Milton Friedman, the grand guru of unfettered free-market capitalism, the man credited for writing the book for the new global economy. His views took front and center on the world’s stage during the Reagan/Thatcher era and have continued to dominate economic thinking to our day.

In my following epic poem, “o’ Milton,” I will, in verse ask whether unfettered free markets have brought about better lives or been the cause of much unnecessary pain and suffering for the world’s citizens?

Please join me as I begin this journey.

canto i

o’ milton

junta leaders
and a cynical plan
the chicago boys
stand before you… dazzling and groomed

an extortion of colors
and scheme-laden shocks
as a dagger through the heart
they will exploit you as mere pawns in their game

in these dark barren worlds
i awoke to savaging waves
fictitious capital
and a clanking of chains

the empires groan
with contempt and scorn
a sorcerer out of control
impoverished slums and the unemployed

i woke to a wilderness
mad eyes staring back
free marketeers and crooked math
they’ve filled their pockets and flew back home

a void suspended by inward fires
cheating waves of charter’d streams
rugged wintry rocks on paper thin ice
bellowing winds and imagined dreams

scattered shots beneath an oil-crowned moon
whispers in the distance
amidst a black liquid tide
the chicago boys… and a nobel prize

from crisis to crisis
expertly exploiting the desperate ones
o’ professor friedman… what have you done?

canto ii

o’ milton

grand guru of the free market myth
unfettered capital and its desirable end
first the textiles and on to the steel
the debt-ridden farmers, the mines and the factories

catalyzed transformation, shocks and change
from nicaragua to chile and greece
collapse a country, change a regime
where the ends will always justify the means
suave smiling assassins
buying countries, people and seas
planting tyrants, businessmen and kings
perverting understanding… where blood cannot be washed clean

the oligarchs, the princelings, the piranhas
entwined with this crusade
their hazy and ever-shifting lines
creating miracles born of panic and shock

taxes are cuts, all trade will be free
all that is public… will be auctioned away
a rapid-fire plan and your healthcare’s denied
a magic cure… a scheme of premeditated terror

sever the rope and let them fall
it’s the algebra of infinite greed
a leap of imagination and insensitive schemes
the beast of the markets is awakened and unleashed

from crisis to crisis
expertly exploiting the desperate ones
o’ professor friedman… what have you done?

canto iii

o’ milton…

for a drop of oil
allende is blown away
the gift from fidel in his grip
and you were there… side-by-side with pinochet

a weapon of moist flint
the initials of the earth
written with blood
and the thunder of the damned

you taught them to buy their silk
their nylon and cigars
and move in and out
through chaos and revolving doors

free market dogma and
terror in the streets…
a miracle torn in the jungle
let the shots ring out

leaving nothing to hide
your eyes are closed
the keys are lost…
a fistful of empty clay

taken the chain from their ankles
and moved to their necks
clad in stillness
the clouds echo the names of the dead

o’ milton… what have you done?

canto iv

o’ milton…

clocks are unwound
the stars are halted in their course
obscure with gruesome acts
thailand, malaysia and the philippines

turned the working class
into a people of debt
now sit… and watch them fall
broken trees and torn down walls

moving deftly… expertly exploiting
the desperate laid bare
as wall street scavenges
even rummy and cheney were there

asia’s up for sale
trickled down… but not into their hand
genius abandoning nations
lives forsaken, broken and left behind

economic meltdown
the i.m.f. decrees
a billion people fall before you
on bended knee

the disinherited
ones whom neither past
nor future belongs
victims of the friedman chicago class

the hat you’re here to wear
where captives thicken to gaze…
if blood be the price of wealth
good god… they have surely paid

broken and terrified
the torture goes on
o’ milton… what have you done?

canto v

o’ milton

i traveled to sri lanka
to the land of the fishers
to the free markets
and the power of shock

to the tsunami
and a quarter-million dead
to moments of collective trauma
economic theory and a cardboard friend

an enraged sea
in the ocean rain
the wings of the albatross rose up
a mockery of motion and the monsters of men

before their eyes the water dried
i heard the footsteps
i heard the sounds of many
and i saw bones in the wake

hark… neptune’s empire stands
walled off by the surge
they came to break them
their pebbles worn by tabulation

a pretext for rebirth
a glimmer of ancient arms
to pen and protect…
but you left them broken and deformed…

and a billion in slums
o’ milton, what have you done

canto vi

o’ milton…
for 12 years you’ve been gone
but your chicago boys
staked their claim and’ve carried on

a fabricated crisis
and cold war schemes
an endless roar
and a medieval siege

atrocities smile
through their coupes and sanctions
unanswerable riddles
and a man named juan

elected by no one
words are gathered and bound
volumes of myth… indexed and shelved
as the chimes dilute all that’s been done

this criminal assault
beneath your depths
their hollywood show
squeezed, shattered and torn

coordinated sabotage
and the theft of oil
trembling phrases fade to a pause
as they bow before the river-god of blood

