The Conviction of the Converted

Around these parts, no one can touch Bill Bonner when it comes to taking down New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.  But Friedman’s latest is too much for me to resist.

"What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession?" he asks.

So he’s just now figuring this out.  Well, when the family fortune you marry into shrinks from $3.6 billion to a mere $25 million, I guess it’s natural to start wondering such things.

But since it’s Tom Friedman we’re talking about, it’s also natural to reach the wrong conclusions.

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …

We can’t do this anymore.

Yeah, I know — I too had to read it a couple of times so I could follow the logic, such as it is.

Is Friedman saying the whole globalization model as he’s portrayed it for the last couple of decades is falling apart?  Not that he would admit that, of course — "We’ve always been at war with Eastasia!"

Note too how he writes with the conviction of the converted.  I suppose if the family fortune you marry into has shrunk by more than 99 percent, and that family fortune is based on shopping malls , and you’re already of a world-improving mentality, it’s natural to adopt an outlook that meshes the worst of consumer-culture contempt and climate-change hysteria.

It is also natural in light of those circumstances to be utterly blind to the real causes of the crisis.  He writes about China’s purchase of Treasuries as if it were a phenomenon in isolation.  There’s zero acknowledgment that what we face is a debt crisis — a crisis of excess credit fomented by the Federal Reserve that metastasized through the financial system and then the wider economy.

Friedman actually quotes an expert who says, "We have not generated real wealth," without realizing what’s actually happened in the 20 years he’s been extolling the virtues of globalization (as he defines it):  The art of money-shuffling was elevated above the craft of producing real goods that people can use.

No matter.  Friedman speaks for the Davos crowd he’s hung out with the whole time that’s managed to screw things up so royally.  And their message now is:  Suck it up.  Learn to live with less.

You know, I think most people are probably able to figure that out without Tom Friedman’s help.  But he’s bound and determined to help anyway.