Over at the Campaign for America's Future's blog, Richard Eskow has penned one of the most satisfying takedowns of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman we've read in some time, based on his wild-eyed AirBNB column earlier this week. (And we practically collect these things.)
Friedman occupies a unique place in the pundit ecosystem. From his perch at The New York Times, he idealizes the unregulated, winner-take-all economy of the Internet and while overlooking human, real-world concerns. His misplaced faith in a digitized “free” market reflects the solipsistic libertarianism of a technological über-class which stares into the rich diversity of human experience and sees only its own reflection staring back.
Friedman is a closet Ayn Rand in many ways, but he gives Rand’s ugly and exploitative philosophy a pseudo-intellectual, liberal-friendly feel-good gloss. He turns her harsh industrial metal music into melodious easy listening: John Galt meets John Denver. That make him very useful to those who would dismantle the engines of real economic growth, the ones that create jobs while protecting life and limb.
Friedman’s column in this weekend’s New York Times is, characteristically, a Panglossian panegyric to online technology as the salve for all economic problems. In it he paints the picture of a global dystopia where decent jobs are scarce, educational advancement is unattainable, and people must sacrifice their homes, their possessions, and their personal lives to serve and amuse complete strangers.
He can hardly wait.
Friedman seems to share a (Jeff) Bezos-like vision of unregulated marketplaces for every aspect of human activity. He waxes ecstatic about Airbnb, which he sees as both a practical solution and a broader model for a future economy. Friedman thinks that renting out your private space, your personal time, and your possessions will soon become the only way to make ends meet – that is, unless you possess extraordinary skills, which could land you a mediocre job at best.
And he thinks that’s just fine.