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Eskow writes: "Friedman's vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires. Case in point: 15 or 20 million Americans seeking full-time employment? To Thomas Friedman, that's a branding problem."

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: AP)
New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: AP)


Tom Friedman: A New Ayn Rand for a Dark Digital Future

By Richard Eskow, Campaign for America's Future

30 July 13

 

f Thomas Friedman didn't exist, America's high-tech entrepreneurs would have had to invent him. Come to think of it, maybe they did. The dark science-fiction vision he celebrates serves them well, at pretty much everyone else's expense.

Friedman's vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires.

Case in point: 15 or 20 million Americans seeking full-time employment? To Thomas Friedman, that's a branding problem.

Ayn Rand with a human face …

Friedman occupies a unique place in the pundit ecosystem. From his perch at The New York Times, he idealizes the unregulated, winner-take-all economy of the Internet and while overlooking human, real-world concerns. His misplaced faith in a digitized "free" market reflects the solipsistic libertarianism of a technological über-class which stares into the rich diversity of human experience and sees only its own reflection staring back.

Friedman is a closet Ayn Rand in many ways, but he gives Rand's ugly and exploitative philosophy a pseudo-intellectual, liberal-friendly feel-good gloss. He turns her harsh industrial metal music into melodious easy listening: John Galt meets John Denver. That make him very useful to those who would dismantle the engines of real economic growth, the ones that create jobs while protecting life and limb.

Friedman's column in this weekend's New York Times is, characteristically, a Panglossian panegyric to online technology as the salve for all economic problems. In it he paints the picture of a global dystopia where decent jobs are scarce, educational advancement is unattainable, and people must sacrifice their homes, their possessions, and their personal lives to serve and amuse complete strangers.

He can hardly wait.

Mi casa es su casa …

The framing device for Friedman's vision is the tale of two twenty-somethings who, like so many Friedman protagonists, built an Internet company. Friedman's column is called "The Sharing Economy," and it celebrates the creators of an online platform called "Airbnb" which lets people rent out their homes to strangers. Online marketplaces like Airbnb are very interesting economic phenomena. They can be useful and even transformative. But they can also be dangerous, unsafe and overhyped.

Enter Thomas Friedman.

Digital libertarians like Jeff Bezos of Amazon see these digital marketplaces as the electronic realization of a free market fantasy. They promote platforms like Bezos' "Mechanical Turk" system of online job sharing, unconcerned about their ability to accelerate the destruction of decent wages and secure jobs. (They're also blissfully unaware of the embarrassing contradiction between their own libertarianism and the fortunes they've earned from government-created technologies like the Internet.)

Friedman seems to share a Bezos-like vision of unregulated marketplaces for every aspect of human activity. He waxes ecstatic about Airbnb, which he sees as both a practical solution and a broader model for a future economy. Friedman thinks that renting out your private space, your personal time, and your possessions will soon become the only way to make ends meet - that is, unless you possess extraordinary skills, which could land you a mediocre job at best.

And he thinks that's just fine.

Decoding Friedman

Consider this passage from Friedman's column:

"In a world where, as I've argued, average is over - the skills required for any good job keep rising - a lot of people who might not be able to acquire those skills can still earn a good living now by building their own branded reputations, whether it is to rent their kids' rooms, their cars or their power tools."

This paragraph reads like a Zen koan pieced together from cast-away fragments of motivational sales speeches. We're left to infer the meaning of its more obscure phrases from their context, the same way World War II code breakers cracked particularly difficult passages in enemy telexes. So let's try to tease out its meaning, phrase by phrase:

"In a world where, as I've argued, average is over …" (Emphasis from the original.)

"Average is over"? Averaging is a mathematical function, inextricably woven into the fabric of reality as we understand it. How can it be over? It's like saying that subtraction is over, or means and medians are null and void. (Watch yourself, standard deviation. Thomas Friedman has his eye on you.)

What's he really saying here? The "as I've argued" offers one clue to motivation, if not meaning: Anything self-referential from this author - and that's a lot - is a signal that he's floating another potential "The World Is Flat" book title.

But what's he saying? Our context-driven code-breaking takes us to the next phrase:

"… the skills required for any good job keep rising …"

Ah, I see. "Average is over" is connected to job skills. Friedman apparently means that you can't get a good job anymore if your skill level is only average.

