Uh-oh! The World ISN’T Flat!

Allow me to share some of my boring, sleepy-time viewing with you…

Meet Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge economics professor who turns Tom (aka “the moustache of wisdom”) Friedman’s now widespread orthodoxy about the miraculous panacea of globalization on its head.

If you can manage to get over Chang’s rather annoying idiomatic verbal tics and the awfully poor audio quality of this presentation, you may well be delighted by his sparkling wit, delightfully irreverent sense of humour and the scholarly insight that he employs to effortlessly dismantle the “conventional wisdom” of neo-liberal thinking when it comes to the issue of free trade and protectionism in particular.

The main thrust of Chang’s thesis as set out in his book Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism largely concerns itself with the iniquitous relationship between so-called first-world nations and developing countries, but it takes on a brilliant new relevance in light of the current economic crisis and the sudden resurgence of protectionism in America. After listening to this presentation, it made the World Economic Forum “debate” on this issue at Davos seem quite absurdly ridiculous (there’s a curious appearance by Howard Dean in the Q+A… no surprise however that his question about labour rights got blown off by the panel)

Friedman: “Hot, Flat & Crowded”

On to more interesting things… Here are two excepts from a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and NYT columnist Tom Friedman at the Sixth and I Synagogue last month concerning his new book Hot, Flat & Crowded. In the first, he criticizes the U.S. government for inaction on the fight against global warming, and calls for a “Code Green” approach to clean energy development.

In the second excerpt, he discusses the increasing trend of developing nations to aspire to U.S. levels of economic consumption, and warns that this trend may be extremely detrimental to the global environment.

The complete talk can be viewed at the Fora.tv website. Quite amusing that the corporate sponsor is Chevron. Oh, and by the way, here’s a little something Friedman had to say recently on NPR’s Fresh Air speaking about energy taxation being a burden on the working class that might ring a bell with some:

…[I]t should be revenue-neutral: we should tax what we don’t want, such as people using fossil fuels, raising taxes on that, and lower taxes on what we do want, which is people working. Which is why whatever tax increase we impose on oil, coal, or natural gas we should then take off on the other side from people’s weekly payroll deduction. To me, it should be revenue neutral for all but the wealthiest Americans.”

What insanity!