Reading Thomas Friedman So That You Don't Have To

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 9, 2009

“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’s just two sentences from the latest Tom Friedman column. The rest of the column is just as nauseating. Jonah Goldberg is rightfully indignant that no one on the Times editorial board appeared to say anything like “are you kidding me?” when Friedman presented his piece for publication:

So there you have it. If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman’s intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are “drawbacks” to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet. Omelets and broken eggs, as they say. More to the point, Friedman insists, these “drawbacks” pale in comparison to the system we have today here in America.

I cannot begin to tell you how this is exactly the argument that was made by American fans of Mussolini in the 1920s. It is exactly the argument that was made in defense of Stalin and Lenin before him (it’s the argument that idiotic, dictator-envying leftists make in defense of Castro and Chavez today). It was the argument made by George Bernard Shaw who yearned for a strong progressive autocracy under a Mussolini, a Hitler or a Stalin (he wasn’t picky in this regard). This is the argument for an “economic dictatorship” pushed by Stuart Chase and the New Dealers. It’s the dream of Herbert Croly and a great many of the Progressives.

And Matt Welch piles on:

The next time anyone tries to tell you that Thomas L. Friedman is a serious thinker, or a tribune for global democracy, or even a good columnist, or basically someone who isn’t worth sending on the next slow boat to Shanghai, please refer him to this despicable column from today, then ask: Do you, too, prefer Chinese governance to American democracy?

Thus far, Brad DeLong has not reacted to Friedman’s obscenity by asking why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why we can’t have a better press corps. One would hope that DeLong will get around to it, but I have my doubts.

UPDATE: From Will Wilkinson:

Nikita Kruschev, the enlightened leader of a now-defunct one-party autocracy, was also committed to overtaking the United States in technology and so much more. “We will bury you” is how he put it. At the time, more than a few left-leaning American opinionmakers suspected he was right. After all, how can inefficiently squabbling democracies possibly keep pace with undivided regimes wholly devoted to scientifically centrally planning their way into the brighter, better future? And that, children, is why we speak Russian today.

Previous post:

Next post: