Thomas Friedman Worships Lifetime Learning but Refuses to Learn

(4th column in my series on Friedman advising Hillary to Move Hard Right)
William K. Black
August 10, 2016     Bloomington, MN

Thomas Friedman has written two columns advising Hillary Clinton to win the election by adopting traditional Republican economic dogmas.  Friedman despairs that Hillary Clinton refrains from:

[T]elling people the hardest truth: that to be in the middle class, just working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t cut it anymore. To have a lifelong job, you need to be a lifelong learner, constantly raising your game.

Friedman has two big pieces of economic advice for Hillary – financial deregulation and ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Friedman treats TPP as if the issue were “trade,” but as I explained earlier in this series, TPP is actually crafted by corporate elites to eviscerate effective financial, health, and safety regulation.  Trade is simply the pretext for TPP’s passage.

Friedman never lives up to either of his companion slogans about the key to success in life – “you need to be a lifelong learner” and “constantly raising your game.”  In a future column I’ll analyze how preposterous those slogans are as guides for policy.  It is not that Friedman is stuck in a Groundhog Day, for things are not simply repeating endlessly.  Friedman keeps lowering his game.  He keeps doubling down on deregulation.  Deregulation led to the fraud epidemic that drove the $150 billion savings and loan debacle, widely described then as the worst financial scandal in our history.  Friedman loved Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s deregulation and their financial regulatory race to the bottom with Tony Blair that led to the Enron-era fraud epidemics that led to a $7 trillion loss in stock market capitalization.  Friedman loved it when George W. Bush and Gordon Brown took over from Clinton and Blair and intensified their financial regulatory race to the bottom that produced the three most destructive epidemics of financial fraud in history.  Those fraud epidemics drove the financial crisis and the Great Recession, with an estimated lost GDP over the course of the Great Recession and the recovery of $24.3 trillion.  What is Friedman calling for today?  Financial deregulation is his paramount proposal.

I’ll focus on TPP and other faux “trade” deals in a future column in this series, but the pattern is very similar.  Each deal fails to deliver the purported surge in U.S. jobs and instead increases the ability of corporate elites to eviscerate effective financial, health, and safety rules.  Friedman has never learned anything useful from this dismal record of failed promises.

As with those who still support Trump, the obvious question to Friedman is: what would it take for you to learn something and “raise your game” and oppose financial deregulation?  How many record fraud epidemics, record bubbles, and economic crises must we suffer before Friedman will prove capable of even the briefest flash of “learning?”  Friedman is such an ideologue, such an apologist for our most corrupt elites, and so addicted to shallow slogans instead of reasoning that no one expects him to display “lifelong learning.”  Nevertheless, it is impressive that he has managed to avoid even a single moment of insight about deregulation in nearly four decades.  There are few people in the world who can match Friedman’s record of “lifetime [non] learning.”. It helps, of course, that Friedman is incapable of embarrassment.

5 responses to “Thomas Friedman Worships Lifetime Learning but Refuses to Learn

  1. Friedman married an heiress to a real-estate and shopping-mall fortune now estimated at $2.7 billion, and is simply defending his self interest as a person who benefits from the policies he espouses. You don’t have to be a lifelong learner or raise your game, if you are a billionaire. Those practices are for the little people, not for him.

  2. Andrew Anderson

    Speaking of refusal to learn, when will Progressives learn the rather obvious point that the less banks are privileged* by government, the less of a threat they’ll be to the economy and thus the less the need to regulate them?

    But if Progressives insist on attempting to regulate what is, in essence, legalized theft then what does that make them but accomplices?

    *E.g. Why can’t we all have inherently risk-free accounts at the central bank? And thus eliminate the need for government-provided deposit insurance? And thus allow a separate payment system to the one that must work through the banks?

  3. Sarah Jackson

    Andrew, Bill Black, as far as I’ve read, has yet to declare that ripping people off was or is, in any way illegal. Every single day Capital One (for example) is financing a car they know won’t be paid for. Credit Cards are used as mini-jails – go see the docket at your local court house.

    Bill can’t mention Capital One directly, he’ll get in trouble. But he has a problem with Friedman’s call for deregulation? We already have deregulation, there’s not much further to go, is there?

    Fraud this, fraud that – yes all very important. But there are certain areas of business that cannot, and will not be attacked by our favorite (maybe the only one we know?) criminologist. It is legal to rip people off – just call it something else.

    The online gadflys need to refrain from attacking another corporate media outlet. This simply gives them credibility. But maybe that’s the goal? You know, keep information hidden.

  4. Ray LaPan-Love

    I have long thought of myself as a progressive thinker. I have backed that up too by how I live my life, and by volunteering, protesting, soliciting donations for The Sierra Club, and so on, I even spent several difficult months in Central America back in the 80s as part of an effort to better understand this complicated world. I have then too remained dedicated to the notion that ‘progress’ is badly needed on several fronts.

    Now though, I’m on the opposite side of the TPP issue as compared to likes of M. Hudson, Chomsky, B. Black, Stiglitz, Krugman, and others who have proven to speak successfully for the more altruistic and compassionate among us. I suspect though that many progressive thinkers are over-reacting due to their distrust where corporations are concerned, and of course their distrust is mostly justifiable. But corporations, though these businesses may have the upper hand now, are after-all very dependent on consumers. So, consumers could boycott across national boundaries and ultimately dictate terms. This being necessary whether the TPP comes to be, or not.

    It seems then that since the TPP ‘could’ possibly bring about some much needed improvements… on key concerns such as environmental and worker protections, along with allowing for some crucial progress on developmental lending, as well as progress on many other issues, that instead of attacking the TPP, it is the underlying problem of MNCs being too powerful where progressives might better apply their energies.


  5. “Colonization and the seizure of continents from the native peoples was a “flexible, resilient and propulsive” process. Stealing extremely valuable assets is an excellent way to produce “growth” – among the people that steal.” From professor Black’s second article in this series. Reading Bill Black is a great way to learn.

    TPP and TTIP fit right into the old primitive accumulation scheme.