Now comes Thomas Friedman. It's not quite "the Eighties called and they want their foreign policy back," and it's not quite The World is Flat, or Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and yet, it's retrospectively an endorsement of "Dictatorships and Double Standards" with a smattering of Institutions Matter. Then there's something else.
Sixty years ago Asian dictators told their people in effect, “I am going to take away your freedom — but give you the best education, export-led economics and infrastructure that money can buy — and in a half-century you’ll build a middle class that will gradually take your freedom back.” In the Arab world, 60 years ago dictators told their people, in effect, “I am going to take away your freedom and give you the Arab-Israeli conflict, a shiny object to distract you from my corruption and predation.”I'm not persuaded that any of the strong men of the Asian tiger countries came anywhere near close to offering such a bargain, and that gradual taking back of freedom is nowhere near present in Communist China.
And the deal the Arab dictators offered their people is just that of a ward-heeler politician. Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson (or was it the sainted Franklin D. Roosevelt?) told the poor, "sit on your ass, light up a Camel, this is the promised land."
To Mr Friedman, the differences in governing methods matter.
That difference, 60 years later, has produced the Asian economic miracle and fueled the Arab civilizational meltdown/disorder in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq.Here's how it plays out in Detroit, or Chicago, or any of the other precincts where the politicians offer distractions to their corruption and predation.
There's a symbiosis between desperate people who like having a ward-heeler "fighting for them" and a ward-heeler who mau-maus the rest of the polity about the continued parlous condition of his or her constituents. A ward-heeler cannot call out the constituents for engaging in self-destructive behavior, nor get re-elected in a district in which constituents discover, or re-discover bourgeois habits. Better to have constituents rendered helpless by years of Democratic policies. That's how Gwen and Bobby and John and Maxine achieve seniority in the Democratic caucus.I have to keep fighting it out on this line. Perhaps some of Mr Friedman's readers will see the applicability of his argument in his own city and state.