Eric Levitz’s amazing takedown of Tom Friedman’s latest thought-like object reminds me that I failed to cite the very nuttiest part of the column. This is verbatim Tom Friedman, people:
Across the industrial world parties mostly formed along one set of those binary choices or the other. But that is no longer possible.
What if I am a steelworker in Pittsburgh and in the union, but on weekends I drive for Uber and rent out my kid’s spare bedroom on Airbnb — and shop at Walmart for the cheapest Chinese imports, and what I can’t find there I buy on Amazon through a chatbot that replaced a human? Monday to Friday I’m with labor. Saturday and Sunday I’m with capital.
Imagine thinking that a steelworker magically and as a political matter becomes part of “capital” if he drives a car for minimum wage and rents out a room in his house. (Strangely, being part of “capital” by owning this independent business has not suddenly made all pre-existing political interests invalid.) This is just the purest gibberish. I mean, if this pundit was around during the Iraq War he probably would have defended it with a bunch of incoherent buzzwords suggesting that it 9/11 made it logical to attack a country that had nothing to do with it because terrorism is just like a stock market bubble:
Anyway, as I said I recommend the whole Levitz piece, but I’ll conclude with these thoughts about why Friedman is essentially a self-refutation of his own premises:
Thomas Friedman is among the most successful political commentators in the world. A global readership devours his books on globalization. America’s premier newspaper prints his every reflection on current affairs. Event planners pay him more for a single speech than the median American household earns in a year. Awards committees shower him in prizes. Presidents seek his counsel.
And yet, there are still some Americans who can say that “we live in a meritocracy” with a straight face.
Forget Friedman’s past apologia for war crimes. Forget his praise of Russian autocracy, and the fresh prince of Riyadh (which is to say, forget “suck on this,” “keep rootin’ for Putin,” and “Arab Spring, Saudi style”). We need not cherry-pick from Friedman’s back catalogue to establish that he is living proof of a systematic market failure in the hot-take economy. An examination of his most recent column will suffice.
In “Is America Becoming a Four-Party State?” Friedman argues the following: The Democratic Party is growing ever more fractured between “grow-the-pie” moderates and “redivide the pie” progressives, while the GOP is on the cusp of a civil war between the “limited-government-grow-the-pie” right, and the “hoard-the-pie, pull-up-the-drawbridge” Trumpists. These unprecedented fractures in the two major parties — combined with the fact that globalization has rendered all traditional political divisions anachronistic — means that there is a significant chance that the U.S. will develop a four-party system by November 2020.
The problem with this argument is that none of its premises are true. In fact, some are so egregiously false, it is difficult to understand how anyone who reads the New York Times on a regular basis — let alone, writes for it — could actually believe them.