Race to the bottom, Part Two

My conservative cousin from New York tries again to convince me that Tom Friedman is as bad as Paul Krugman. Though he doesn’t succeed, he does make some good points along the way.

[Friedman’s] column in yesterday’s New York Times demonstrates why he is right up there with Paul Krugman. Friedman believes that the inadequate initial governmental response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that America is a slothful nation, beset by racial divisions and fueled by a real estate bubble.
In Tom’s view we should be emulating Singapore, a state ruled by wise leaders who know how to get things done. He quotes approvingly a Singapore newspaper columnist who states that today’s American conservatives “believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for [the] country to pay for even the government that it has”.
So let me get this straight. Tom wants us to be more like Singapore, an authoritarian state where voting is compulsory but there is only one candidate for President. That candidate is selected by a ruling party which has ruled the nation since its founding. How orderly compared with our messy process where candidates who fail to receive the support of the MSM still get elected.
Tom makes no mention of how Singapore treats its substantial racial minorities of Malays and Indians. They are on the outside of the political power structure and do not share fully in the prosperity of the overall economy. Unlike the US, Singapore does not welcome immigrants and does not encourage them to participate fully in the life of the nation. But why should we be concerned, Singapore has less litter than the sidewalks of Manhattan.
Where Tom sees a slothful nation, others see the US as a dynamic if messy society that offers great opportunities. Tom should ask foreign investors, who see the US as the safest place for their capital or immigrants seeking to enter our country, if they see the US as a slothful land.
After an initial clumsy response by government to Katrina, there has been an outpouring of support from both private individuals and governmental agencies to help people impacted by the disaster. Donations are pouring in to charities from people all across America. A slothful nation unconcerned about the fate of racial minorities would not have made such a response.
To Friedman, a bubble economy exists when there is prosperity and a Republican sits in the White House. One would think that the rise in the real estate and stock market during the last several years would be seen as evidence of a strong economy. But not to Friedman. When the NASDAQ soared to record heights back in 1999 liberal pundits weren’t warning of a bubble caused by the Clinton administration. Rather they were hailing Bill Clinton claiming that his imaginative economic policies were bringing greater opportunities to all Americans. In 2008, if real estate and stock prices are higher than they are today I doubt if we will hear any hosannas from New York Times columnists regarding the economic policies of the Republican administration.

Friedman’s column strikes me as the latest manifestation of a bargain he made long ago. Friedman gets to talk to, and drop the names of, fancy foreign officials and intellectuals in exchange for swallowing and regurgitating their line.


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