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Thomas Friedman is Way Off Today

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Wednesday, 30 January 2013 04:58

That's a cheap shot derived from the information that the NYT gave us at the end of Thomas Friedman's column: "Maureen Dowd is off today." Nonetheless it seems an appropriate response to a piece that tells real wages for most workers are stagnating because:

"In 2004, I wrote a book, called 'The World Is Flat,' about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy.

Today, not only do all these things exist, but, in combination, they’ve taken us from connected to hyperconnected."

So Facebook and Twitter are the cause of wage inequality? I knew there was some reason Mark Zuckerberg rubbed me the wrong way.

Friedman also tells us:

"we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising and high unemployment remains persistent."

Well the first part of this statement is almost always true. Except for short periods at the start of recessions, productivity always rises, implying greater wealth and presumably record innovation (not sure how that is measured).

Anyhow, it is not clear why Friedman finds anything surprising about this coinciding with high unemployment. Those of us who follow the economy would point to the fact that nothing has replaced the $1.2 trillion in annual construction and consumption demand that we lost when the housing bubble collapsed. And when we get more demand employment would grow, labor markets would tighten and we would see most workers in a position to get higher wages. There is no mystery here to folks who know basic economics and a bit of arithmetic.

Friedman wants people to have:

"more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime."

Yeah, it would be great if people had more passion, curiousity and learned more, but it's not clear that this would affect wages much for the 14.9 million people working in retail, the 10 million people employed in restauarants and the 1.8 million employed in hotels. In other words, even in Friedman's hyperconnected world, a very high percentage of jobs still do not offer many opportunities for passion, curiousity, and learning.

The reason that these people are not sharing in the benefits of productivity growth, as they did in the period from 1945 to 1973 is that the folks controlling economic policy lack passion, curiousity and an interest in learning. They think it's just fine that we waste $1 trillion a year due to an economy that is below full employment and that 15 million people are unemployed and underemployed.

Anyhow, maybe we can get the NYT to fix that line about Maureen Dowd.

 

Comments (10)Add Comment
...
written by Chris Engel, January 30, 2013 5:57
Is that clown still patting himself on the back for calling globalization 20 years late?

Stay irrelevant, Friedman.
Friedman Thinks Everyone Can Be a Winner in a Winner-Take-All Economy
written by Last Mover, January 30, 2013 7:15
Not enough "passion, curiosity and learning" in the midst of "record productivity, wealth and innovation"?

Friedman writes a book in 2004 about global connectivity where more people could compete, validated by Facebook etc, then claims the opportunity to succeed is there if only people would ... muster up enough initiative to take those opportunities?

Another flash of brilliant insight from Friedman on the economic nature of network monopolies like Microsoft and Facebook. If only slothful Americans had garnered up enough passion, curiosity and learning, there would have been a thousand Microsofts and Facebooks to spread the wealth, not just one of each.
PQ, CQ, or GQ?
written by David, January 30, 2013 8:14
Friedman says we need more CQ and PQ, he should lead by example. When passionate, curious people see a need, they fill it. They don't bemoan the lack of people filling it and write about it in the newspapers.

Also, apparently TF equates patents with innovation, despite the evidence that patents stifle innovation.
...
written by Kat, January 30, 2013 9:11
From the (modestly titled)"A Theory of Everything (Sort of)" August, 2011:
Why now? It starts with the fact that globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level. Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.


From today's column:
In 2004, I wrote a book, called “The World Is Flat,” about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy.
Today, not only do all these things exist, but, in combination, they’ve taken us from connected to hyperconnected.


The pace of change is exhilarating.
Hmmm Dean picks 1973....what happened around that time?
written by pete, January 30, 2013 10:18
Went off Bretton Woods, had huge increase in government and government regulation (AFDC, OSHA, EPA)...and the result is...banks benefited greatly from loose monetary policy, capital captured the regulators...essentially rasing the fixed costs of doing business, which dampens competition....sigh.....
...
written by liberal, January 30, 2013 12:34
"more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime."


I've been hearing this crap for awhile now. I'm in my late 40s and will likely have a major career transition soon. If I get the vibe that prospective employers are put off by my age, I'll just whip out this inane TF column to assuage them.
...
written by f.fursty, January 30, 2013 11:40
Does anyone actually listen to Friedman?
...
written by Chris Engel, January 30, 2013 11:48
I want to make one more note here:

There's not a shortage of ideas or initiative. Not for one bit.

There's a shortage of financing and a shortage of demand in the general economy to capitalize on good ideas.
Ho-hum
written by John Q, January 31, 2013 1:47

Thomas Friedman is Way Off Today

Also: Sun rose in east today.
Double or Nothing?
written by Dan Kervick, January 31, 2013 9:41
Those of us who follow the economy would point to the fact that nothing has replaced the $1.2 trillion in annual construction and consumption demand that we lost when the housing bubble collapsed.

Amazingly, $1.2 trillion is exactly the figure that the sequestration is slated not to replace, but to begin removing from the private sector in March.

A double or nothing bet for a double-your-fun, double-dip recession?

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/01/only-public-enterprise-can-heal-our-sick-economy.html

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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