Thomas L. Friedman Trying to Reassure Americans

Back to Mr. Thomas L. Friedman. What we like about Mr. Friedman is that he is such an unworthy opponent. It is like playing darts with a blind man or a boxing match against a paraplegic. In a battle of wits, The New York Times columnist is unarmed. We get to pummel him, confident that he can’t hit back.

Yesterday’s column must have been intended to reassure Americans. The 21st century might be the American century too, he says. Yeah, yeah…the Chinese have more of our money than we do. And yeah, they can beat the pants off of us in commerce. And yeah, we’re all growing old and going broke. But we still have something that nobody else has: imagination!

Forget capital formation. Forget savings. Forget relative pay scales. Forget the trade deficit. Forget de-leveraging. Forget mortgage debt and the zombie banks. And forget the public debt and the other $100 trillion worth of financial obligations of the US government.

We can still walk with a swagger and hold our heads up high. Because we’ve got…imagination!

Why don’t other nations have imagination too? Why couldn’t they invent things such as sub-prime mortgages, color-coded Terror Alerts, and the Ultimate Fighting Competition? Friedman does not attempt to explain the Imagination Gap. So, we will just take it as a given.

But he goes on to say that he is worried. In addition to imagination, the other critical ingredient to success in today’s world, he says, is good governance. And here, he’s not so sure that the US has it as a genetic advantage. Indeed, he thinks that the body politic USA sometimes comes up with “suboptimal” solutions.

“A great power that can only produce suboptimal responses to its biggest challenges will, in time, fade from being a great power – no matter how much imagination it generates,” he warns.

Wow…deep…right up their with Machiavelli, Clausevitz and Toynbee.

How do you come up with optimal solutions, you might wonder? Simple. At least, it’s simple in Friedman’s world…where everything is simple. His planet is populated by a race of such simpletons that they can come up with better governmental solutions simply by being “better citizens.” What’s a better citizen? It’s someone who is “ready to sacrifice, even pay, yes, higher taxes…”

Is that all there is to it? If we pay more in taxes we will have better governance. But how much more do we have to pay? Maybe it can be graphed out. If we pay 25% of our incomes in taxes, perhaps our solutions will be 25% optimal. If we raise taxes to 50%…well, 50/50 on the optimal scale ain’t bad. But if we go the Soviet route – to 100% taxation – can we expect optimal solutions 100% of the time?

Oh, Friedman, what a lamebrain you are! We’ll spot you one on that imagination thing; we don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. But on governance, where have you been for the last 50 years? If there’s one thing we’ve learned it is that governance is subject to the law of diminishing returns, just like almost everything else – like greenbacks and girlfriends, the more laws you have, the less you appreciate another one.

Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.
Bill Bonner

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3 Comments on "Thomas L. Friedman Trying to Reassure Americans"

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dsylexic
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ha ha ha. this is going to be an internet classic!.

prozak
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An internet classic?

You might be right.

But only because the DR has so much poor analysis and articles that hold no weight that they should really try to avoid criticising other people’s writing.

Dan
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One thing America is good at is advertising. It’s full of people who talk themselves up, talk each other up and talk and talk empty gloats and promises. They love to lie, and love being lied to. This is not quite the case elsewhere – other countries don’t quite expect it and in their cultures they don’t always quite know how to respond. But human nature is weak and people will by and large succumb to advertising. The big downfall for America and those who run it is that they appear to believe their own lies. They, mere human beings,… Read more »
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