Why didn't he just say so?

20 Million Startups

What are the implications of a world in which you must be above average to get "any good job"? When Garrison Keillor described Lake Woebegon as a place where "all the children are above average," it was a joke. But Friedman's not joking. He's describing a world in which ordinary people are excluded from decent employment - and he's doing it without expressing regret or demanding change.

To be fair, Friedman is an advocate for education - in his own way. But his education arguments, like his economic ones, focus on the online, the gimmicky, and the jargon-laden. Friedman's world doesn't seem to include manufacturing jobs, or construction jobs, or good government jobs. He envisions a workforce made up almost exclusively of "lateral thinkers" and "integration" engineers. Students should be trained to "invent" their jobs, says Friedman, who claims that self-invented work will be the best source of future employment.

Based on the number of people currently seeking full-time employment in the U.S. alone, 15 or 20 million people need to "invent" their jobs pretty quickly. That's a lot of Internet start-ups, along with a whole boatload of "lateral thinking."

Friedman's unrealistic view of the labor force, shared by many tech entrepreneurs, is one in which the middle class is as passé as a Commodore 64. How can formerly middle-class Americans survive in the world they envision?

Average White Brand

According to Thomas Friedman, tens of millions of un- and under-employed Americans can "earn a good living online by building their own branded reputations." (That's right: He went there. He said "branded reputation.") Using websites like Airbnb, Friedman suggests, they can rent out "their kids' rooms, their cars or their power tools."

Friedman seems unaware that millions of Americans don't have kids' rooms. (Lots of people don't have cars or power tools, either.) He might be astonished to learn that even in New York City, where he is professionally based, nearly half the population is considered either "poor" or "near poor." Those who live in ghettoes or other concentrations of minority poverty don't seem to exist for him.

Airbnb was co-invented by a kid who needed rent money after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. But there are families that can't afford to send their kids to the Rhode Island School of Design. And not everybody can move to San Francisco, where Friedman's plucky young heroes conducted the business transaction which led to the creation of Airbnb.

"Three people stayed with us," said co-founder Brian Chesky, "and we charged them $80 a night. We also made breakfast for them and became their local guides."

San Francisco's one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the country. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Friedman that not everybody lives in such a desirable location - or that some of us would rather not give up a large chunk of our personal space to strangers while serving as their personal cooks and chauffeurs. What's next? Hiring ourselves out to millionaires as "faithful family retainers," antebellum-style ?

As I read this column my mind kept wandering to the recent Bill Moyers program about Milwaukee, "Two American Families," and to a recent visit to my equally hard-hit home town of Utica, New York. Trust us, Mr. Friedman: There won't be a lot of "Airbnb" tourists looking to rent beds or cars in Milwaukee or Utica.

hellonearth.com

Friedman seems blithely unaware of the role of regulation in keeping us safe. Do we really want to rent cars from strangers without knowing whether they've been properly maintained? A "branded reputation" is fine until the brakes give out on a steep incline. And power tools? One broken chain-saw blade and you could wind up looking like a bit player in a Tobe Hooper movie.

But safety, important as it is, barely scratches the surface of the problem. Friedman's overall vision, his conception of a "new economy," is what's truly terrifying.

Any rational person who has glimpsed Friedman's dystopian future - which he has pretty accurately envisioned, based on current trends - would urgently begin seeking out alternatives and solutions. They'd want to prevent our economy from becoming an electronic marketplace where the needy and desperate peddle their time, space and possessions to the well-to-do in a desperate bid for survival.

They certainly wouldn't celebrate this sci-fi dystopia, as Friedman does.

Mirror, mirror …

There are alternatives we can pursue collectively: An aggressive government program of job creation. A return to the days of social mobility. An end to the gross concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. And, above all, affordable education for all so that we can restore the American dream of self-advancement.

Instead Friedman glorifies globalization and the destruction of good jobs. He's indifferent to the loss of social mobility and infatuated with mediocre or at best mildly clever web enterprises. Friedman is the praise singer of Palo Alto, the griot of Los Gatos, and he's never met a Internet billionaire he didn't like.