for twelve years you’ve been gone
o’ milton, what have you one

canto vii

nelson mandela…

were you duped
caught in the web
of arcane rules and hurried backroom deals

you stepped out
you carried david’s sling
erect and summoned as if a newborn king

you were betrayed
a restless future laid bare
fallen mountains beyond repair

where prowling bestial shapes
lead you down to dust and reeds
to dark ravines, where only horror lay

the chicago boys descended…
their ill-gotten gains
and their market beast

to the last,
all’s been emptied…
a nation fleeced

turning day to night
sun to blood
no jobs, no homes… and a bill for the loans

their trickle-down scandal…
broken images, bribes and lies
crumbling before you… into a handful of dust

dried-up riverbeds of sharpened stones
in a tangled-up land
withered stumps of time and dead men’s bones

o’ milton what have you done

canto viii

the wall collapsed
and the promises made
roared from a black flue
like an emphatic fire… the lies were spewed

as yeltsin eclipsed gorbachev
the victor stepped forward
a new pinochet
a killer’s model… done the friedman way

and your most precious assets
the mines, shipyards and factories
even the ‘commanding heights’
sold… with chicago school brutality

stripped of all value
pillaged in unburied darkness
a tale the color of blood
drowned in cruelty… shattered in mercilessness

the profits flowed westward…
and their cleverly packaged tricks
harnessed chaos among the desperate
above the tyrants and the capitalists
even the sky was wounded…
the sun is just a myth
the crimes have been committed…
and the outside world no longer exists

a soundless landscape
under the clouded night
of an unfocused gaze…
spiraling destruction, mutiny and economic genocide

the hidden rooms, the chill in the air
in the distance the beating drum

o’ milton, what have you done

canto ix

o’ milton

did you conspire with katrina
to confiscate the land
as the funds were stolen
and subsidies moved to corporate hands

did you not hear the cry of gulls
and the deep-sea swell
when you calculated
your profit and what to sell

did you
auction off the schools
forgetting that the working poor…
paid your bills

while at glacial pace
the levees were repaired
and from their shackled noose
the children wept and stared

vivid, ferocious flood
which has formed me
and chased me down
it spread inside… so violently

don’t be fooled new orleans
you will not be rebuilt
just erased…
will we ever know the number killed

get on board
can you climb the wall
there are poolside drinks…
ignore the disaster… the glasses are tall

there is you and there is them
the protected and the damned
the fooled and the one’s that rule
in this, your smothered land

power breaks beyond the waves
vague abstractions
sentences scream in bursts
o’ milton, what have you done

facts evaporate
are scattered and blown away
memories like snapshots
and no one’s troubled by the aftertaste

walls of water
fell from the sky
a terrifying theater
of empty stones and faceless lies

like vital tears
dredging the riverbeds
where investors as serpents
erased all that was left

the drops of blood
beneath the sand
snuffed out the nest
traversing the harshness of man

fate, which is silent…
corridors, stairways and thrones
here, a haunted space formed
endless shields of misery, nothing sheltering the storm

shattered bones along the way
‘we have fed our sea for a thousand years
and yet she still calls…’ as if unfed
you stood betrayed by their lies, their swords and their spears

abhorring nature… upsetting its plans
cry if you must… you stand unseen
in the storm upon your onrushing world
in iraq, sri lanka and new orleans

an ever-widening chasm
of the dazzling rich
and the disposable poor…
the distant gods of indifference

atrocities have crossed the land
you still yearn
as steps take you among the lowest dead
beyond strange roads, in widowed skin

power beyond the waves
vague abstractions
where sentences scream in bursts
o’ milton, what have you done

canto x

squeezed empty
broken and shattered…
and the angry shall become rubble
the conquered and the seized

depatterned societies
rage simmering at the roots
the destruction roars on…
fafnir’s gone off… carrying the loot

believing he can patent the sun
and victimize the victims
exploit the exploited…
while building walls, that have caged you in

they… who sacrifice affections
in madness they will trample
chasing riches and stealing your oil
leaving arrows of famine beyond the darkened moon of battle
as zarathustra’s dragon
guards the cave
where fragments of chaos
are shored against the ruins

and woton robs the poor
as he defaces the earth
miseried villages… and ghettos
in africa, russia and new orleans

the gold has been stolen
brynhild’s mountain top is spinning
as the norns sit…
their threads of destiny… slowly unraveling

a praxis of indifference
shattered and cursed
in glacial tears
measured and dispersed

profiteers drinking blood
sweetened with shit
the wood is gone…
the fire is unlit

cruelty exposed
the misery and shame
untested theories and bloody days
the shock of the coup and those frightful flames

ascending rungs of air
to the void of sunken time…
and at the bottom… all i saw were scars and tears
the slaves have been buried and left behind

from crisis to crisis
expertly exploiting the desperate ones
o’ professor friedman… what have you done?

by Ivan Kireevskii

The complete epic will be included in my upcoming book; Sculptum Est Prosa (Vol 3) – The Voices of the Un-People.


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