Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is Thomas Friedman "the stupidest man alive" ?

Well he certainly has stiff competition (most notably Donald Luskin (see here and here), but this NY Times column puts Sir Thomas directly in the running.

His argument is that "Red China has decided to become Green China" and since (according to him) going green is a zero sum game, they are going to bury stupid dumb corrupt America under a green on red avalanche:

Unfortunately, we’re still not racing. It’s like Sputnik went up and we think it’s just a shooting star. Instead of a strategic response, too many of our politicians are still trapped in their own dumb-as-we-wanna-be bubble, where we’re always No. 1...

There are, as you might imagine, a few problems with his argument. First off, he has no evidence that China has actually decided to go green. He mentions exactly two things. (1) An American "solar equipment maker" has opened a research center in China, and (2) A Chinese solar panel manufacturer told him that the party secretary of the town where the company is located told the Chinese business man that he wanted the party to support the business.

Oh my!

Even dumber than the notion that China, the world's biggest polluter, has gone green is the notion that going green is a zero sum competition. Friedman doesn't even try to argue for this point, he simply assumes it as self evident.

Friedman does find another idiot to quote here:

“If they invest in 21st-century technologies and we invest in 20th-century technologies, they’ll win,” says David Sandalow, the assistant secretary of energy for policy.

Oh my!

He then concludes, in classic stupidest man fashion, by completely undercutting his argument:

Of course, China will continue to grow with cheap, dirty coal, to arrest over-eager environmentalists and to strip African forests for wood and minerals. Have no doubt about that. But have no doubt either that, without declaring it, China is embarking on a new, parallel path of clean power deployment and innovation. It is the Sputnik of our day. We ignore it at our peril.

My conclusion: Thomas Friedman is a prime challenger for the position of stupidest man alive. We ignore him at our comedic peril.


Ken said...

Yeah. I wanted to write about that comment, but I realized I was like a monkey staring at a monolith: it was so unearthly stupid, I had no idea how to begin.

Anonymous said...

“If they invest in 21st-century technologies and we invest in 20th-century technologies, they’ll win,” says Sandalow

I wonder what China will get if they win. I bet the award is a really big trophy.

przemek said...

I'm pretty sure he is. Here's a quote from an op-ed he wrote in October 2007: I am not sure that this crisis will end without every government in every major economy guaranteeing the creditworthiness of every financial institution it regulates. That may be the only way to get lending going again.

przemek said...

October 2008, I meant.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, China, that place where they throw up shoddy buildings with poor insulation, leaky windows, and insufficient heating centrally controlled such that occupants purchase individual, electric space heaters. Never mind that if you are south of the Yangze, there IS no heat in your building and north of there the heat doesn't come on until October 15 and goes off after April 15. No wonder there is such a demand for coal to produce electricity. Maybe if they cover the landscape with solar reflectors and scatter windmills around - the land is already so despoiled and bureaucratic control and collusion so pervasive that NIMBY can likely be managed - they won't have to burn as much coal to create the electricity to feed the little space heaters.

Anonymous said...

Your problem is that you are assuming he is writing that stuff because he believes it. He is writing that stuff because it gets him adulation at parties, $75K for speeches, and a column in the Times. He is a very smart man, and his life is working very well. Unleash your inner Buchanan, and it will all make sense. When is the last time somebody paid you $75K for a speech, answer me that?! dave.s.

Speedmaster said...

Here's another good candidate:

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It's a good question. I think he already is... to be sure about it, you should read all his documents. You'll be surprised to find down all his "strategies"