Thomas Friedman is the perfect mirror for the undeserved self-infatuation which has infected our corporate, media, and political class. He's the chief fabulist of the detached elite, the unfettered Id of the global aristocracy, the Horatio Alger of self-deluded, self-serving, self-promoting techno-hucksterism.

But give the man his due: When it comes to "building your brand reputation," Friedman's a master of the art. It helps to have the perfect platform, of course. As soon as the New York Times is ready to hire 20 million more columnists, our employment problems will be over.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+53 # DPM 2013-07-30 08:49
Friedman sounds like Charles Koch with his, "Eliminate the minimum wage to encourage people to start their own businesses. i.e. beauty parlors."
Who REALLY benefits, I wonder.
 
 
+29 # shep 2013-07-30 09:11
Best column I have read in years.
 
 
+62 # Cailleach 2013-07-30 09:29
I have often said that there should be a law in this country that everyone would be very poor at some time in their lives. No one would know when it was going to happen or how long it would last. Imagine what this would do to our empathy quotient.
 
 
+7 # tomo 2013-07-30 16:38
Sounds like John Rawls. Were something like this feasible, it would no doubt have excellent results.
 
 
-14 # Depressionborn 2013-07-31 08:24
Quoting Cailleach:
I have often said that there should be a law in this country that everyone would be very poor at some time in their lives. No one would know when it was going to happen or how long it would last. Imagine what this would do to our empathy quotient.



We do not know anyone who has not been very poor at some time in their lives.

They didn't blame anyone, they thought poor was normal. With some hard work and a little luck most were able to leave it in the past; yes, a fortunate generation.

When we "old guys" speak of our lives and our good fortune we feel sorry for those of you that are still young and never have been poor. You will need to solve the problems we left you, and, quite frankly, rsn "agreeable groupies" do not seem up to the task.

Instead of silly nonsensical kneejerk agreement you will need disagreement and critical thinking; ignorance of history is a good way to repeat it and we are looking more like Rome every day. Not to mention the Jews before their 70 years of slavery in Babylon, or National Socialism in 1920 Germany.

We has a easy life, you may have a tough one. Life is often tough. It is really tough if your stupid.
 
 
+6 # dkonstruction 2013-07-31 13:44
Quoting Depressionborn:
[quote name="Cailleach"]

We do not know anyone who has not been very poor at some time in their lives.

They didn't blame anyone, they thought poor was normal.

When we "old guys" speak of our lives and our good fortune we feel sorry for those of you that are still young and never have been poor.

ignorance of history...It is really tough if your stupid.


My parents grew up poor as did all of their friends. None of them saw it as "normal" or "didn't blame anyone" precisely because they were not ignorant about history and understood that this has been the case with capitalism from day 1. What most are ignorant about is in thinking that the post-World War II born years was "normal" when in fact this was an aberration for capitalism.

Friedman is twisted but so is feeling sorry for anyone that has never been poor or to believe that being poor will be good for them. This is classical "liberalism" (as a political philosophy) which also believed that it was "natural" for most to be poor and that the state should not do anything about it (and for some of these they believed this to be god's will and or punishment).

(continued)
 
 
+11 # dkonstruction 2013-07-31 13:50
My parents were also Jewish and lived through both the Depression and the Nazi years (though they were born here)...Jews did indeed rise through the middle class in this country (mostly during the post World War II boom years) but in large part this was due to their assimilation into the dominant culture and also because Jews became "white" in this country and thus were able to access many benefits that people of color were not (e.g., the bulk of benefits coming from the new deal legislation including such things as low-interest mortgages to purchase a home through the FHA).

Finally, like Friedman you seem to chalk it all up to those who are "average" or in your words "stupid". This is again classical "liberalism" (or today neo-liberalism) that sees poverty as primarily being the result of individual choices, intelligence or "laziness" (the old pull yourself up by your own bootstraps horatio alger rags to riches mythology).

Sorry, but demanding things like a living wage or free higher education or real national health insurance or real government investment in jobs for things like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure to building a national high speed rail system to retrofitting all public buildings (to start) to make them energy efficient to calls for publicly owned banks that invest in communities instead of derivatives are not "silly nonsensical kneejerk" responses to the dire economic problems wrought by this evil system of globalized, financialized capitalism.
 
