Streetwise Professor

September 9, 2009

Tool Time

Filed under: Economics,Politics — The Professor @ 7:57 pm

As if further proof were needed, Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times demonstrates what a total, utter, contemptible tool he is:

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

Translation: “The Great Unwashed in the United States do not realize the wisdom of the anointed ones–like me.  The ignorant ingrates have pressured their elective representatives to oppose the brave new world their intellectual betters have all planned out for them.  If only the boobocracy would defer the the rule of the Enlightened Ones–like yours truly–we would Save the World.”

Just further documentation of the sad truth that in the chest of every “progressive” [gag] beats the heart of an authoritarian, not to say totalitarian.  So it has been since Plato.

In fact, a large number of Americans know all too well the havoc that arrogant, pretentious, elitist, self-impressed, pseudo-intellectual Thomas Friedman-types can wreak when they get their hands on power.  The intensity of the reaction to the prospect of a massive restructuring of healthcare, and to a lesser degree climate change legislation, is a testament to the deep distrust in which the non-elites–that is, you know, regular people that like work and stuff–hold the self-impressed and self-anointed “elites.”  Distrust that is very well merited.

No doubt Hayek had tools and fools like Friedman in mind when he wrote The Fatal Conceit.

And do these people ever learn?  (That was a completely rhetorical question.)  The “intellectuals'” belief that Italian Fascism, Soviet Communism, Japanese industrial policy, and of late, Chinese authoritarianism, would all leave the capitalist American economy in the dust has been repeatedly refuted, but they inevitably fall for the dirigiste, planned, authoritarian “system” du jour.  In the 1960s and 1970s, I remember that the conventional wisdom was that “rational” Soviet planning would overtake the decentralized American economy.  In the 1980s, we heard ad nauseum–from people like Thomas Friedman, and if memory serves, Thomas Friedman himself–about the miracle of MITI, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade Industry, which through its wise guidance would ensure Japanese economic dominance.

We know how well those worked out.

The drooling adulation of Friedman and his ilk for Chinese authoritarians is only the latest incarnation of this tendency to exaggerate the efficacy of the rule of “enlightened” central planning.  Indeed, this tendency even antedates the enthusiasm for “progressives” for socialism and fascism in the 20th century; “enlightened” despots were quite popular with intellectuals in the 18th century as well.

To which I answer: the only way that any highly centralized, dirigiste country (be it China or another nation) will surpass the performance of the US is that if the US becomes more centralized and dirigiste than this putative competitor.  Which could well happen if Thomas Friedman–and Obama–get their way.

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  1. Funnily enough, I and my friends don’t agree much with Tom Friedman either – Bitch Slappers of the Next 100 Years.

    George Friedman is cool, Thomas L. Friedman however, is the American version of Mikhail Leontev:… an imperial troubadour whose job is to peddle the official agenda and thus remain near the sun which in turn allow him to promote himself, his books and his friends.

    I dislike Thomas L. Friedman too, but more for the fact that he successfully sells millions of over-hyped, insipid books with no significant or original insight. That gaudy, pretentious site of his you link to reflects him very well.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 9, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

  2. As a fascist in Italian tradition, I agree with Thomas Friedman most of the time. I really believe that he gets his ideas from reading old copies of “Avanti”.
    Let me first outline what I want to say. With an outline my logic will be more understandable.

    Individualism vs collectivism.
    Socialism as a goal to improve a society.
    Marxist Socialism vs National Socialism.
    Contemporary Liberalism as a version of fascism.

    There are individualist societies, and there are collectivist societies.
    The division is cultural. America is an example of individualist society, while Europe is more collectivist. People in Europe care more than in the US about well-being of the whole society, – welfare programs, etc.

    Early socialists were good people who wanted to improve the world.
    The name “socialist” derives from either Greek or Latin word “socio”, which means “society”, but I’m not really sure about it. The point is that all socialists always have a goal to improve the world, which by itself is not bad.

    If one believes that interests of a society are more important that interests of an individual, s/he is a socialist.

    There are three types of socialism.

    1. Democratic socialism.
    Capitalism with high level of government control and redistribution of excessive wealth for the benefit of the society. Multiparty political systems. Examples: Sweden and much of the Europe.

    2. Marxist Socialism, or left-wing socialism.
    Government owns most of the means of production. Strict government control.
    Dictatorship of proletariat is an official ideology. One-party political systems. Examples: Cuba, North Korea.

    3. Fascism, or right-wing socialism.
    Capitalist economy under strict government control. One-party system.
    Examples: Italy and Germany in the past. China at present time.
    In Russia, arguably, there is also a one-party system. Even the next president has been selected by Putin.

