Paging Thomas Friedman: Chinese Impressed Americans Actually Debate Budget Policy

MaoRaimond SpekkingAuthority-envying American pundits may yearn for the firm certainty of China's one-party rule, but those subject to that system seem impressed by the chaotic debate characterizing politics in the United States. Thomas Friedman (in)famously commented in the New York Times that one-party rule can "have great advantages," but regular Chinese citizens now take to the Internet to remark on how fascinating it is to see American politicians vigorously debating borrowing, spending and taxes, and the extent to which the country does not shutdown just because the federal government (sort of) closes for business.

In 2009, politburo devotee Thomas Friedman penned these words:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

Flash forward four years, and CNBC quotes everyday Chinese taking to the Internet to marvel at peaceful debate, discussion of policy alternatives, and a country not crippled because its political functionaries are at loggerheads:

"The government's closed — is this bad?" wrote Chen Zhiwu, a user on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. "In the American system, arguments among Republicans and Democrats and the president are normal and should happen because levying taxes, incurring debts, and paying expenses involves the taxpayer's interests and their money. So, elected representatives and the president should not treat these things lightly. To take these matters seriously is their responsibility and duty."

Other posters point to state and local governments' ability to function in the absence of federal direction, and the fact that normal life continues for most people. They also point to the corruption inherent in one-party autocracy, which is inseparably linked to the lack of ability to challenge tax and spending decisions.

Of course, Americans are a bit too vulnerable to federal action in many areas, and not necessarily by choice. Craft beer brewers have been hung up by requirements that they wait on the whims of regulators. The feds also have the ability to deliberately inflict pain by closing private businesses, cutting off access to parks and otherwise inconveniencing people for no reason other than to prod people into wishing for the return of their federal overlords. But that's an argument for more of the "local autonomy" (and personal autonomy) that astonishes Chinese observers, not for more of the autocracy that so charms those enamored of centralized power.

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  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Rise and shine, Mister Friedman. Rise and... shine. Not that I... wish to imply you have been sleeping on the job. No one is more deserving of a rest, and all the effort in the world would have gone to waste until... well, let's just say your hour has... come again.

  • MJGreen||

    Even the G-Man agreed to abide by certain restrictions.

  • Brett L||

    Poor Ed. Put all that work in and lost by a minute.

    So, elected representatives and the president should not treat these things lightly. To take these matters seriously is their responsibility and duty.

    Maybe this will happen in the US someday. Maybe.

  • Jordan||

    "The government's closed — is this bad?" wrote Chen Zhiwu, a user on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. "In the American system, arguments among Republicans and Democrats and the president are normal and should happen because levying taxes, incurring debts, and paying expenses involves the taxpayer's interests and their money. So, elected representatives and the president should not treat these things lightly. To take these matters seriously is their responsibility and duty."

    The funny thing is that Chen Zhiwu would be called a "Teahadist" and compared to terrorists by proglodytes here in the U.S.

  • wareagle||

    it's a sad day when a Chinese citizen understands the American system of govt better than many Americans do.

  • Restoras||

    I think more Americans know it better than they are given creidt for. It's the Ruling Elite that don't know it and routinely feel unjustly constrained by that pesky Constitution.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Wouldn't it be great to live up the idealized version of the US shown in these comments?

  • Brett L||

    Apparently, we're assholes, kulaks, and wreckers for expecting the US to live near that version.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    And Splitters....don't forget Splitters!

  • Brett L||

    And probably hoarders, too. Hoarders, assholes, splitters, kulaks and wreckers.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "cutting off access to parks and otherwise inconveniencing people for no reason other than to prod people into wishing for the return of their federal overlords. But that's an argument for more of the "local autonomy"

    The states that are taking over some parks during the shutdown should consider fighting to take them over permanently.

    "The Obama administration said Thursday it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks. Governors in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota asked for that authority because of the impact the closures are having on their local economies."

    http://www.deseretnews.com/art.....money.html

    Incidentally, the Obama Administration didn't do this out of the goodness of their hearts. The Obama Administration made that announcement just as situations like this were developing:

    "Utah county plans to go ahead and illegally reopen its national parks
    The act of civil disobedience has become necessary, say county commissioners"

    http://www.salon.com/2013/10/1.....nal_parks/

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Wouldn't it be nice if they just sold the parks back to the States where they belong?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm sure it would save federal taxpayers a lot of money.

    And the locals would have more power over the resources they depend on for their economy.

    Wouldn't it suck if your whole local economy depended on Zion National Park, and the only political power you had over how it was run consisted of one of 435 Representatives? ...and two Senators, who were responsible to every other district in the state, not just yours alone.

    And it's not just the people who run the park, it's the people who staff it, too--the people they answer to aren't really subject to your vote, at all.

    Especially in Western states like Arizona, South Dakota, and Utah, too, I'm sure the state employees don't get the benefits of a federal park employee. We should be sending those parks back to the states--in every state that will take them.

  • prolefeed||

    In 2009, politburo devotee Thomas Friedman penned these words:

    One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today

    If by "reasonably enlightened" he means "have a Buddhist priest beat to death because he had a cassette by the Dalai Lama on his person", then sure.