 
+4 # Billy Bob 2013-07-31 18:16
"When we 'old guys' speak of our lives and our good fortune we feel sorry for those of you that are still young and never have been poor. You will need to solve the problems we left you, and, quite frankly, rsn 'agreeable groupies' do not seem up to the task"

---------

Don't assume ALL old people agree with you. My parents are in their 80s and disagree with you completely. They didn't just "know" people who were poor, but were poor themselves. They also acknowledge that it's not possible for everyone to "put it in their past".

Not all old people created the problems we have to solve, but some of our problems (created by people like Cheney, Nixon, and Reagan) are far more systemic and insidious than anything F.D.R. had to deal with.

Don't forget the fact that, if you really were born during the Depression, you benefitted from the fact that F.D.R. created huge governmental programs to undo the dammage of people older than you, who created the Depression in the first place - WITH YOUR PHILOSOPHY.

Unfortunately, other people (many younger than you), who also have your political philosophy have undone much of the New Deal.

Calling people who don't manage to become less poor "stupid", shows that you have NO IDEA what the poor are up against.
 
 
-5 # Depressionborn 2013-07-31 21:36
Hey billy b

please quit misquoting me. Life is often tough. It is really tough if your stupid.

misquoting is stupid.

I said we grew up poor. Everyone there were poor; sometimes no running water poor. I could care less if you don't want to believe it. I do not lie. Make mistakes, sure, so what. Nobody is perfect, not even you.

I did not say all old people agree with me. "We old guys" are just me and my old guy friends. We actually feel sorry for what the world is becoming, especially sorry for those who believe the new deal worked. And it is stupid that they haven't even figured out that SS is a Ponzi scheme, but it is, and they will.

And there goes your new deal.
 
 
-4 # Depressionborn 2013-07-31 21:49
billy bob is not stupid, just ignorant. Many are. It is really not his fault. The new deal propaganda is great.

Most are ignorant of the fact that Hoover's financial plans, accepted by FDR, are what actually caused the "great" 1929 depression. He tried the same financial nonsense in the very after WWI depression of the early 20's and was rebuked, making that early depression, a bad one, a short 12 or 13 months. Few know this, BB is not one.

I hate the lie of it. It leads to more bad. The reality of the depression is hard to dig out.
 
 
+3 # Cruzer 2013-07-31 19:24
The poor are not necessarily less happy in their daily life. They are much more likely to be kept poor for lack of good education, healthcare and access to justice. We will always have the poor. My problem with our economic system is the failure of leadership to correct injustice. Voting does not seem to help.
 
 
+24 # keith brooks 2013-07-30 09:57
flatulence a la friedman.
 
 
+21 # nirmalandhas 2013-07-30 10:11
All fine if one does not have to work for a living...
 
 
+33 # jwb110 2013-07-30 10:14
The rich and employed seem to have all the answer for how the poorer and unemployed should be living. That's an easy thing to do from their very high perch.
In Italian we have a saying,"Nobody dresses his wife better than a bachelor". Fitting even in this case.
 
 
+12 # Nel 2013-07-30 10:15
Friedman forgot the mafia factor.
 
 
+40 # Dennyc 2013-07-30 10:20
Friedman the warmonger is simply an advocate for those millionaires behind and operating the NYT. The Times may run a sympathetic piece on a crack addicted mother living in a shack; but when it comes to people dying for and beneath the American Way, nary a peep except to intellectualize their support for our destructive and deadly behavior. A rock has more soul than Friedman. That we are spending our time discussing a institutionaliz ed tool like Friedman is the giveaway here. Does he take himself too seriously? Glance, just a quick glance, at his photo and you'll understand all you need to know.
 
 
+7 # Mrcead 2013-07-30 19:39
The mustache alone says it all.
 
 
+15 # wolflady52 2013-07-30 10:34
Here's your Brave New World

Bring on the soma.......
 
 
+45 # ddwills 2013-07-30 11:09
Why does the NYT employ this blowhard? Everything he says is BS. He is cheerleading for the philosophy that is destroying the biosphere, impoverishing billions of people across the planet, and promoting a numbskull, me-first, virtual culture that disconnects us from nature and each other, to name a few of its effects.
 
 
+13 # SeniorCitizen31 2013-07-30 12:30
ddwills, I gave you a thumbs up. Now as to your question: "Why does the NYT employ this blowhard?"