    Why the name “National Socialist Labor Party” in Germany?
    Because fascists are nationalists. National interests are more important than interests of other countries.

    Communists are internationalists. Interests of the world are more important that interests of any country.

    Contemporary liberals in the US are socialists, which is not a dirty word to me. BTW, Friedman says about Obama that he is a centrist, and not a socialist. Friedman is blowing smoke. A centrist is a conservative who is always against a radical change of anything. Radical change which is brought about by intervention of government is socialism.

    Democ Rats are for strict government control. If there were a one-party system, it would be fascism. But the Rats dream about one-party system.
    Friedman has just articulated his admiration of Chinese fascism.

    Still, American Democ Rats are not Chinese fascists. Chinese fascists are not as corrupt as our Rats. China does not have a million of litigation lawyers.

    Let’s take a look at our GDP. It’s not a real GDP. Most of it is smoke and mirrors.

    Suppose, a lawyer is suing a company because a disabled Jewish lesbian was not hired for a position, and the lawyer won a $1,000,000 settlement.
    That one million is added to our GDP, but what does that mean?

    If a farmer raised one million chickens, the society is richer. We can eat those chickens. But are we getting richer when litigation lawyers win big settlements? The problem as I understand it is that we don’t eat lawyers.

    I agree with Friedman. If people in a country are smart, one-party system can be very efficient. Like in China. Smart kids there want to become scientists and computer engineers. In the US smart people want to become litigation lawyers, so that they will sue companies on behalf of disabled Jewish lesbians. Don’t anyone accuse me in antisemitism. I am a Jew myself.

    American liberalism has features of both Marxist socialism and fascism.
    Cap-and-trade is an example of the world interests being put before American interests. It looks very much internationalist.

    Still, they say that they have American interests at heart.
    If that is true, strict government control over capitalist economy is fascism. What is missing? A one-party system liberals dream about?

    I do agree with liberals on many issues. Government can do a lot, from banking oversight to social problems. I don’t agree with the ways they do it. This health care problem can be solved without creation of 40 agencies to oversee the health care industry. It would be enough to expand Medicaid for low income families. Just increase the income level and pay, say, 50% of the cost. You don’t need 1,000 pages for that legislation.

    Liberalism is a parasitic version of fascism. Benito Mussolini did not loot taxpayers’ money as liberals do. That is the main difference.

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — September 10, 2009 @ 2:16 am

  3. As SO has said, Thomas Friedman has been a cheerleader for Dubya’s Iraq war from the get-go, so he can’t be all bad, can he?

    Comment by rkka — September 10, 2009 @ 4:49 am

  4. Really? It’s a hell of a leap from “Thomas Friedman is a moron” (which is a gimme) to beating in the “chest of every “progressive” [gag] beats the heart of an authoritarian.” One for which you offer no evidence other that your own prejudice. Beating in the heart of a few prominent leftists, I’ll give you. But all American liberals? Just plain Ad hominem attacks. Your fellow traveller, Vilkin, is much the same. To paint all of America liberals with the brush of fascism is just rhetorical flourish. “Democ Rats” indeed.

    I would argue that most American liberals have a more collectivist bent than American conservatives. We have a stronger feeling that we have a obligation to care for each other, even over the objections of those who don’t want to care for others. But to argue that we want one party rule?

    If you could lose the hysteria, you’d closer to the mark with Republicans. Look at recent history: Secret wiretaps. Indefinite “material witness” detentions. Labeling the opposition as un-American, or traitors, just because they don’t agree. These are the actions of fascists. Not that I was one of those “Bush=Hitler” idiots. But on the spectrum, the R’s misued their power much more. And don’t plead “War on Terror” to me. If we have to lose what makes us Americans, why win?

    Obama bailed out the auto companies, paid for a bunch of roads, is trying to do what every other western Democracy does (provide affordable health care for it’s citizens), and is trying to address Climate Change. (Don’t forget that Bush balied out the financial companies.) For all of their other failings, are GB, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, etc, etc, fascist today? You may not like the policies. That’s ok. but to make the leap to any of the classic bogeymen – fascism, totaltarianism, communism – is dishonest at best.

    Americans chose a man & a party who promised a more collectivist approach to our problems. By a larger margin than they chose anyone in the last 40 years, including your darling, Reagan. Get over it.

    NB: I’m not talking about Iraq or Afghanistan. Though many liberals are violently opposed to wars of any flavor, and I believe we botched the execution of the war in Iraq, it is the worst form of Monday morning quarterbacking to say we need to get out because we screwed the pooch.

