Monday, November 4, 2013

Tom Friedman Needs a Wake-Up Call

When Margaret Mead went to Samoa to do field work, the natives politely told her what she wanted to hear.

Since their stories confirmed her views, Mead happily declared that her views had been proved empirically.

Then, Derek Freeman wrote a book in 1983 explaining that Mead had been duped by the natives and that her “empirical evidence” was nothing of the sort.

More recently, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman traveled to Asia. In Singapore he discovered that no one respected America any more.

Friedman was happy to accept the view that Asians had lost confidence in America because of the recent government shutdown. They were also apparently dismayed about the American failure to provide socialized medical care for everyone.

Singaporeans see an increasingly dysfunctional American government and they are worried. They hold large quantities of American dollars, so they have a vested interest in America.

One suspects that the locals knew whom they were talking to and told Freidman exactly what he wanted to hear: namely, that the Republicans were to blame.

Not once does Friedman hint at the possibility that the world has lost respect for America because America elected a rank incompetent to be its president. Friedman might not know it, but a country is known by its leader. The America that has lost the world’s respect is Barack Obama’s America.

As Sherlock Holmes would have said, it’s the dog that didn’t bark.

One ought to note, first, that Singapore does not have socialized medicine. Its system  is based on individual health care savings accounts, among other things.

Second, Singapore is one of the freest of the free enterprise countries. Among the reasons, it is not ruled by lawyers and bureaucrats.

Friedman cannot blame the dysfunction in the health insurance market and in the government on the power exercised by lawyers and bureaucrats, because they are an important part of the Democratic coalition. His interlocutors have accommodated his bias.

Third, the value of the American dollar has been eroding because the American government, mostly under the aegis of Democrats, but with considerable Republican support, has spent large amounts of money it does not have and does not even hope to be able to pay back.

In the past five years, in Barack Obama’s America the Federal Reserve has been engaged in endless bouts of quantitative easing, the better to keep the economy afloat. If the Obama administration’s fiscal policies had generated something resembling economic growth this activity would perhaps be less necessary.

Asians are polite. They are not inclined to offend or insult an interlocutor to this face. Even if Tom Friedman does not know it, they must know that a declining America is Barack Obama’s America.

Anyone who believes that Singaporeans want America to function more like a European social democracy is as perfect a dupe as Tom Friedman. And that takes some effort.


Anonymous said...

"One suspects that the locals knew whom they were talking to and told Freidman exactly what he wanted to hear: namely, that the Republicans were to blame."

Yes, Tom Friedman is an international celebrity, particularly in Singapore, where there are shrines to him in every home. Naturally, your average Singaporean on the street would recognize him immediately and mindlessly tell him what they know he wants to hear--which they know, of course, because they read his every word religiously. Tom Friedman is a semi-god in Singapore, a household name. And he's so distinctive-looking. Anyone would recognize him immediately in any place of the world. It's the mustache. No, the hair. No, the eyes. Stands out like a sore thumb.

Naturally, your average Singaporean would see him and think, "That's Tom Friedman, internationally renowned journalist from the United States" and not "typical American dude."

Well, either that or they think Republicans are to blame.

I wonder which is more plausible?

Mark said...

I've done plenty of deals in Singapore and hired a few smart Singaporeans.

Truth is:

1. Friedman is probably lying.
2. The whole foundation of Singapore is individual responsibility. Lee Kuan Yew was Thatcherite before Thatcher.
3. "...the world has lost respect for America because America elected a rank incompetent to be its president." Twice!
4. The Detroitification of America is blatant to anyone with eyes to compare Singapore's modernity with blue America's decay. Note that Singapore has no resources other than location and human capital.
5. It's not just Singapore. So much of America looks decayed compared to much of the developed world. The votes of a state dependent underclass dictate policies to steal from our children. It's like the Goya painting of Cronos. Default would be a blessing for America if it led to a halt to this theft from the future.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 10:14 should get out more.

thinks the "republicans are to blame".

probably thinks the self-esteem and anti-bullying campaigns are currently producing the world's highest-performing schools,right here in the USA, courtesy of the NEA.

try a trip to Singapore.


Lastango said...

Freidman knows where his bread is buttered. If he said anything different the coastal elites would destroy him.

Sam L. said...

None so blind as those who see what they want to see, and deaf likewise. Tom's mind is made up; don't confuse him!

Anonymous said...

Tom Friedman is a favored guest on PBS' Charlie Rose show because he sycophantically says "Charlie" before every annoying answer he gives or, worse, seemingly every sentence. It's maddening. I wonder if he does the same thing to the people he interviews in Singapore. They probably tell him what he wants to hear so he'll go away.


Dennis said...

Some people who talk about other countries need to really spends some time in those countries, especially Asia.