The short answer is: "Because it IS the New York Times." For a more detailed answer, see Dennyc above.
 
 
+2 # jazzman633 2013-07-31 13:55
I totally agree. I'm a libertarian (as were the Founders; who doesn't want to be free), and I cringe when bloviating idiots like Friedman make libertianism sound so ugly and callous. Hey, how about we legalize drugs and encourage people to start their own, personally branded drug businesses?
 
 
+10 # Activista 2013-07-30 11:11
Internet enhances communication - it changes almost everything - both politically and economically.
Good example is CraigsList - people to people transactions - that establishment hates. I do not think that Craigslist people are millionaires - we need to get away from consumerism (which extreme form is militarism). When I need carpenter, craftsman - this is where I find help.
One thing what concerns me how much are American lying (not only Banksters, insurance agents, but also car repairman, plumber, ... greed on any level)
4 Out of 5 Americans Struggling With Joblessness or Poverty | Alternet
www.alternet.org/4-out-5-americans-struggling-joblessness-or-poverty‎
- 4 Out of 5 (80%) of Americans Struggling With Joblessness or Poverty. The American economy is increasingly delivering security and prosperity to only ...
please do not blame the Internet ... it is system
 
 
+21 # Texan 4 Peace 2013-07-30 13:33
Those carpenters and craftspeople are certified (or at least one can check to see if they are). Renting one's spare room to strangers for the weekend via Craigslist sounds about as safe as answering escort ads there.
 
 
+5 # Activista 2013-07-30 20:12
Rent a bedroom concept is for traveling young people to meet other people face to face - I am sure that there are some references.
We live in such a low trust society ... it did not used to be .. remember in 69 how welcoming Americans were .. very open people ... especially in the country. What happened in America?
 
 
+4 # Depressionborn 2013-07-31 13:59
[quote name="Activista "]We live in such a low trust society ... it did not used to be .. What happened in America?


Yes Activista, Trust has been lost. Once upon a time long ago "we" were "put out" to play without concern. If we were not back in time to eat and ma wondered where we were she would call the "operator", who usually knew.

Once we had to go "out of town" and ma couldn't find the latch key. It was surely a different world then with different values-maybe we are on the way back and don't know it yet?
 
 
+8 # Billy Bob 2013-07-31 18:07
A lot of that lack of trust has stemmed from and been nurtured by conservative bogeymen (communism, terrorism, drugs, minorities, homosexuals, liberals, unwed mothers, environmentalis ts, people who go to college, people who can't afford college, scientists, public school teachers, hippies, and bears).
 
 
+4 # Cruzer 2013-07-31 19:42
You missed NSA and terrorism. Careful what you say...
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2013-08-01 00:29
Conservatives aren't afraid of the NSA. They're its cheerleaders.
 
 
-5 # Depressionborn 2013-08-01 04:25
Re: Billy Bob 2013-07-31 16:07 bogeymen:

Please Mr. BB,
Communism is not a bogyman. It is a very real and terrible system of injustice that lies, cheats and steals. Not according to you though? You liken it to unwed mothers? really, a bogeyman?

History shows us Communism does not need to be destroyed; left alone long enough it destroys itself. Evil always does. The problem is in death it kills many.

Hardly a bogeyman then. So Ayn Rand was right. Communists don't appreciate the truth she put in Atlas. I love it.

Communists are spiteful, mean spirited and just plain not nice despotic tyrants.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2013-08-01 09:39
Quoting Depressionborn:
Re: Billy Bob 2013-07-31 16:07 bogeymen:

Please Mr. BB,
Communism is not a bogyman. It is a very real and terrible system of injustice that lies, cheats and steals. Not according to you though? You liken it to unwed mothers? really, a bogeyman?

History shows us Communism does not need to be destroyed; left alone long enough it destroys itself. Evil always does. The problem is in death it kills many.

Hardly a bogeyman then. So Ayn Rand was right. Communists don't appreciate the truth she put in Atlas. I love it.

Communists are spiteful, mean spirited and just plain not nice despotic tyrants.


Communism is a classless, stateless society and as such has never existed. Even socialism, I would argue, which at the very least must be based on (at least as an economic system) the workers owning the means of production has thus also never existed. The societies i'm assuming you are referring to (the Soviet Union, China, etc) are at best and perhaps most accurately described by theorists such as C.L.R. James as state capitalism.