    Comment by Marc — September 10, 2009 @ 9:47 am

  5. Marc, I do agree with you on a few points. America should become less individualist and more collectivist. The question is, how?

    Democ Rats are not really interested to help the poor. Poverty in America is caused mostly by high prices of real estate. Many families spend a half of their income just to pay rent for a small apartment.

    What would it take to build new modern cities with modern public transportation? Most important is financing. In a fascist system money would have been printed for that purpose. Nationalize the FED, create a Central Bank of the US which is owned by the government of the US. Print money and create jobs to build whatever is needed. Inflation? It’s debatable.

    In a democracy it can not be done, because conservatives are always against radical change, – that is why they are called conservatives.
    And the Rats don’t need it. The Rats need to keep the population poor. The Rats promise the poor to tax the rich and redistribute wealth. The poor believe that bullshit and vote for the Rats. The Rats get access to the public money to loot it.

    It’s fascinating how parasitic are these Rats. They don’t own productive businesses like hotels and restaurants. In a fascist system I’d force the Rats to own such businesses and pay their workers union wages and benefits. When the Rats don’t pay them at least twice the market wages and all the benefits, including the health care, I’d round them up and put in labor camps to make bricks, to lay bricks, to build housing for the poor. In 10 years every poor family would own a nice brick house.

    The question, again, is not whether to help the poor. The question is, how?
    I believe that my fascist approach is as good as any. At least, the result is guaranteed. People will have a decent housing.

    I agree that it will not reduce poverty. There will always be a quarter of population that has less income and wealth than the other three quarters.
    So democ Rats would still have something to bitch about. And democ Rats would have something to build in labor camps.

    I wonder if labor camps would qualify for civil service the Rats are talking about. I think the idea to build housing for the poor is a noble idea. I’m a socialist, a collectivist, and I want to improve the world,
    “even over the objections of those who don’t want to care for others”.
    I’m talking about the Rats. I’d make you care for others.

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — September 10, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  6. Yesterday I made a mistake. If a litigation lawyer wins a $1,000,000 settlement, the lawyer’s income will be added to GDP, and not $1,000,000.
    If the lawyers is paid, say, 30% of the loot, it will be $300,000 of parasitic income.
    Why is it that 99% of litigation lawyers are democ Rats and liberals, and voted for algore and O’Bum?

    Why the Rats don’t want to build community hospitals and provide minimal health care to everyone regardless of income? Just like public schools are accessible to everyone for free, community hospitals should be accessible to everyone for free (supported by taxpayers) ?

    Actually, community hospitals are already providing medical care to everyone, and most people don’t pay. That is why it will not cost too much to provide health care to whatever number of uninsured are there.
    The Rats want:

    1. a new stream of income
    2. millions of new union members, both in government agencies who will oversee public health care, and in hospitals.

    America is moving in the direction of a parasitic version of fascism.

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — September 10, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  7. What I can’t understand is how the Professor is wise to the growing clamor for Oceania to ally with Eastasia, and Eastasia’s weaknesses, but can’t take the logical step of deciding that we need closer ties with Eurasia to counteract said influence. Unless he just wants Chinese agents blowing people away the next time they get cute and try to launch a Soros-funded revolution somewhere in the ex-USSR. Dubya tried in 2001, at least if David Frum is to be believed in his book The Right Man, to create an informal alliance with Moscow. Cheney ruthlessly undermined it, along with the traditional anti-Russia lobby forces still on the Cold War gravey train.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — September 10, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  8. Boy SWP, sure got some people out of the woodwork on this entry…

    But seriously, regarding your tool thesis, I agree. This is why many of us pay so much attention to Russia, China, Venezuela, etc. because if we don’t, our mysterious human nature gets drawn to tyranny. Today’s movements are just the new packaging for old, worn out causes that try to soothe the souls who crave “the answer”. I don’t understand why, but we must defend against these cycles time and time again throughout history. In other words, like you say, we never learn. For some reason, humans can’t accept that an enlightened elite system cannot succeed in the long-term, aka, Communism, Fascism, Dictatorship,Aristocracy, etc. It is extremely dangerous yet remains a myth that people long for as the answer to everything. I always go back to the Thomas Sowell in me, that only free markets can handle all the detailed information required to make good decisions. Nobody is that smart and nobody ever will be that smart to “save” us if we centralize decision making. China included. Just like Russia relies upon energy, China relies upon cheap labor. It will still work for a while, but it is covering up many of their mistakes right now. It is too early and will always be too rash to assume that the Chinese model is the way forward. Friedman and his ilk will continue to be tools so we just need to remain vigilant.

    Comment by Howard Roark — September 11, 2009 @ 3:02 am

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