Tom Friedman had an odd thing to say on MTP on Sunday (an odd thing he has said before in his columns):
Host David Gregory asked “Where is the center that actually does something, that actually achieves things in Washington if this is what we’re creating?”
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, David, it’s been decimated. It’s been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don’t like where you’re going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control–really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that’s really what, what it’s come down to. So I don’t–I, I–I’m worried about this, it’s why I have fantasized–don’t get me wrong–but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don’t want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.
The problem with this stance is multiple. First, despite his protestations about wanting his democracy, what he is wishing for here is the power of the state to make autocratic decisions. No doubt, all of us wish for that on occasion, but only if the government would do what we want it to do. The messiness of democracy is that none of us gets exactly what we want, hence our continual frustration with Congress. Second, he seems to be assuming that China has some special record for effective policy-making. I am unaware of such evidence. Yes, it is true that China has grown remarkably in recent years, but that growth has hardly been to the uniform benefit of its population. For one thing, a rather large percentage of the Chinese population lives in highly undeveloped conditions. For another, the safety standards and working conditions for vast swaths of the population are hardly ideal.
Sometimes it seems that Friedman travels the world, gets to see the best of a given country, and then extrapolates that the rest of the country must be like the best bits. He sometimes has a point about inadequacies in the US, but his overall methodology stinks.
I will allow that that there are any number of structural reforms to the US government that would allow for better functionality and maybe even better decision-making, but China is not the place to look for recommendations.
Democracy allows everyone the fantasy that they have the answer, and know just what to do. Friedman is apparently giving voice to that without the recognition that someone else could have a completely different to-do list.
That said, the part about democracy, especially our democracy at this point in time, producing sub-optimal solutions is certainly true. We tell kids that democracy is “best” and imply that means best policies. Not really. The strength of democracy is that it can keep trying new policies, without bloody revolution.
Rand Paul has been widely and unjustly criticized for thinking out loud like this. I get what Friedman is saying but it’s the thoughts of a high school kid. Adults know such power, even for a day, is dangerous and not worth the risk.
I’m amazed this is what kind of thinking passes muster at the paper of record.
Q: “If you could be king for today, what would be your first decree?”
A: “That I also be king tomorrow.”
“It’s good to be the King.” — Mel Brooks
Or, as I like to say, being absolute dictator is great, but those jobs are hard to come by.
Steve, did anyone say Friedman is electable?
Apples and oranges.
What’s most unsettling about the clip is that Friedman apparently believes that “the right solutions” to all of our problems exist and could be implemented in one day. I imagine him outlawing the combustion engine at 9 A.M. and mandating electric cars by noon. And then what happens? I suppose ordering the military to fire on the noisy rabble that has walked and biked to the public squares across the country.
Friedman has on more than one occasion proclaimed his love for the Chinese Communist’s absolute rule. This is merely the latest example.
Apparently he knows exactly what the optimal solutions are, feels that “democracy”, which we do not have here, is in the way, and that a dictatorship would produce his optimal solutions.
The fact that he believes any of this is just scary. If enough of us start to think like that…
Someone once said on CNBC, that we have lawyers for politicians and China has engineers for politicians. While China has its problems and its cheap labor, they are doing the things they are doing to have 8% plus growth. We sit with failed ideology, spend our money, and throw our jobs away. We used to do great things in our country. We built the Hoover Dam, we put men on the moon, and we built the interstate that increased commerce. In other words, we invested in our country, in the people, and in the future. With the far left and the far right in charge, we have none of that. Just failed ideology that does us no good-and China is winning on our mistakes. Just like we are winning on Europe’s mistakes. And we keep going down this path to nowhere.
Call me back when China’s per capita income goes over $10,000. It’s a lot easier to grow when practically your entire population is in nonproductive farming and your economy is supine than it is when you’re the U. S. or Germany.
Right Gerry. We like our democracy but democracy should not excuse crap government.
@Dave: exactly. It is a very simple point that most general discussions of China totally miss.