And, for what it's worth all the "communists" I know are lovely people, not spiteful or mean spirited at all (unlike someone like Friedman for example who is basically saying "fuck you" to all those whose skills are at best "average") at all and believe in genuine (participatory) democracy and a society in which 400 people do not own and control more wealth than the bottom half of the US combined.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2013-08-01 09:44
As for the "truth" that Rand (you mean the "libertarian" who took Social Security and Medicare?) put in Atlas....lol... what "truth" are you referring?

For one of the best (and funniest) reviews of this "classic" I have read to date try:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/01/what-i-think-about-atlas-shrugged/
 
 
+3 # X Dane 2013-07-31 17:56
Activista.
It got much, much bigger,In the sixties, we watched each others kids, if one of us had errands to run, somebody would keep an eye on them.

The kids were all playing out in the street in our quiet residential area, AND the mothers were HOME. Now the majority of the mothers are working. Kids didn't have "play dates either. We had less money, but a much better LIFE.
 
 
-3 # Activista 2013-07-31 20:50
"We had less money, but a much better LIFE..
I agree much better life, more time, better communities, less stress, less police. I am amazed how people close to the poverty level with low paying jobs are buying luxury cars - credit is there ..thinking that there will be mini housing crisis when the expenses go up and will be not able to make payments.
 
 
+6 # Cruzer 2013-07-31 19:40
The United States is a business not a country. Friedman is a salesman. If we really want to change this system we must put an end to the growth model. Grow, grow, grow....Why? It's good for business of course. The other benefit is tax revenue to use for armies. So grow. Our city wants to grow but there are enough people so why do they want to grow?
 
 
+8 # mdhome 2013-07-31 19:45
What happened? Reagan happened, The philosophy of "Greed is Good" happened, The tea baggers happened, and they were lead down the path to the slaughterhouse. The NRA happened, the "I got mine, screw you" happened. The age of ignorance being equal to knowledge happened, 97% of climate scientists say global warming is happening, but more that half of the house of representatives believe the tiny few that say it is not real or say they are not sure, the world has flipped upside down!
 
 
+1 # bingers 2013-08-01 05:08
Really? In '69 I had people in Missouri, Texas and Wyoming try to kill me because I had long hair. The reason I got away was because I had a hot car and better driving abilities. The city was much more welcoming.
 
 
+15 # hkatzman 2013-07-30 11:45
The goal of an economy is to furnish the means to allocate resources. Capitalism is but one means to accomplish this.

What happens when we do not need the full involvement of a large segment of the population to supply the needs of the ENTIRE population?

Is there a need to punish them when we can just as easily also supply their needs? Is this a question of fairness? Or is it punishment? What does this do to our model of what an economy is?
 
 
+3 # Cruzer 2013-07-31 19:46
Correct. We don't need everyone to work. We don't need everyone to work in our current system. The answer is to stop growing. It is a loop that eats its tail. Remember Bush " Go shopping take a trip " Grow.
 
 
+1 # Activista 2013-07-31 20:52
Reasonable grow is O.K. - what hurts is maximizing short term profit and wasting money on militarism.
 
 
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-07-31 20:42
Quoting hkatzman:
The goal of an economy is to furnish the means to allocate resources. Capitalism is but one means to accomplish this.

What happens when we do not need the full involvement of a large segment of the population to supply the needs of the ENTIRE population?

Is there a need to punish them when we can just as easily also supply their needs? Is this a question of fairness? Or is it punishment? What does this do to our model of what an economy is?


hkatzman must mean an allocating resource type command economy. They have never worked very well. A capitalistic economy is supposed to be free market based and which cannot have centralized goals. He may mean "Crony Capitalism", which we have a lot of now, it is better called fascism. Not good. Some think a command econ is worse than crony capitalism. I think both likely end up in slavery.

Full involvement of a large segment of the population when buggies do not need whips is when things change,like always, as has happened many times and caused much pain and suffering. (See Luddites)

But his "need to punish"???
Who are the "we"? What punishment? How can one person punish another without breaking the law? By we is it meant the force of government? God help us then.
 
