The Friedman Column That Keeps On Giving

Pejman Yousefzadeh just can’t resist ripping into what may have been Tom Friedman’s worst column of the year. I liked this bit:

[Friedman writes:]Americans just had what they call an “election.” Best we could tell it involved one congressman trying to raise more money than the other (all from businesses they are supposed to be regulating) so he could tell bigger lies on TV more often about the other guy before the other guy could do it to him. This leaves us relieved. It means America will do nothing serious to fix its structural problems: a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent.

[Yousefzadeh writes] How very curious that the Chinese, through Friedman, would criticize us for the types of elections that we hold, when they hold no elections at all. I would understand if a Chinese diplomat obstinately refused to recognize the irony, but it’s hard to be sanguine about the fact that Thomas Friedman, whatever his significant limitations as a columnist, a thinker, and an imitator of Chinese diplomats, cannot grok the fact that the Chinese are in no position whatsoever to lecture any genuine democratic republic on the state of said democratic republic’s elections. We may have imperfect elections (though they are not nearly as bad as Friedman, ever willing to play the role of sanctimonious critic, makes them out to be), but imperfect elections are the natural consequence of an imperfect human enterprise, run by imperfect humans. And for all of their shortcomings, imperfect elections are better than no elections at all, and have a greater potential to lead to better decision-making concerning the problems of the day than the kind of decision-making that is found in one-party, totalitarian states, where dissent is squashed, and where popular input is only accepted when it is in accord with the party line. I recognize that Thomas Friedman thinks that all of our problems could be solved if only we could be China for a day, and if, in doing so, we don’t care what the populace might think, as we seek to craft and impose a totalitarian-but-supposedly-Utopian political order. But the world is a little more complicated than that, and we are supposed to be more moral, and humane than Thomas Friedman would have us be.


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