Friedman is very into nice infrastructure. He likes a good airport. And our airports are crap.
That aside, people need to get past the China paranoia. We’ve already been through this with Japan, the EU, the Arab oil states, the USSR.
Can we just outgrow the whole “They’re so much cooler than we are,” thing now?
I can see where Friedman’s coming from, though, even if his view is simplistic and misleading (likely a product of meeting a bunch of english-speaking high ministers after golfing). A lot of the infrastructure projects and the like that China is doing would be nearly impossible in the US – the NIMBYism is just overpowering.
And that is the point. They have surpassed the GDP of Japan and they are going to take over Germany or they may have already. They will be second to us. And as you say, China is starting from the bottom. That means our old “capitalistic” economy that has built in safety measures from OSHA to social security to having a middle class as we know it will feel the pressure. We cannot compete with cheap labor of this magnitude. And we have done nothing of much to address this problem. We continually lose the middle class. And ideology will not get us to where we need to go. Even if their per capita income is less than $10,000 dollars, it will do a lot of damage to our mature system. They are selling more cars, and building whole cities. It is a dynamic growth that we will not see in our lifetimes in our own country. It takes us a lot more effort to grow faster than 3% in our country and we barely do that. So comparing their average of 8% to our average 3% at best, means China continues to eat away at our middle class. Collectively, we are the slow moving elephant with failed ideology while China has tremendous growth.
I don’t want to sound like I am praising them. They have a lot a challenges ahead with human rights, it is just the fact that they keep eating away at our middle class. And when will we learn that we have to do something in our country to preserve the middle class as we know it.
No, the strength of democracy is that the people do not pledge an oath of fealty to the idea of “government.” They are self-interested, self-governing, and self-reliant. The corruption of democracy in this country today is the problem, not the model of governance. As long as people feel that tour government is foundationally ” by the people, for the people” , or at least they are not being cheated out of an opportunity to direct the ruling class, a bloody revolution can be avoided.
Failed ideology? Wow. Just, Wow. Compared to what?
Our jobs are not being “thrown” away, unless you count the outrageous burden placed consumer prices by the unions and the resultant lack of competitive pricing against foreign manufactured goods.
Even so, the simple fact of the matter is that developing countries have a wage scale that will always be lower in US dollars than home-made goods. That’s the way its always been and that’s the way it will always be. In the 1800’s it was entire continents that had cheap labor and goods because of the standard of living that pervailed. In the 21st century, it is China, India, South Asia, and South America.
If this was a poker game I’d far rather hold our cards than the hand the Chinese have. In fact, I’d rather have Germany’s or Japan’s over China’s. China has a handful of millionaires, a tiny middle class, and around a billion poor, unskilled workers living without plumbing. That is not a really good place to be.
It’s also not great to have common borders with Russia, India, the Stans, Vietnam and North Korea.
Their current level of growth is unsustainable. They’re using that growth to keep a billion peasants in line, and to buy acquiescence from the middle class. What happens when growth falters? What investment do those billion people have in a distant city like Shanghai or a government in Beijing? What happens when they can’t send their favorite son off to work in a new factory? China has always suffered from internal divisions, they’re typically held together by main force — an emperor’s army, or Mao’s party. What holds them together when the expansion fades?
I live in a town in Ohio of 14,000 people and there are many towns like mine. We lost some 2000 jobs with three plants closing and that was under the Bush tax cuts. And that was a failed ideology. You cannot sit on tax cuts when 2 billion people want your jobs. You are going to have to do more than that. Small towns cannot diversify. This past week another place closed up that had 30 employees, and the town is laying off 10 teachers.
Since the fall of communism, we have seen the opening up of these countries. Yes, we always had cheap labor before, but not of the numbers that we have now. Your attitude is the same laissez-faire approach that Bush had. Just have tax cuts and say “free trade is good”, spend our money on war, and “stay the course.” I don’t think I will ever see the dumbest eight years again in my life. We sat on ideology while China has this tremendous growth. They even have a factory of 300,000 people. They have built the largest airport, they have high speed rail, they use up raw material, and they have contracts for oil as they grow a middle class. We have seen Japan take our autos, steel, and electronics. We have seen Hong Kong take our textiles. And we can see China will take the rest.