 
+1 # dkonstruction 2013-08-01 07:50
Quoting Depressionborn:

hkatzman must mean an allocating resource type command economy. They have never worked very well. A capitalistic economy is supposed to be free market based and which cannot have centralized goals.


The "free market" economy to which you refer is a myth. It has never existed. Capitalism would not have developed in England, for example, without the Enclosures (i.e, state intervention). The railroads in the US (our first major industry) developed only due to their being given free (or heavily subsidized land) from the government (not to mention favorable tax breaks).

Capitalism has always been "crony" not to mention it also developed on the backs of slave labor (also enforced with state intervention not the "free market").

As for the Luddites, here to your understanding of who they were and what they stood for is mythology not history. The Luddites in fact, despite their modern reputation, were neither opposed to technology nor inept at using it. Many were highly skilled machine operators in the textile industry. They opposed the introduction of technology that simply increased the profits of the owners/bosses while putting masses of workers out of work with no concern for their plight or the fact that this dramatically increased poverty and all that came with it like starvation.
 
 
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-08-01 13:31
I must agree. (sadly) Yet I would ask if you would agree that an un-free free market is better than the alternatives, especially if government stays away.

(There is also some kind of a worker controlled business, developed in Spain I think, that once offered hope for systemic change for the better.) Something must have happened to it?

And I consider crony capitalism to be fascist. It needs gov favoritism to work.
 
 
+13 # Cappucino 2013-07-30 12:34
The author is right in that this vision of the future should only be appealing to billionaires. The vast majority of even the upper 1% aren't in the class of these true economic and political power brokers.

But here's the real problem: there are only 1210 billionaires in the world (per Forbes' 2011 list), and Friedman sells books and columns and lectures to a whole lot more than 1210 people. People who should know better are buying them. The overwhelming majority of even those 1%, 5%, 10%, or 20% in the upper class aren't really going to benefit from these ideas in the long run-- only that tiny billionaire class will manage to do it. What most people don't realize is that the issue is more than just the fact that the bottom is growing. The middle and the bottom edge of the top keep shrinking too, and 99.999% of even those who are sure they're doing well right now are simply not as secure as they think. The economic ground that seems so solid is shrinking everywhere. An ebbing tide is sinking almost all the boats. And I think that those who believe they are economically secure need to start realizing that the nature of the new economy means that they almost always are not. We are all being taken in... all except 1210 of us... and we had better start waking up before it's too late.
 
 
+7 # byard pidgeon 2013-07-30 18:22
The American Dream Propaganda Machine sucks in and spits out most of the people...why else would we have seen public employees in OR supporting Measure 5 a couple of decades ago?...and now no mob with torches and pitchforks marching on Salem to tar and feather a supposedly liberal Democratic Governor and legislators as they prepare to finish off PERS and other contracted benefits of public employees?
How do they get away with it? Oh, the "saved" money will go to support education...but not the educators.
Propaganda, as Josef Goebbels said, is merely the ceaseless "repetition of mutually reinforcing messages"...it worked in Germany, and it works in the USA.
(Yes, I'm in OR, KF)
 
 
+3 # BKnowswhitt 2013-07-30 22:29
Good analogy .. the propaganda is the problem. In the past we had real investigative reporting or at least we had it in late 60's to 70's .. now the media is very different .. it's authoritarianis m of the messaging as well .. an authoritarian Left Socialist Communist trait .. as well as an authoritarian Right Wing trait ... the problem is Authoritarianis m Rules ..
 
 
+12 # Texan 4 Peace 2013-07-30 13:29
Failing brakes or faulty chainsaws in a deregulated, private market? Friedman would probably just answer that that's what lawsuits are for.
 
 
+7 # tomo 2013-07-30 17:08
Maybe I have to go back and re-read it, but when Friedman wrote From Beirut to Jerusalem back in the late 1980s, I thought it was a thoughtful and enlightening book. That was around a quarter of a century ago, and some things seem to have happened. His fame has continued and widened. He seems to have a hardened enthusiasm for violent activity on the part of the U.S. and a hardened contempt for "terrorism"--wh ich is the use of violence by others, particularly when it occurs without permission from the U.S. Deepest of all, what has set in seems a brand of amor fati--a deliberate celebration of what he perceives as the inevitable: if you can't figure out how to beat it, welcome it with open arms. This is a sell-out, and it seems the characteristic manuever writ-large of those who remain comfortably entrenched in the mainstreet media. Do the corporations own America? Well, break out parades and festive parties to dignify the fact.
 
