Civil Liberties

Thomas L. Friedman Wants Us "to be China for a day," to "authorize the right solutions"


If we know anything about America's worst successful columnist, it's that he won't rest until he's flogged a terrible idea again and again and again. The latest, care of Jonah Goldberg, was Friedman's authoritarian envy on Meet the Press over the weekend:

Well, David, it's been decimated. It's been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don't like where you're going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control—really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that's really what, what it's come down to. So I don't—I, I—I'm worried about this, it's why I have fantasized—don't get me wrong—but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don't want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.

If we're going to be China, I wonder which politically restive province Friedman would support removing Internet access privileges for 10 months? Maybe Maricopa County? Which bloggers will be imprisoned for reporting on a gang-rape, or contradicting official accounts of earthquake damage? Will Friedman's Propaganda Department be issuing directives expressly criminalizing any domestic reporting on school violence, the Shanghai Expo, or criticism by international journalists, with marching orders to "not ask national leaders questions during their visits to Shanghai" and to "only use reports containing explanations by government officials"?

You do not get the "stick-to-itiveness" of Friedman's authoritarian one-party fantasia without the violent, freedom-depriving assault on those (especially though not only activists and bloggers and journalists) who are seen as threats to the regime. Dreaming about removing checks and balances to impose a super-genuius policy is not the work of a geopolitical thinker, but the tantrum of an impatient sloganeer.