    Or if he is comparing them to the North Korean govt, then sure, they are relatively unendarkened by comparison.

  • Ruckus||

    c'mon,

    It's always the wrong top men in charge, you know that. They just weren't enlightened enough.

    Next time they will be 24% more enlightened, we promise.

  • Loki||

    Or if he is comparing them to the North Korean govt, then sure, they are relatively unendarkened...

    Unendarkened!!?? RACIST!!!!!11!!!!11!!

  • Adam330||

    that just goes under the category of "drawbacks."

  • AdamJ||

    Certainly, there are those...

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    No opinion piece on Tommy Friedman would be complete without more excerpts from his ostentatious body of work.

    Personally, the opener from his October 5th piece is my favorite of recent memory:

    FOR anyone who enjoys a good metaphor (emphasis added), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations has been a field day for sheep and wolves.
  • Brett L||

    I hope Friedman jumps in on Kurgnuts side against Niall Ferguson and gets an epic beatdown of his own.

  • Almanian!||

    He deserves a beatdown regardless.

    Of course, "deserve" has got NOTHING to do with it...

  • Loki||

    Thomas Friedman: punchable face, or most punchable face ever?

  • Root Boy||

    You'ze guys, making fun of and beating on the retards. It just ain't fair.

  • Zeb||

    Calling people like Friedman retards is letting them off way too lightly. If they were just mentally defective, that would be somewhat excusable. They are something much worse.

  • AdamJ||

    That's a tie between Lindsey Graham, Harry Reid, and Skip Bayless.

  • Restoras||

    +1 Unforgiven

  • Ruckus||

    americannovice | Oct 14, 2013 01:55 AM ET
    The Chinese envy America Democrats for standing up for their rights. It's only a dream for China to have a leader stand up for them. The Republicans have a lot in common with the Communist doctrine of no rights for the non-leaders

    comment from article.

    I really need to stay off reason for a while. It ruins my productivity and I think it's bad for my health. When I see shit like that, the rage and anger becomes to much.

  • sloopyinca||

    I've always wondered if those large paintings are actually paintings on canvas or if they're something else. They always look pristine, so I assume they're replaced with some regularity.

    Also, what does a 12'x8' Mao portrait go for these days? Does anybody from Boston have Elizabeth Warren's number so we can find out?

  • Almanian!||

    Hope you feel better soon, sloop.

    Would a nice Mao portrait help the healing process? My sister is a lefty and lives in Bahston, so pretty sure she can get hold of Fauxcahontas.

  • Jordan||

    Your sister knows how to make smoke signals? Impressive.

  • sloopyinca||

    Thanks. Yeah, I feel like absolute shit today. Banjos and Baby Reason are sick as well. What a fucking nightmare.

  • Jordan||

    I thought all microbes were supposed to bow to the will of the God Emperor in the post-Obamacare age.

  • Almanian!||

    Ugh. I hope OTC meds or...other methods....help :)

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    "other methods"

    Leeches!

  • Mainer2||

    Sloopy, you may be thinking of Communications Director Anita Dunn, who said Mao was on of her favorite philosophers.

  • cavalier973||

    OT:

    So, over the past weekend, I purchased a couple of DVDs of movies I enjoyed in my younger years in order to show them to my children: E.T. and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It was the first time they saw either movie. They said that they preferred the latter.

  • Jordan||

    Your kids are wise. E.T. bored me to tears as a kid.

  • Almanian!||

    That is actually a movie I have never seen. Sounds like a good call...

  • sloopyinca||

    Probably because the latter is more realistic. I mean, the federal agents would have shot Elliot and E.T. the minute they continued aggressively charging them on their bikes. Instead they (in the remastered version I assume you had to buy) pointed radios at them.

  • Zeb||

    But, on the plus side, the government agents in ET are the scary bad guys.

    I like ET. But I was in the right age group when it came out. I think it was the first movie I saw in the theater.

  • Almanian!||

    Is this not the best? My kids have come to love "Big Trouble in Little China", "Scarface", "The Warriors" and others.

    Of course, they DESPISED "Vanishing Point", "Two Lane Blacktop", Cheech and Chong's Anything, and others.

    Win some, lose some...

  • Jordan||

    You showed your kids Scarface and Cheech and Chong? I heartily approve.

  • Almanian!||

    Well, they're in the 20's now and seem to have turned out aight :)

  • Killazontherun||

    AWESOME

  • sloopyinca||

    My kids are partial to "Blazing Saddles," "Super Troopers" and "Idiocracy", but they object when I put on "Stir Crazy" once.

    Meh. I know how you feel.

    And FWIW, I'd prefer a few other chase movies than the two you listed. Show the kids "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry". If they don't love it, disown them.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Blazing Saddles for the win.

    What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?
  • Wizard4169||

    It's twue, it's TWUE!

  • Almanian!||

    "Mother, Jugs and Speed." "Sugarland" was another big fave that teh childrunz didn't like. LOVE that movie!

