bush’s intentions.
Along with his carefully chosen evidence, Friedman utilizes diction that inspires an atmosphere of concern for the people of America, thereby exploiting Bennett’s ethics. He connects him to the citizens by appealing to emotion. By implementing words such as, “innocent victims”, “ruining”, “tragedy”, and “suffering” he reminds Bennett that this fight for drugs is ultimately for the citizens. Using these words evokes feelings of sympathy and empathy within Bennett, creating a deeper relationship between him and the people that are affected by drugs. This relationship is established further when pronouns including “you” and “us” are used. “You” holds Bennett accountable and implies that everyone is looking to him to make the right decision. Furthermore, Friedman applies “us” which encompasses not only himself, but the American population as well. As a result, disregarding this letter would make it more difficult for Bennett as he would no longer be denying only Friedman, but abandoning the “victims” too. All of these words are exercised to sway Bennett’s perspective on Bush’s chosen approach to fight the war on drugs as well as remind the Bennett of the moral responsibility to the people.
Friedman’s arrangement builds upon this sense of obligation through his careful arrangement. Along with his logical succession of reason that follows in the letter, Friedman adds something at the beginning and the end. In his final plea, it is apparent that a sense of freedom is employed; however this is also seen in the introduction of the letter. In the opening paragraph, he reminds Bennett of the “…human liberty and individual freedom that [they both] cherish,” and concludes his argument by emphasizing freedom as a “friend”. The arrangement reminds Bennett of the very foundation that this country stands upon: freedom. By invoking this principle value, it expresses Bennett’s responsibility as a political representative of the land of the free to uphold this value. If not done, Friedman suggests that the negation of his argument will ultimately be denying the people of their natural birth right of liberty. This gives Bennett strong motivation to comply with the author’s claims and stop this campaign all together.
With well established reasoning and the appeal to emotions through his diction and arrangement, Milton Friedman is able to make a sound argument against the launch of the anti-drug campaign. As these were only a few of the rhetorical aspects within Friedman’s letter, there are many more strategical tools that are used. This reveals the magnitude of rhetoric in writing. It does not have to be of persuasive intents either and it can illuminate the depth and thought that went into the final works of the text. However, most importantly this rhetorical analysis provides insight behind the intentions and the underlying meaning of the piece.