Its a Miracle

In days of yore, Friedman used to be the Middle East correspondent for NYT and was a good reporter or so I have heard. These days he spends his days evangelizing about globalization and meeting sundry taxi drivers from Tokyo to Mumbai. Then he pens them in columns full of buzz words and jargon using tortured metaphors.

India Ink, the NYT blog on India interviewed Tom Friedman recently. Mustache of Understanding manages to answer them without really answering them. Throws in a lots of buzz words. His favorite adjective seems to be hyper. The world is hyper flat, we are hyper connected, I counted at least five instances of hyper in the interview. Hyper use of hyper seems hyper. MoU speaks in a special dialect of English, MoU speak, it is like Lolspeak but less cute.

Some highlights

Is the world still flat?

Shorter Friedman: Flat and getting hyper flatter.

Translation from MoU speak : The trends he described in his book are accelerating.

The globalization of business is basically finding a way to justify exploitation of labor, resulting in an enormous concentration of wealth in fewer hands. The majority of labor working for low-end manufacturing work in pathetic conditions, while workers in the U.S. face layoffs, particularly the elderly. Who is paying for this social cost, and should globalization be regulated, somehow?

Shorter Friedman:Concerned MoU is concerned but Rah Rah Globalization and college education is a cure for unemployment. This is what it sounds like in original MoU speak.

The first thing you need to understand about globalization is that it is everything and its opposite. So it is take it with one hand and give it with another hand.

So, who is the exploiter and who is the exploitee in this system? If horses could vote, there never would have been cars.

I’m concerned about it too.

So what happens when the world gets this hyper-connected? Well, first of all, the returns to education grow enormously. To be able to use these new technologies properly, you need to be educated. In America today, unemployment for people with four-year college degrees is 3.6 percent, basically nothing. Unemployment for someone who dropped out of high school is now infinity. I exaggerate but you get the point.
It’s called skills-bias polarization.


The devaluation of labor is not just due to technological change (or hyper connectivity in MoU speak) but because of the tax and other policies of the past few decades. Globalization has not been a win-win neither in US nor India. There have been winners and losers. What Friedman is doing is blaming the losers, saying that they are losers because they lack education. This is just another version of Romney’s 47% quote. Hey sucker if you are jobless it is because you have no education. I guess he has never spoken to a single post-doc who has spent years getting an education but still doesn’t have a job in his chosen field of expertise, that pays him well.

How would you rate India on governance and public institutional structures compared to other democratic countries?

MoU compares India, China and Egypt. That’s like comparing apples, to oranges and bananas. An exercise in futility. Why? Because he visited all three countries recently. Mysterious are the ways of the MoU. Bet he met cab drivers in all the three countries as well. He predicts that India’s governance will improve because 300 million people have access to cell phones. I have no idea where that number comes from. Earth to MoU, access to a cell-phone does not make you middle class.

India in my mind has relatively weak governance in terms of delivering services, but a very strong civil society

I think India’s governance will improve. The government here is not utterly ineffective. It does do some things very well, but clearly it has weaknesses around policing, infrastructure building and providing consistent education.

India today has, because of hyper-connection of the world, and diffusion of technology, experienced the pushing down to lower and lower income levels more technology empowerment and education. That’s why India today seems like it has a 300 million-person middle class and a 300 million-person virtual middle class.

Studies indicate that equal treatment between the sexes is important to slowing the birth rate. I don’t see that globalization is contributing significantly to that end in India. An argument can be made that globalization has made it possible for the people who are most likely to start egalitarian families to leave India for the West?

Again according to MoU, hyper connectivity solves the problem of female empowerment. How don’t ask.

Question Tom, China may not be loved in the West, but is respected and admired for its accomplishments. How do you think India ranks on the loved vs. respected and admired spectrum?

What an interesting question.

I find the premise of the question troublesome.  First of all MoU is not a stand in for the world, and he has zero insight into India and its problems. The only Indians he knows are imaginary taxi drivers and CEOs of outsourcing and tech companies. In an interview full of fail, this is the  stupidest comment in the entire exchange.

What if 1 billion 50 million Indians were living like Syria today? The whole world would be different. Literally, the whole world would feel different today.

Wouldn’t they be Syrians, then?  Does he mean Indian immigrants? This sentence makes no sense.

Then there is this:

So to me India is a miracle. One billion fifty million people holding free and fair elections, just about every day, in the country. We now take it for granted because it has gone on for so long. I think it’s amazing.

India holds elections everyday? That is some democracy, indeed.

He ends the interview by pimping Nasscom.


Posted on February 18, 2013, in Politics, Punditubbies say Hello and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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