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Why Tom Friedman Is the Ayn Rand of Our Times


If Thomas Friedman didn't exist, America's high-tech entrepreneurs would have had to invent him. Come to think of it, maybe they did. The dark science-fiction vision he celebrates serves them well, at pretty much everyone else's expense.

Friedman's vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires.

mso-border-alt:none windowtext 0in;padding:0in”>branding problem.

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none windowtext 0in;padding:0in”>Times, he idealizes the unregulated, winner-take-all economy of the Internet and while overlooking human, real-world concerns. His misplaced faith in a digitized "free" market reflects the solipsistic libertarianism of a technological 0in;line-height:150%”>
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 is, characteristically, a Panglossian panegyric to online technology as the salve for all economic problems. In it he paints the picture of a global dystopia where decent jobs are scarce, educational advancement is unattainable, and people must sacrifice their homes, their possessions, and their personal lives to serve and amuse complete strangers.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>He can hardly wait.

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font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>Consider this passage from Friedman's column:

padding:0in”>average is over — the skills required for any good job keep rising — a lot of people who might not be able to acquire those skills can still earn a good living now by building their own branded reputations, whether it is to rent their kids' rooms, their cars or their power tools."

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>"In a world where, as I've argued,  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>"Average is over"? Averaging is a mathematical function, inextricably woven into the fabric of reality as we understand it. How can it be  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>But what's he  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>Why didn't he just  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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color:black”>To be fair, Friedman is an advocate for education – in his own way. But his education arguments, like his economic ones, focus on the online, the gimmicky, and the jargon-laden. Friedman's world doesn't seem to include manufacturing jobs, or construction jobs, or good government jobs. He envisions a workforce made up almost exclusively of "lateral thinkers" and "integration" engineers. Students should be trained to " mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>Friedman's unrealistic view of the labor force, shared by many tech entrepreneurs, is one in which the middle class is as  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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color:black”>Friedman seems unaware that millions of Americans don't  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>As I read this column my mind kept wandering to the recent Bill Moyers program about Milwaukee, "
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padding:0in”>Mirror, mirror …
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color:black”>There  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>Instead Friedman glorifies globalization and the destruction of good jobs. He's indifferent to the loss of social mobility and infatuated with mediocre or at best mildly clever web enterprises. Friedman is the praise singer of Palo Alto, the  mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:black”>But give the man his due: When it comes to "building your brand reputation," Friedman's a master of the art. It helps to have the perfect platform, of course. As soon as the New York 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>RJ Eskow is a writer, business person, and songwriter/musician. He has worked as a consultant in public policy, technology, and finance, specializing in healthcare issues.
 

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