And to compete as you have said, then I guess our wages have to be comparable to those of China and Mexico. This is big talk, but it seems like no one has answers except that in the end we need to lose the middle class. And as we have seen in recent years, there is a bigger gap with the rich and the middle class as the middle class has no upward ability. But hey, we may not have jobs, but we got the ideological tax cuts. And the tax cuts did not create the jobs, did not prevent a recession, and did not create prosperity.
You are comparing us to China, and that is apples and oranges. What China is doing is what Japan did to us. They take one industry after another, as their leverage is cheap labor. I only ask, what are we doing in this country, to preserve our jobs and the middle class. And think about this, what widget can be made in our country and not in China? What I am saying is that anything can happen. We are living as if nothing matters. As if we supplied the world in the 50’s and 60’s. That has changed. McDonalds has experimented with a drive thru that your order first goes to India and then back to have a hamburger. Dell left Ireland (a business friendly country) and went to Poland for cheap labor. Again, anything can happen. And we cannot sit with our big elephant and be all things to all people and the world, while other countries eat away at our jobs.
Another thing on millionaires. Actually, Forbes had their annual millionaires column and more new millionaires surpassed that of the U.S. And while China has a lot of poor, they are trying to create a middle class. And we are trying to hold on to ours. As of now, they don’t need skilled labor at cheap wages. It is us that needs skilled labor as to keep our lifestyle and the government benefits that we have.
Their growth is unsustainable yes, however, they already took several million jobs. And those jobs are not coming back. It is possible that their growth falters, on the other hand, if the country progresses, they will need to feed a growing middle class. And we did that since the 1920’s in this country. Now, it is us that has to struggle to find “new” jobs.
Tax cuts do create jobs, because more capital is available for small and medium sized businesses to invest – and therefore expand- their manufacturing and services. Your statement about tax cuts not creating prosperity ignores almost 20 years of sustained growth, from the early 80s to approximately 2001 when the dot com bubble burst.
The ultimate question here, that critics of our supposedly “failed” capitalistic policies can never address, is, “What better way?”
You want more middle class jobs, but you want all of the costs of running a business to be mandatorily increased by government regulation and intervention; fuel, health care, liability insurance, etc. This doesn’t even account for the smothering impact of DOA (agriculture), EPA , FDA, and other regulations that prevent and even prohibit expanding business in many, many areas.
Farmers get paid to not grow crops, miners can’t mine, pipelines and refineries can’t be built, automakers have to suck up to unions and the pension obligations are bankrupting the companies. Entire industries that made up the middle class have been gutted by government regulation – mining, fishing, logging, And I’m not talking about safety regulations , at all. There is no innovation in American industry because there is too much burden on start-ups from the moment they get big enough to be a milk cow for the government money machine. Or run afoul of the “Green Police.”
Meanwhile, government workers pay is now higher across the board than private industry. The producing class in this country is nothing but a means to an end for the political class. That’s the problem. When Americans need, they do. They create. They innovate. They succeed. Just get out of the way, make sure nobody gets hurt, and let us focus on building on our successes – not building up the government.
The tax cuts was for the here and now. During those tax cuts we lost millions of jobs. As we “stayed the course” (Bush words) we saw our jobs leave the country or consolidate. Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine? | NewAmerica.net
Companies, if they expand their business, do not have to expand here, they can go to another country, so there is no guarantee of that. And if tax cuts puts more money in the hands of people, then half the products they buy are made from another country. And mind you, it was Alan Greenspan and others on Wall Street and in Washington that said we did not need manufacturing, that this was going to be a service or an information society. So now, that my town and others lost the jobs, we resort to cash for clunkers, extension of unemployment benefits, and casinos for every state. So the cities and states are struggling when we have globalization in which no one wants to recognize. And cities and states cannot compete with 2 billion cheap laborers.
Yes, we had over 20 years of sustained growth ever since Paul Volcker got rid of inflation. It was Bush who squandered that growth with his “guns and butter” policy. That inflation of the 70’s came from LBJ with this Great Society and Vietnam spending. And Bush went with the ideology of “trickle down and having a war at the same time also. So one was inflation and this time it is deficits and debt. As I have said many time before, you cannot run up deficits and debt, send our jobs overseas, our money to Iraq, and neglect our infrastructure and our economy. It was “stay the course” and Bush ran the country into the ground.
We have regulation because we are a mature country. There maybe too many regulation, I don’t know. Of course, looking at the oil spill and to Wall Street, you have to wonder.
With this new format, I have difficulty getting url’s in to back up my statements.
If you want the government to get serious on employment then they have to do the following:
Fix the antitrust laws that Reagan relaxed. Monopolies and consolidations destroyed jobs.
Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine? | NewAmerica.net
2. Invest in your country: That is energy independence for security and jobs. Also a new air traffic control system that will save 12% on fuel. The savings to the airlines can go to build new aircraft. A high speed internet system. Perhaps high speed rail.
3. Invest in your people: That is mandatory vocational training. We live in a globalized world and you can no longer rely on factories. We have to be an educated society.
Hudson Institute > Promoting U.S. Worker Competitiveness in a Globalized Economy
4. Invest in the future: Federal research grants to be given to universities and business to bring out new technologies. Today there are no new jobs to go to for those unemployed. You need new areas of growth. No playing games with embryonic stem cell research.
5. Consider an “American job elimination tax” on companies that move out of the country. These companies do not pay middle class wages, healthcare, pensions, social security, or city and state taxes.
6. Get away from failed ideology. We saw it for 8 years. Tax cuts do not solve problems. Does not prevent recessions. And does not create prosperity. You still have to solve problems. Ideology does not solve problems.
7. Supporting small business sounds nice and it is heard in Washington, but it does not work in my community as the big business left. That means you cannot have small business as people lost their jobs. Besides, small business will never pay what big business paid in wages.
8. We are losing the middle class. We cannot compete with 2 billion cheap laborers in the world that want our jobs. There are not enough jobs to go around. Competition is good, but it can be harmful also. All we are doing in this country is build the same business environment so that we can knock the other guy out. A person loses his job and has no place to go to. And the reason is that we did not invest in our country, in our people, and in the future.
You know, under Bush I waited for three days to see some action on New Orleans. And all we got was “Brownie you’re doing a heck of a job.
I waited year after year just when we were going to do something on the quagmire on Iraq, until John Murtha and others started talking about it. And Bush said “stay the course.”
I waited year after year on Afghanistan as we abandoned it for Iraq, and there was nothing
I waited year after year as we lost the jobs and Bush would only say “stay the course.”
Now that is what I experienced. Now tell me something new. It was laissez-faire at its best. Either that or the dumbest president we ever had.
The surge (Bush’s surge) worked, despite Murtha, Biden, Et. all fighting any more troop deployments. Can’t have it both ways – either Bush was wanted to do something and the Dems were busy trying to find a way to surrender, or Bush did nothing and the Dems were in favor of doing even less. Which was it? Not to mention the political pressure from the media “KIA watch’ force fed to Americans every night on the news. BTW, funny that all went away when Obo became President, isn’t it?
Y’all want it both ways – Bush is a war criminal because of the war, and he is also a “do nothing” because he didn’t prosecute it more vigorously.
Three days for the Feds to get involved in Katrina. That’s pretty quick wouldn’t you think? Or I guess its just a side show that the entire state of Louisiana abdicated its responsibility under the National Disaster Response plan to be the First Responders until the Feds can get ramped up. Gotta blame it on someone, so I guess it should be a Republican president, huh?
Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps you think Obo’s current delay of 30 days on the oil platform is better. Not t mention that he is out golfing , while bravely sending his minions out to make stern pronouncement about how we’re going to hold BP accountable. How do you feel about that?
If you open a restaurant that serves great steaks, you better be ready for someone to serve steaks across the street at a lower price. At that point you have a decision to make – either make a better steak than your competition, or reduce your costs so you can compete. Whether its a store, or a nation, the principle is the same.
LOL, they didn’t have the Pledge of Allegiance in your elementary school?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands… It’s not a pledge to the government, champ. I’m glad you support the pledge though. Some folks get excited about the “One nation under God” bit.. Glad you don’t fall into that category.
I think “no way, we’re way better than China” is a very shallow reading of the issue. Admittedly, Freidman wasn’t terribly deep himself, but still.
Once we move from Friedman’s “if we had a king” the next thing is to say honestly how well we are handling our problems.
Not well. Look at the BP oil farce. Not just the operational error and resulting calamity, but that the public seems to be turning to the idea that government should take over, that it’s Obama’s problem. That is “private profit, socialized losses” all over again.
What a world. And anti-drilling Democrat President is suddenly holding the bag for “drill, baby, drill.”
The Republic is indeed a government.
As he should be. First, he’s the President. He wanted the job he just didn’t want the responsibility that goes with it. Much easier to get in a few quick holes on the golf course. And Second, if it weren’t for the nutcases and enviro-wackos, then this might have been a good ol’ fashioned surface well head instead of being 5,000 feet under the surface of the ocean. It’s a lot cheaper to develop a well on dry land than in the Gulf. But no. What a concept, not having to go a hundred miles offshore to use the natural resources that are readily available to us.
Yes, epic fail – on you. A republic is a form of governent. The Republic is the Union, hence the “United States” being looked at as “one nation.” Dude, there’s a difference between a noun and an adjective. Public School?
Juneau, you wrote:
When someone cites the Pledge of Allegiance the best thing to do is to concede gracefully. Then you can reassure yourself “hey, I may have been wrong, but I’m not the typical internet wacko who can never admit that.”
To take the preposterous position that we only pledge to our actual government, and this somehow slips you out of your original claim … preposterous.
Maybe your original claim just didn’t mean anything.
But I suppose you don’t support nationalization of all oil companies, you know, before they screw up?
No, I bet you want them to make maximum profit, and then to hand their problems over to the Pres after they happen.
Buddy, if you thought you were pledging that to the government when you were a kid, then you were born a far greater cynic than I ever want to be. Allegiance to the republic is not allegiance to whoever happens to be sitting in the oval office or the congress. It is a pledge of allegiance to the Republic . If you think that’s the government, and our specific government is explicitly by the people and for the people, then you are saying that we are pledging allegiance to ourselves. But you think that it’s a pledge to our Federal Government?
This is not mere semantics. It is your view that is preposterous.
Go ahead, make me a perfect world please. I’ve been waiting for one quite awhile now and I’m glad that the Government is going to give it to me. Accidents happen. The government already had oversight of the systems that failed in this case.
Airplanes still fall out of the sky occasionally. Ships still sink. Trains still get derailed. School buses still crash. Do I nee to go on? Accidents happen. Period.
Do you recommend that the FAA needs to regulate airlines more thoroughly as well? Or is it just birds and seal life that count, not human loss? The airline industry is one of the most regulated industries in the US – and it still happens.
Of course it is a pledge to our actual government, and that is why so many libertarians oppose it, think it was a mistake.
“Libertarians object because they believe that swearing any kind of loyalty oath to the state is a form of Authoritarianism.” – wikipedia
I think that’s technically wrong. The government was not supposed to go down and inspect the shut-off valve. And I don’t think you want a government so invasive that it would send inspectors around to every shut-off valve in us-territory … or would you?
