Happy Post-Memorial Memorial Day: Welcome to Thomas Friedman’s New Technocratic Order
Going Green? Check. Cutting middle-class entitlements? Check. Submerging democracy under a layer of technocracy? Check. Subordinating American patriotism by imagining a new kind of crisis that only international institutions can manage? Check. And all this on Memorial Day!
That’s The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman in action. In his latest column, headlined, “Memorial Day 2050,” Friedman lays it all out, perfectly expressing the neoliberal consensus--roughly, the deal that the Obama administration, Goldman Sachs, and the Sierra Club could jointly agree upon, aided by the mediation, perhaps, of a deep-thinking pillar of the MSM.
Friedman has always managed perfectly to embody the trendy centrist-liberal Zeitgeist, and it’s worked out well for him. In the 80s, as a Middle East reporter for the Times, he wrote cleverly of the difficulties confronting the “peace process”--including the fact that wars kept getting in the way. In the 90s, having been promoted to Times columnist, he trumpeted Bill Clinton’s vision of globalization and intervention. In the ‘00s, he was a cautious supporter of Bush 43-style intervention, along with many other “liberal hawks.” But then, of course, Bush proved to be too right-wing for the high-minded chatterers.
And so now, in the 10s, we should study Friedman closely, because his writings will perfectly track the thinking of the Obama administration, the MSM intelligentsia, Wall Street, the European Union, and every other international organization.
As a result of his astute career management--always staying slightly ahead of the center-left globalist consensus, always crafting his phrases nicely, always portraying the powerful in a flattering light--Friedman has been awarded three Pulitzer Prizes. In other words, this self-declared “thought leader” is more of a “thought accompanier.”
To illustrate, it’s safe to say that if you are rich and/or important and live in New York City, chances are that you have bumped into Friedman somewhere--maybe at the Council on Foreign Relations, maybe at Davos, maybe in first class on the Acela--and discovered, to your delight, that you and Friedman see eye to eye on the “important” issues of the day.
And what are those issues? First and foremost, they include the need to “do something” on climate change, but to do it in a way that maintains the hierarchy of the current economic order. Neither Friedman nor his fans are socialists--just the opposite, in fact. Friedman is rich, having married a billionairess, and having done pretty well on his own as columnist, speaker, and best-selling author. And Friedman’s core supporters are rich, too; they are either Wall Streeters or trust-funders.
As befits those with surplus time and money, the Friedman Class might feel pensive about melting icecaps and polar bears and penguins. Or it might have decided that the Hamptons are simply getting too crowded and there’s no more need for new people with nouveaux money.
Either way, something must be done. But we must note: The Friedman Class doesn’t want to reduce its standard of living; it just wants to reduce your standard of living. That is, you get by on less, while the Class keeps what it has. In fact, the Friedman Class has supported mechanisms that would actually help it make more money on CO2 reduction, viz. the Wall Street-centric cap-and-trade legislation of a few years back--also known as Enron in the Sky.
But there’s more to the Friedman worldview than just Green-elitism--there are other kinds of elitism, too. What other kinds? Let us count the ways: In his latest piece, in a mere 851 words, Friedman manages to express his disdain for American patriotism, for the middle class, and for democracy.
We can begin a closer look with a consideration of the headline of the column, “Memorial Day 2050.” Although Friedman uses Memorial Day as a hook, it is only a hook; he doesn’t spend any time actually remembering or extolling the sacrifices of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.
Instead, the idea that Friedman wishes to advance is that now, as we look ahead to the mid-21st century, we must transcend old thinking and embrace new post-democratic mechanisms to deal with our problems. In other words, we can say “thanks” to the heroes of Bunker Hill or Bastogne or Baquba--although Friedman doesn’t have room in his column actually to do any of that--and then move on to a new kind of “courage,” which past American warriors never dreamed of.
In particular, on this Memorial Day, Friedman wants us to know about a new proposal from Thomas Wells, a Dutch philosopher: That is, in order to pursue an effective climate-change policy, we should recognize that our current democratic institutions--you know, James Madison and all that--are outmoded. Instead, say Wells and now Friedman, we need to create a new “trusteeship” of “nongovernmental civic and charitable foundations, environmental groups and nonpartisan think tanks.” These groups, we are instructed, being the natural watchdogs of the public interest, should get extra votes--enough to tip America into a more enlightened policy action.
And what sort of policy action? Well, “de-carbonizing” the economy, of course. (Yes, as Thomas Rose points out here at Breitbart News, China and Russia are going in the exact opposite direction, toward more hydrocarbon production, but the proper instruction to them will have to await a future Friedman column; the issue today is fixing America.)
In addition, Friedman speaks of “guaranteeing pension entitlements,” which, in this context, is wonk-code for cuts; the argument, made by Pete Peterson types, has always been that we must cut entitlement spending in order to keep the programs “secure”--although the Petersonites have seemed mostly interested in the cutting.
And while cutting middle-class earned entitlements might seem to have some appeal to believers in limited government, any savings, in the hands of the Friedman Class, would immediately be transferred to the poor. And transferred also, of course, to the requirements of counter-acting global warming--oops, make that “climate change.” The main impact of Friedman/Peterson-type cuts, in other words, would be to shrink the middle class, not shrink the state. In this context, then, entitlement cuts are mostly a finger-in-the-eye to middle America--you know, the place that produced the heroes that we celebrate on Memorial Day.
Meanwhile, on this holiday when most Americans celebrate sacrifices for freedom, Friedman celebrates, instead, the sacrifice of freedom--that is, freedom sacrificed on the altar of a post-democratic system, in which NGO and other New Class types finally succeed in taking power. For Friedman, this is not a new idea; he has long been a fan of non-democratic systems--he has even praised the Chinese government regime.
And, of course, Friedman does all this on Memorial Day weekend. Thus the Red-White-and-Blue becomes the Green. Thus the American middle class becomes the enemy, to be defunded in the name of better, newer, “priorities.” Thus democracy becomes a procedural nuisance to be overcome, trampled on by a new cadre of elite experts.
And thus, most poignantly, American history becomes expendable. The graves of our heroes are useful only as a punditical launching pad for a new vision of technocratic hegemony.
But of course, it’s for our own good--even if most of us are too dull to see it.