Energy

Not Just a Friedman, But a Friedman-Friedman!

|

Me, on New York Times global-affairs simplifier Thomas L. Friedman, in August 2005:

Michael Mandelbaum, a professor at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies who cut his academic teeth studying superpower relations during the Cold War […] has appeared in 40 of Friedman's columns during the last decade, two of his books, and at least 25 other Friedman pieces dating back to 1989. […]

Mandelbaum, usually described as "the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert," quickly became Friedman's go-to metaphor dispenser, issuing pithy and grammatically flawless bon mots on an impressively broad range of topics, including Saudi Wahhabism ("Either we get rid of our minivans or Saudi Arabia gets rid of its textbooks"), China's entry into the World Trade Organization ("Some things are in the national interest even though the Chamber of Commerce believes them"), Iraq's insurgents ("the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age"), Jacques Chirac ("France, it seems, would rather be more important in a world of chaos than less important in a world of order"), and American energy independence ("This is not just a win-win, this is a win-win-win-win-win"). His quips became Friedman's headlines, from "Brussels Sprouts" to "Club NATO" to "Gulf of Tonkin II."

Thomas L. Friedman, on Dec. 27:

A gasoline tax "is not just win-win; it's win, win, win, win, win," says the Johns Hopkins author and foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum. "A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose."

You can tell the quote isn't just cut and pasted, because this time it's not hyphenated…. Oh, and the headline: "Win, Win, Win, Win, Win …"

NEXT: Now Playing at Reason.tv: Perspectives on the Financial Crisis

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did the NYTs style handbook mandate the change from hyphens to commas when recycling old “quotes”?

  2. Friedman’s go-to metaphor dispenser

    Well done, Jesse! Mandelbaum is the Pez of Politics.

  3. That’s about how the Buccaneer’s season started.

  4. Jacques Chirac (“France, it seems, would rather be more important in a world of chaos than less important in a world of order”)

    Chirac is Elric? I need to consult with Arioch.

  5. Obviously referring to Win Bear.

  6. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”

    How does something that stupid get past an editor? More than anything? So ensuring higher gasoline prices is more important than say keeping prices stable or maintaining the value of the dollar or maintaining free trade with other countries just to name a few things?

    That statement is so appallingly stupid, it doesn’t warrent a response.

  7. I could support a gasoline tax if and ONLY if all other taxes were eliminated and / or greatly reduced. But that is not how taxes usually work.

  8. Lamar,

    Are you trying to upset me? The month of December was bad enough.

  9. ProL: Not my fault everybody on that team is pushing 40. It’s a case of late season I’m-Too-Old-To-Tackle-itis.

  10. (oops)
    Sorry about that blown attribution, Matt.
    Not that you are not the equal of Jesse, in your way, I’m sure.

  11. Can one plagiarize oneself?

  12. (We regret the errors)

  13. Of all things to fail–the defense. I hope the new defensive coordinator (sob!) can help get things back in order. The big problem isn’t age; it’s lack of depth. Gruden blew up the once great and deep defense to fund his various offensive free agent moves. He’s an okay coach, but he took a team that should’ve been a regular playoff contender and made it an irregular playoff contender. What a waste of one of the all-time great defenses!

    And Kiffin going to the friggin’ Vols. I’d elaborate on my displeasure except that I have family that are alumni of that august institution. And, whatever has happened recently, Kiffin was awesome for us for a long time.

  14. Pro,

    I am not sure where people got the idea that Chucky was anything but a good coach and was some kind of personnel genius. Chucky can win with talent. But he has no business running the team beyond coaching. All of the talent that won them the Super Bowl was the result of Rich McKay and Tony Dungy, not Chucky. McKay is actually a good personnel guy whose career was sadly ended by Michael Vick’s deciding to be the Don King of dog fighting.

  15. I’d take McKay and Dungy back in a heartbeat. At least the former is a possibility, though the blood may be pretty bad between him and the Glazers. At the very least, Bruce Allen must go.

  16. Can one plagiarize oneself?

    No, one merely purges oneself.

  17. I hated this column. I mean, I’m all for a carbon tax and especially in exchange for lower income taxes, but his argument was “having gas prices fluctuate is bad because it makes people buy fuel efficient cars which drops the price of gas which means that people won’t need fuel efficient cars anymore which means the price goes up.”

    Which, of course, is stupid.

  18. There’s a weird full-court press going on right now for a gas price floor from establishment conservative corners… The cover story in the Weekly Standard has Krauthammer talking about the wonderful fruits of 3 dollar gas and how the government should keep it at that price to “stick it” to OPEC.

  19. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”

    Yeah because there are so many historical examples of nations taxing their way to prosperity.

  20. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”

    Yeah because there are so many historical examples of nations taxing their way to prosperity.

    I gather from your sarcasm that you are unaware of the great nation of Taxsylvania, just north of Oppositeland, where the only complaint people have about their government is that the taxes are only one of the smaller infinities (Those big-government types never give it a rest, do they?) and the “energy crisis” refers to the fact that not enough new energy is being created to power their rainbow factories.

  21. Friedman is an infidel who has never mastered libertarian dogma and therefore deserves our utter contempt, and it is obviously the purpose of this post to elicit it. Denigrating enemies is as important as learning the catechism.

