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Flexibility of Labor Laws: American Asset

<284> As Harvard University economist Robert Lawrence notes, the greatest single asset <285> that the American economy has always had is the flexibility and mobility of its labor force and labor laws. That asset will become even more of an advantage in the flat world, as job creation and destruction both get speeded up. (pp. 284-285)

Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.


While I enjoy your blog and hope the small number of comments left does not induce you to stop maintaining it, I am disapointed in the quotes from Thomas Friedman. While it is true the source of the info doesn't make the info innacurate or wrong, I would hate for you to lend credibility to the rest of the garbage I have heard flow from his mouth. I went to a live videocast at the J a couple (ish) years ago for one of his book debuts and I left the place furious. He was doom and gloom about the economic prospects for Americans and rattled off a hundred things bad about America. He was upset about the high price for gasoline and said when gas fell back down after the 9-11 spike the U.S. government should've imposed a gasoline tax to keep the price high to curb consumption and stop the flow of money to the Middle East. He also stated that Schwarzeneger (drives a Hummer) and the rest of Americans should not be allowed to drive gas guzzling trucks if they don't need them. For every one of the hundred "problems" he brought up he had a "solution" the government should impose to "correct" it. All of this woe is America talk and interventionism is not what had my veins bulging; it was the fact my mom and a thousand other intelligent people were agreeing with him. If I had a transcript of his presentation, and had refrained from employing it in it's most obvious use (toilet paper), I am confident you would cringe fifty times at the way he wanted our government to act. Otherwise, love the blog.
Aaron, Some intellectuals think that you should never endorse anyone unless they are totally pure. Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard come to mind. They ended up endorsing few. (Tuccille satarizes this aspect of Rothbard somewhere in: Jerome Tuccille. It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand: Fox & Wilkes, 1997.) Others endorse truth where and when they see it. I am more in that camp. I am aware that there is much I disagree with in Thomas Friedman. In general, I like his books better than his columns, and his columns better than his personal speeches and interviews. One argument for him being, overall, a 'good' guy is that he speaks articulately to a very left-wing audience, and he pulls them in a better direction than they would otherwise go. He is what I call a "left-Schumpeterian" (whereas I am a "right-Schumpeterian"). But having someone defending free-trade and creative destruction to an audience of left-wing intellectuals is not all bad, is it? Besides that, when Friedman is at his best, he is an intelligent and accurate observer of many interesting scenes, he has a way with words, and he often states the case for free trade with a verbal flare, and visual concreteness, that is unmatched.
I appreciate the Schumpeterian pull he has on the left, but I am worried that by you citing or quoting him, the opposite could occur: impressionable Schumpeterians, Libertarians, and/or conservatives could be pulled to the left by the rest of his erroneous thoughts. One of my favorite authors is Francis Fitzgerald. When I read his journals and he mentions an author or novel that he likes I will sometimes buy a book thinking if he liked it perhaps I'll like it ("This Side of Paradise" turned me onto Kafka). The literary respect I have for him carries over to other works and authors he appreciated. That is my concern with you mentioning Friedman in a positive light.

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