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Thomas Friedman Tells Us To Work Harder

Thomas Friedman is blaming the victims, the American worker:

Thomas Friedman, The Election That Wasn’t

In the short run, we’ll probably need more stimulus to get the economy moving again so people have the confidence to buy and invest. Ultimately, though, good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world. And in a global economy, we have to create those products and services with a work force that is so well trained and productive that it can leverage modern technology so that one American can do the work of 20 Chinese and, therefore, get paid the same as 20 Chinese. There is no other way.

Sure, more countries can now compete with us. But that’s good. It means they’re also spawning new jobs, customers, ideas and industries where well-trained Americans can also compete. Fifteen years ago, there were no industries around Google “search” or “iPhone applications.” Today, both are a source of good jobs. More will be invented next year. There is no fixed number of jobs. We just have to make sure there is no fixed number of Americans to fill them — aided by good U.S. infrastructure and smart government incentives to attract these new industries to our shores.

But not everyone can write iPhone apps. What about your nurse, barber or waiter? Here I think Lawrence Katz, the Harvard University labor economist, has it right. Everyone today, he says, needs to think of himself as an “artisan” — the term used before mass manufacturing to apply to people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride. Everyone today has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs.

Freidman’s trying to spin his way out of supporting business globalization with his World Is Flat mantra. He’s in a tough position at this point: a left-leaning liberal who supported late industrial age excess, where multinationals were encouraged by tax laws and international trade agreements into demographic arbitrage, stripmining our future.

You, Mr. Friedman, make the ‘integrated and automated global economy’ sound like natural law, like gravity or tooth decay. But it is the result of deliberate policy decisions, harming most to make a few wealthy.

So all the manufacturing jobs have moved to China, it seems, and Friedman was one of the many saying it was manifest destiny, rather than deliberate trade policies that benefited the oligarchs here and state capitalism there, but cut the US middle and working classes off at the knees. (Consider this editorial as an example, printed on the same day in the NY Times as Friedman’s op-ed piece. It discusses the Homeland Investment Act, that saved multinationals hundreds of billions in 2005, supposedly linked to creating jobs that never materialized, without penalties. And the multinationals are proposing to do it again. The GOP will support it, no doubt.)

Nowadays, Friedman tells us, we have to bring a little something extra to our jobs, if we want to have one. Each of us has to outwork 20 Chinese people, he says. The answer is to be an artisan, he says.

The answer, Mr Friedman, won’t be Americans working like drones. It will be the rise of trade protectionism as a political movement, and the end to the hogs-at-the-trough global economics that you have explicitly supported, sadly.

This trade protectionism will be the defining issue of the  next presidential elections, although it hasn’t really been picked up much by either party as yet: they are still in thrall to the moneyed interests that are still making hundreds of billions from trade imbalances, even in this global downturn.

They don’t care about the manufacturing workers that are flipping burgers, or the small businesses that have closed, or the real estate agents that are broke and homeless.

And it sounds like you are siding with them, and wagging your finger at the dispossessed and downtrodden. You, Mr. Friedman, make the ‘integrated and automated global economy’ sound like natural law, like gravity or tooth decay. But it is the result of deliberate policy decisions, harming most to make a few wealthy.

Don’t patronize us. You are better than that.

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