Two weeks ago, Thomas Friedman wrote, Web People vs Wall People. “Web people” are the Good Guys who accept what Friedman believes: that the more interconnected the world is, the better. The “Wall People” are, of course, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders followers who don’t think much of this whole globalization thing. Leave aside that Trump supporters are mostly xenophobes who are well to do and don’t really care about economics. You get the idea of his argument.
But I was really struck with something that he said, that sound suspiciously like what Bill Clinton was pushing in 1992. He said that Hillary Clinton was “refraining from telling people the hardest truth: that to be in the middle class, just working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t cut it anymore. To have a lifelong job, you need to be a lifelong learner, constantly raising your game.” That’s interesting, I think.
Lawrence Mishel Is a Livelong Learner
It reminded me of something that Lawrence Mishel wrote last year, Failed Theory Posed by Wall Street Dems Puts Hillary Clinton in a Bind. It it, he noted, “There was a time where it was plausible to argue that more education and innovation were the primary solutions to our economic problems.” But since then, we’ve learned a lot. Friedman famously said, “I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.” Two words and he’s for CAFTA! Mishel is a brilliant economist who looks at actual data — and learns.
So here is Mishel, roughly the same age as Friedman, continuing to learn. But Friedman, the man stealing ideas from a politician 25 years ago hasn’t learned a thing since at least 2005 when he published The World Is Flat. I guess it’s just the poor who need lifelong learning and not overpaid columnists who write constantly about economics without actually knowing anything about it.
Thomas Friedman Married Well
And Thomas Friedman isn’t just wealthy. I read this from the great Norman Solomon:
That was in 2011, when Thomas Friedman and his wife were building a $10 million house. I don’t care. As Solomon noted in the article, this doesn’t make Thomas Friedman’s arguments invalid. But it does make you wonder. There is no doubt that globalization is a great thing when you are part of one of the hundred richest families in America. And everyone has a frame. Friedman’s not too open about his frame.
Thomas Friedman Stop Learning Long Ago
But it’s amazing to think. We went through NAFTA and it didn’t work as promised. (Since then, various different justifications have been offered.) We’ve been through the Dot-Com bust. We’ve been through the Great Recession. We have seen worker salaries stagnate — including those of the college educated. And what did Thomas Friedman learn from all this? Zip! Nada! Not a damned thing!
Yet there he is: a columnist at The New York Times! And it’s not just that. Those in power listen to him (or he’s just an apologist for them). And he’s here to tell us that all we have to do is open ourselves up to education. I have a better education than Thomas Friedman — in a supposedly valuable STEM discipline! And as a professional freelance writer, I am by definition a lifelong learner. But it hasn’t helped me that much. It certainly hasn’t helped me the way marrying into the General Growth Properties family did Thomas Friedman.
Lifelong learning is for the prols! It’s for the people who didn’t marry well. It isn’t for Thomas Friedman!
I need to marry well. It lets you do all sorts of things like be a NYTimes columnist where the truth doesn’t matter AT ALL.
Yeah, with that kind of money, you’d be a full time political/social reformer, and you know it. Unlike most liberal reformers now, you wouldn’t have to worry about bills and food.
Living in Minnesota, I tried to get into hockey; I really did. And while violence upsets me, the skating and goaltending ARE impressive. Then the team got sold to a super-conservative who married well (bug spray heiress.) Who lobbied hard for the 2008 GOP convention in “his” hockey arena. (Publicly financed and owned, of course.) Haven’t watched a game since. I show polite interest when locals rant about hockey; that’s enough to get by!
There are two kinds of writers: those who posit these stupid dichotomies, and those with the skill or decency not to. Web people? Spider Man reference? No, it’s Friedman. Some kind of networking analogy. Wall people? Those who stand against the wall at parties because they… can’t network? Oh, it’s a free trade piece. Free and Trade. The best, yes? How about we let shady organ harvesting cartels have Free Trade to your meatspace? Well, not YOU, Tom. You’re rich. Less rich people? Who could object?
“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”
It’s sad that we are back to talking about Dickens. But it is appropriate.
To some extent I’m glad to be relatively poor because it keeps a check on my arrogance. If I had been so profoundly wrong about so many things for so long as Friedman has been, I’d hide away in my bedroom and emotionally torture myself. But I’m sure that Friedman thinks is a force of good in the world. It’s amazing.
I don’t welcome the guillotine. But if it comes, I will not be surprised. Most people will not be surprised. The only ones who will be surprised are the Friedmans of the world. I’m sure he’ll be thinking about webs as they build a wall around his neck. And: chop!
Of course, Friedman is incompetent. Even supposing the abstract strengths of the arguments of him and others like him, they fall down because richer, better-paid people are not more competent, productive, or valuable than anyone else. In his case: the shittiest floor cleaner in New York is worth far more than him.
His work sucks, yet he is well-paid anyway. It doesn’t suck because I disagree with him; it sucks because it fails to meet minimal, politically-neutral, standards of quality.
On my worst day I do better work than him, over the whole year. He’s incompetent.
Ultimately, he’s a commodity. I wonder though. I know that Krugman has been hugely popular with NYT readers. Is Friedman? Or is it just he is hugely popular with “important” NYT readers?
Regardless, my political evolution is leading me to the conclusion that all is random. Friedman is a well-paid journalist for the same reason Victoria was queen: dumb luck. The idea that one person is more worthy than another is bunk. Of course, I don’t believe in free will, so of course I’d think that.
I imagine his pithy little analogies make for good talking points among rich dullards. Like Limbaugh’s outrages of the day, for people who consider themselves to sophisticated for radio. But if he retired to become a llama farmer tomorrow, the paper’d replace him with an identical clone in a heartbeat. That he’s rich and not some other ex-reporter with identical views is purely random.
Oh yeah! He’s easily replaceable. The funny thing is that he had credibility as a foreign correspondent. Then he was wrong the Iraq War so often that a unit of time was named after him. There is not accountability.