  • Almanian!||

    OH! And, of course, the real tearjerker was when my son was about 5, watching "Holy Grail" in his underwear, runs around the corner into the kitchen to tell us, "Those guys aren't riding horses - THEY HAVE COCONUTS! HAAHAHAHAHA!" Ran back to watch the rest.

    I knew right then he'd be alright...

  • Brett L||

    I can't wait to spend 3 weeks talking up Iron Eagle to my son so he can be completely let down by the 80s like I was.

  • Killazontherun||

    Fuck yeah to DMCL, had a pair of older cousins who made a game of acting that movie out back in the mid 70s.

  • SIV||

    Two Lane Blacktop isn't really a kids movie but I'm surprised they didn't like Vanishing Point. It was one of my favorite movies as a tween.

  • Wizard4169||

    Vanising Point only works if you're familiar with the basic nihilism of the seventies. Otherwise, it's just nonsensical weirdness.

    "The vicious traffic squad cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero! The electric centaur, the demigod! The super-driver of the Golden West!

    "Two nasty Nazi-cars are close behind the beautiful lone driver, the Police cars are getting closer, closer, closer, to our soul hero in his soul-mobile! Yeah, baby, they're about to smack! They're gonna get him! Smash, rape! The last beautiful, free soul on this planet!

    "But, it is written, "If if the Evil Spirit armed the tiger with claws, Brahmin provided wings to the dove."

    "Thus spake the Super Guru. Did you hear that?"

  • cavalier973||

    Well, HISTK is a more amusing movie, more light-hearted, and doesn't push so hard for the tearjerker moment.

    E.T., meanwhile, is all about manipulating you to care about the characters. I saw it in the movie as a child, and absolutely loved it. This time...meh. Part of the problem was that we had the sound down, and I couldn't hear the music--which the film leans on heavily for its entertainment value.

  • ||

    My 12 year old was partial to Asian Nurses 8.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down."

    Nobody said that democracy and respecting people's rights was going to be convenient. People are extremely inconvenient things, especially when you have to respect their rights.

    That's why progressives hate the very idea of individual rights so much. Our rights get in the way of what Obama wants to do. Oh, if only Obama could ignore our right to make choices for ourselves--what a wonderful world it would be.

    Makes Friedman sound like a progressive, and progressives are America's most horrible people.

  • wareagle||

    what is this "demand for clean power" bullshit? We are really to believe that in a nation where people are barely removed from being peasants that going green is what drives them? Thomas is doing more than a little projecting.

  • Brett L||

    You would think that a demand for green power would have a pricing signal large enough to generate a supply of green power.

  • BakedPenguin||

    To be fair, I think Friedman might be right about that. China is polluted as hell.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If everyday individuals can't sue to protect themselves from pollution effectively, I'm not sure it's possible to avoid being polluted as hell.

    If they could regulate the hell out of pollution, that would be one thing, but making more of the economy subject to the arbitrariness of government officials isn't about to do much for their corruption problems either.

  • Zeb||

    I think he is talking about demand for clean power from other parts of the world that China wants to exploit. But the question is still valid.

  • DJF||

    No mention of a Thomas Friedman article is complete without a link to the Thomas Friedman Op/Ed Generator

    http://thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com/about.php

  • Loki||

    The only thing that would make the Thomas Friedman op/ed generator better would be if it also generated random derptastic NYT reader comments.

  • DJF||

    Unfortunately the NYT has not released a direct link to their reader comments generator

  • Wizard4169||

    Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Friedman is a gold mine of unintentional hilarity.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    More accurately, Friedman is a gold mine full of gems of unintentional hilarity.

  • Almanian!||

    You know who else was impressed with the workings of government...

  • cavalier973||

    Ozymandias?

  • Restoras||

    Walter Duranty?

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Central Services?

    /27B/6

  • Ken Shultz||

    Matt Schaub?

  • Brett L||

    Totally OT, but I have this fantasy that the Texans will pick up Vince Young, who, upon being booed, goes into the stands and starts a general melee. Mostly because I'm ashamed of my fellow Texan fans for cheering out loud when Schaub got hurt. Not cool, guys. You're supposed to just cheer on the inside.

  • Ruckus||

    Plus ya know, Schaub has been a pretty good QB for the franchise over the last 6 years. In a world where Rex Grossman started a SB and Trent Dilfer and Rob Johnson have won super bowls, Matt Schaub can be a legend.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's why his name is supposed to be kinda ironic/funny (ha ha), here.

    If they're gonna cheer when Schaub gets hurt, why not go ahead and compare him to...

    You know who else made people cheer when he got hurt?

  • Brett L||

    Spartacus?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Chen Zhiwu can have our Constitution. We're not using it any more.

  • triclops||

    Nice one.

  • cavalier973||

    OT:

    Conservative Evangelical Types are learning that their idolatrous military-worship has not paid off, after all.

  • Zeb||

    “The instructor said AFA could be considered a hate group because they don’t like gays,”

    Well, that should make them a dislike group, not a hate group. Hate is a strong word and people throw it around way to readily.

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