Sunday, January 8, 2012

Has Anyone of Exceptional Intelligence Become More Irrelevant Faster than Thomas Friedman of the New York Times

The Great Columnist Lives in His Own Dream World – Where Politicians are Rational and Address Real Problems

Thomas Friedman used to be one of the great reasons to read the New York Times.  His insightful analysis ultimately culminated into one of the great books about the global economy and coined a phrase, The Earth is Flat.  He documented in clear, concise language and wonderful analysis and anecdotes how the rest of the world used information technology to gain economic strength and high growth compared to Europe and America.

The Iraq war largely undid Mr. Friedman.  His unqualified support of that war damaged his credibility.  He frequent columns that the “next six moths” will be crucial, columns that appeared regularly every six months finished off his credibility.  In some circles the period of time “the next six months” became known as a “Frideman”.

Mr. Friedman has largely retired from the editorial pages of the Times to write more books, but every now and then he returns to write about things which continually show his disconnect from reality.  In his recent column he addresses the Presidential nominating process for the Republicans

Two things have struck me about the Republican presidential candidate debates leading up to the Iowa caucuses. One is how entertaining they were. The other is how disconnected they were from the biggest trends shaping the job market of the 21st century. 

Well the fun part is lost on almost all of us, and the idea that they were disconnected from the trends of the 21st century, well that is true, obvious and not confined to Republicans running for the Presidency.  The disconnect cuts across all parties and all spectrums of political philosophy.  It reflects an America more concerned with Kardashians than with Quaddafi’s.

So Mr. Friedman concocts a world in which the relevant issues of the day are relevant to the politics of the day.

What if the 2012 campaign were actually about the world in which we’re living and how we adapt to it? What would the candidates be talking about?

And goes on to talk about those issues, for example

The best of these ecosystems will be cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fastest broadband connections on earth. These will be the job factories of the future. The countries that thrive will be those that build more of these towns that make possible “high-performance knowledge exchange and generation,” explains Blair Levin, who runs the Aspen Institute’s Gig.U project, a consortium of 37 university communities working to promote private investment in next-generation ecosystems.

And wonders why politicians are not addressing the issues

I just don’t remember any candidate being asked in those really entertaining G.O.P. debates: “How do you think smart cities can become the job engines of the future, and what is your plan to ensure that America has a strategic bandwidth advantage?”

Seriously, does anyone think that any of the Republican candidates for President would even understand that question?  Does anyone think that any elected official, Democrat or Republican could even come close to an intelligent and coherent answer? We’re talking about people who spent a huge amount of time on whether or not the Federal government should regulate light bulbs.

Mr. Friedman lives in a world where people are rational, elected officials worry about how best to serve the public and promote general welfare, and where politicians are concerned more about doing a job than getting elected.  In short, a world that can only exist in a parallel universe, not in this one.

So sorry Mr. Friedman, until you can start writing about what is rather than what you would like it to be, your columns will continue their irrelevancy.

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