Thomas Friedman and the elite vision
Thomas Friedman’s op-ed article in today’s New York Times aptly summarizes the top level consensus in US politics. He’s a well recognized spokesman for a vast swath of elite opinion and is openly admired by, among others, Barack Obama. His fully bi-partisan world view is a dire and obnoxious vision that will inevitably push the majority ever closer to a serf-like existence. It must be exposed as an ideology of and for elite power and be summarily rejected.
In the article, Friedman, who’s become rich glorifying the competitive world of global capitalism, says we need a new tea party “which stretches from centrist Republicans to independents right through to centrist Democrats”. Like a CEO addressing his board of directors, he instructs us that America’s “core competency” and “strategic advantage” is
“our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country”.
What absurdity! Is economic policy a mere bet the US worker will out-invent people in other countries? Is the whole world to be condemned to a life or death struggle for invention even though technology is already such that we don’t need new inventions to live well? This is utter nonsense. It’s a logic that says we can’t fully utilize our current technology unless we develop even newer technology. The only possible basis for such a logic is the need to maintain global corporate profits.
And if some new invention were discovered in the US, on what basis could Friedman think it would be built in the US when overseas wages are just pennies on the hour? The new invention would certainly be owned by a multinational corporation that would quickly outsource production to the lowest cost center. Virtually nothing is built in the US anymore and that will undoubtedly continue under global capitalism until wages come down to ‘competitive’ levels. And that ultimately is the plan as is increasingly voiced across the political spectrum (see here and here for example).
What policies does Friedman recommend so that our supermen can create these products and services that will “make people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained”? Despite our massive inequalities, he calls for regressive increases in gasoline taxes, cuts in corporate taxes, and reductions in social security. This is the reality of global capitalism: in order to produce goods that make people more comfortable and secure, the worker must become less comfortable and secure. We add to the Orwellian trinity: insecurity is security. Friedman then makes the standard appeal for expanded education and research for a “21st century economy” as if education can help the vast majority maintain living standards against global competition and as if his 21st century economy was the advent of some noble new era.
“It will require a very smart, subtle and focused plan to use our now diminishing resources in the most efficient way possible to get back to our core competency. That is the only long-term solution to our problem — to grow our way out of debt with American workers who are more empowered and educated to compete.”
This elite consensus must be forcefully rejected. We don’t have diminished resources; we have diminished purchasing power because of elite control of production and money. We have the technology and capacity to provide excellent living standards for everyone and have no need to continue in a rat race competition. The problem for the vast majority is not one of how to compete in a “21st century economy” but rather how to overthrow a truly evil structure of power that condemns them to living in a subservient position.