You can’t make this work. You can’t say you are against big government, and then say since government isn’t big, it’s responsible 😉
I’m just playing follow the leader here. If Bush was responsible for Katrina, then Obama is responsible for BP. That simple. You’ve got the state of Louisiana that was supposed to make sure that the dikes around new orleans were sound, but it’s Bush’s fault that the massive damage was not mitigated soon enough. You’ve got BP that was responsible for inspecting the deep well head, and regardless, Obama is not prepared for the magnitude of responding to the event.
What really grates me is the hypocrisy of the media in the way they are reporting the two different events.
Personally I would take a more realistic approach as stated above. Things happen. If they’re big enough, it takes time to get your mind and arms around the event and get in front of the reaction curve to become proactive and make an impact. Bush was crucified for his response time, and Obama gets away with playing golf. Go figure..
Um. Who built the levees and did vouch for the flood safety of the city?
I don’t remember that being any commercial company making profits up until they handed it over. No it was the Army Corps of Engineers, and the post-flood controversy was to what extent they were honest about their preparation.
You have to be really uninformed to think that. You have to simply not know about the Army Corps as opposed to BP, or you have to be so dishonest as to ignore the fundamental difference.
No, this is a commercial business who screwed up, and under our system it is their responsibility to clean their mess. They have to try as hard as they can, and they will still be sued for damage they could not control.
If we made it so that any big mess was the government’s problem, what would that do in way of “moral hazard?”
This is the banks and Wall Street parallel.
The surge worked after you had the Iraq Study Group and Gen. Petraeus made all kinds of suggestions as for years, Bush ignored the quagmire. The situation was at a point of not knowing what to do.
On Katrina, Bush had a teleconference on the Friday before the hurricane hit. It ended that everything was in place. Now, I don’t know all the details and certainly the governor and the mayor should take the blame. But what we do know is that FEMA was rolled into Homeland Security and many professionals lost their jobs. James Lee Witt, who understood crisis management was fired. You had Brown in his place and he had no experience. James Lee Witt would have had agents at the scene before, during, and after the hurricane.
I, as well as others, watched the event unfold for some three days. Unbelievable, that our government did not know what was going on even when they had a conference on the Friday before the hurricane struck.
Last I knew, our country is not in the oil business and even BP even said to stay out of our business. Since they have the experts and our government does not, then we have to leave it up to BP and the others involved. However, they are going to pay the price.
Competition is good, however, if you have no upward movement, then all you are doing is bankrupting one place and the laid off employees have no place to go to.
Of course, the state of Louisiana had no inspection regimen for the dikes at all. Right… So, therefore, the Army Corp means it is still Bush’s fault? How convenient..
Sure, Nero – let Rome burn so that the Great one can keep his hands clean. That is so lame, and so indicative of the hypocrisy of the left. Our planet, our planet! You must prevent it from being damaged! We have to save the environment! Unless we can use the disaster by pinning it on “big business” and further our agenda. Then – not so much…
Bye, bye integrity. Talk about dishonest.
What a weird rant Juneau. If you are an authentic conservative, you just argued against your own interest. Why not way “what was the Federal government doing protecting and insuring flood prone homes anyway?” That would be the small government position. I’d even support it. It’s a waste of tax dollars and effort to build below water level and then defend the land against rising waters.
Instead you make some weird connection that since the State also inspected the Corps dikes, that suspends Federal responsibility. Really?
should be “why not say” not “why not way”
The problem here is that you have this cookie-cutter image in mind of what “true conservatism” looks like. The concept of “small government” is not a static issue. It does not include a pre-determined formula which always arrives at the conclusion “there is too much governmental involvement in this aspect.”
The point – and even the venerable James Carvill now agrees with me – is simply that Obama is responsible for the dismal Federal response to the oil well event and subsequent actions. He should be castigated for his nonchalance about the issue, and called to task for his naked attempts to lay the consequences on the shoulders of BP.. Regardless of the causation and ultimate liability – this is a National disaster-level event. Where’s the leader of our Nation? Playing golf…