 
+8 # ganymede 2013-07-30 19:22
Friedman is what you might call a mugwump, he's usually on all sides of an issue, but recently he's become more of a sociopathic intellectual. I don't think he understands the consequences of his words and ideas. I'm a regular reader of the NYT simply because I live in New York and it is the best mainstream daily paper in the country, but they do have a couple of Ayn Rand- like columnists, Friedman and Douthat. I've stopped reading Friedman because I get a headache trying to follow his tortured, solipsistic thinking.
 
 
+2 # BKnowswhitt 2013-07-30 22:20
Maybe Obama and both the Dempukes and Repukes can package his horseshit as a new jobs program. Dick Cheney said something similar once. Hey the disconnect is bigger than ever ... mainstreet to corporate speak ... he should be acknowledging that the internet is an eco frontier but no solution to real labor issues here in America ... hey he's a writer and phoney economist ... as most all of them are .. 'economists' that is ... it's all part of the Bush I 'New World Order' and Bush II invasion backed by all the hegonomists who run the show and have the dough ... fuck em all ... that's all i know ..
 
 
+3 # Anarchist 23 2013-07-30 23:04
Wow-read John Brunner's dystopian future novel set in 2020 or so 'Stand on Zanzibar' It was written in 1968. He died quite mysteriously at a SF convention shortly thereafter. 'Sheep Look Up' was another novel of his that I read...that is the world Friedman wants for us, he just does not have the courage to say so outright.
 
 
+4 # mozartssister 2013-07-31 07:48
The only comfort I can see in all of this (average is over = middle class is over) is that neither global warming nor depletion of resources and mass extinctions, i.e. the real life zombies coming for us, have any respect whatsoever for the gates around the communities of people like Thomas Friedman and David Koch. Beware the zombiepocalypse ; it will be the great equalizer.
 
 
+5 # wleming 2013-07-31 08:43
Friedman is a legendary fudge head, theres even a book out tracking his absolutely nutso thinking. Hes very much of the David Brooks school of New York Times neo con blather. Going back to the Ray Bonner firing for trying to report the El Mozote massacre when Reagan was lying his teeth out over the Contra's the Times remains a banner for reaction, disinfo, and a stalking horse for the Right. Media as mind mush.
 
 
+1 # Dennyc 2013-07-31 09:58
"Hmmm, maybe the mashed potatoes or possibly the french fries. Hmmm..."
 
 
+7 # WeMustEvolve 2013-07-31 12:23
This Ayn Randian garbage is the biggest scam ever foisted on the American people. This was cooked up by the billionaires to help them at the expense of the rest of America. They know as well as you and I that this scam can't, never has and never will work for anyone but the scammers at the top. The fact that we have let this go this far should be a severe source of shame for all of us.
 
 
+7 # WeMustEvolve 2013-07-31 16:58
Great picture of Tom, it actually hurts to look at the face of this guy. The Ayn Randian disaster of Reaganomics turned the entire world on it head. It has led to the current economic and political disaster that has unfolded. And until we all rise up and organize, it is going to continue.
 
 
-3 # Billy Bob 2013-07-31 18:02
Great article, and I agree with it 100%.

But, someone who uses phrases like, "Panglossian panegyric" should definitely have a good editor to make sure minor grammatical errors are avoided.
 
 
+1 # mdhome 2013-07-31 19:30
That a bunch of silly drivel from a greedy selfish ignorant woman could enthrall billionaires and would like to be millionaires is incredible. Her book is more than just greed justified, but meanness personified.
 
 
+1 # Activista 2013-07-31 20:57
This is reality Tom:
4 Out of 5 Americans Struggling With Joblessness or Poverty | Alternet
www.alternet.org/4-out-5-americans-struggling-joblessness-or-poverty‎
- 4 Out of 5 (80%) of Americans Struggling With Joblessness or Poverty. The American economy is increasingly delivering security and prosperity to only ...
Now how to deliver this message to 80% at the election time? Iranians got it, why not Americans?
 
 
0 # DaveM 2013-08-01 21:52
This is not the world of Ayn Rand. This is the world of Philip K. Dick.
 

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