  22. Lefiti–duh.

  23. Is there any hope for this comment thread? We’ll have to see. The next six comments are crucial.

  24. A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama is likely to propose.

    How’s that? Looks a lot better when phrased that way, doesn’t it?

    And I’m actually in favor of raising gas taxes a bit, in exchange for some useful infrastructure projects – especially fixing what we’ve already got before any more of it collapses (as opposed to spending for the sake of spending.)

    It’s better than a windfall profit tax anyway, which is really a subsidy on imported oil.

  25. I apologize. My comment was way harsh. Learning catechism is much more importnat than trashing enemies.

  26. So, Lefiti, in your world it is libertarian dogma to say that 4 + 4 = 8 when all right-thinking individuals know that it is much more moderate and mainstream to say that 4 + 4 = 2 and sometimes 4 + 4 = 12 depending on the situation. God knows that you would have to be crazy to disagree with the mainstream!

  27. I have no idea if it’s fair or not, but Matt Taibbi’s review of “The World is Flat” is a thing of beauty:

    http://www.nypress.com/article-11419-flathead.html

  28. And the thread went to hell in the very comment after mine.

    Well, maybe it can still be fixed. The next six comments will be crucial.

  29. BTW, on gasoline taxes:

    Of all the taxes out there, gasoline and diesel taxes bother me the least.

    Given that these fuels are burned by vehicles that travel primarily on public roads, and that the amount of fuel consumed (and hence tax paid) is approximately proportional to the weight of the vehicle (and hence the damage done to the road) as well as the number of miles traveled, there is something of a user fee aspect to it. No, it isn’t a perfect user fee (efficiency and driving habits matter as much as weight and distance), but it is closer to a user fee than most taxes.

    Also, there are externalities associated with burning these fuels, so there’s an economic efficiency argument. Finally, given the vast sums of money devoted to military and foreign policy endeavors in oil-rich regions of the world (allegedly in the interest of securing oil shipping routes, oil fields, etc.), it seems only reasonable to finance those activities with taxes on the oil that is the object of those policies.

    (No, I don’t think that every single aspect of Middle East policy is actually about oil, or at least not about getting cheap oil for US consumers. Once you get sucked into the affairs of a region, it’s easy to get derailed into all sorts of concerns that are only tangentially related to your original interest there. But we wouldn’t have gotten sucked into their messes in the first place if there wasn’t oil.)

    So, of all the taxes we have, taxes on oil are the very last tax I’d cut.

  30. I have no idea if it’s fair or not, but Matt Taibbi’s review of “The World is Flat” is a thing of beauty

    It is both beautiful and fair, as Tolkein might say. That is one of the single most embarrassing books I have ever read.

  31. OK i have a serious problem with infrastructure problems and that is: Where are they?

    I am in Florida and the power never goes out, the water always runs and is clean, the streets are pretty damn good (highways are flat and smooth), cable is on 99.9% of the time, cell phone never loses signal (unless in the woods). What the hell infrastructure are we talking about??

    carry on..

  32. thoureau – good points, all.

    I would caution against assuming that all externalities are negative externalities, of course. The positive externalities of oil and gas based transportation are enormous, as well, so I don’t think its at all clear that, on net, the externalities are negative. I also don’t see how the oil and gas tax revenue is being applied to reduce the negative externalities.

  33. Rich Ard,
    Is this a test?
    coz the P.B. reference will most likely be lost on these youngsters…

  34. If certain parties in Washington and elsewhere have suddenly realized their wish to mandate fuel efficiency, while keeping fuel prices low (in the interest of “social justice” or some damn thing), is doomed to failure, that can only be contrued as a good thing.

    Unfortunately, they will probably decide to use the increased gas tax revenues to subsidize more failures on the part of General Motors.

  35. conStrued, of course

  36. PB, Our Masters in Washington will (a) raise gas taxes and (b) redistribute some of the gas tax revenue back to The Deserving Poor in the name of social justice.

    The rest, of course, will be thrown down a different rathole.

  37. The gas tax is (and has been for a long time) used to fund mass transit boodoggles and to pay for overpriced union labor thanks to the Davis-Bacon Act.

    So while it may be closer to being a user fee than other forms of taxation, it still has significant redistribution built into it.

  38. Well, the six comments following my last one were pretty good. Can this continue? The next six comments will, again, be crucial.

  39. I can’t read Friedman anymore.

    Everything.. and I mean EVERYTHING.. he reduces to global warming and energy.

    Problem in Gaza? Get away from Fossil fuels.

    Russia posing a threat? Green energy!!

    Ugh.. I wish he’d shut up.

  40. So, of all the taxes we have, taxes on oil are the very last tax I’d cut.

    Exactly. It’s not that gas taxes are great, it’s that if we raise them we can get rid of other taxes that are unequivocally awful. The payroll tax in particular is highly regressive and discourages employment, which is especially bad in the present circumstances. As long as the government needs money, it makes much more sense to tax undesirable things like pollution instead of desirable things like wages, profits, and investments.

    The positive externalities of oil and gas based transportation are enormous

    The externalities of transportation are positive in spite of the usage of oil. We’d be much better off replacing it with something else. (IMO nukes+electric cars, but an advantage of a gas/carbon tax is that the market can figure that out).

  41. “What the hell infrastructure are we talking about??”

    Infrastructure in old states that were populated before the advent of air conditioning.

    Also, states that aren’t flat tend to have rather important, old, and worrisomely high roads and bridges and stuff.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.