Thomas Friedman's Power Lust: Let's Be 'China For A Day'

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman let his power lust just flow throughout the studio of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central on Thursday night. Promoting his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman discussed his concept of America becoming "China for a day," so that his dream of a green revolution -- all those allegedly planet-saving taxes and regulations and product bans -- can be permanently enacted.

When Colbert lived up to his conservative character enough to insert that China has a totalitarian regime, Friedman simply replied "It is a measure of the frustration a lot of people in the green movement have – certainly me," that our democratic system (stuffed with troublesome believers in freedom of enterprise) blocks the passage of a eco-leftist agenda.

COLBERT: Now you have a concept called, you talk about "China for a day." What is China for a day?

FRIEDMAN: Well, China for a day is a fantasy, basically. What if we had a government here that could actually make decisions? Okay? That could actually come together, Democrats and Republicans, and make a long-term plan and pursue it?

COLBERT, with sarcasm: Are you saying the Chinese do that?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah, sometimes they do.

COLBERT: But that is a totalitarian regime.

FRIEDMAN: Mm-hmm, and it is a measure of the frustration a lot of people in the green movement have, certainly me --

COLBERT: So you say that for one day we should have a totalitarian government where some ‘benign person at the top’ [He makes quotation-mark fingers] says this is what we do?

FRIEDMAN: No. Basically what I'm saying is if only our government could get its act together and launch a green revolution with the same persistence, focus, stick-to-it-iveness and direction that China does through authoritarian means. If we could only do that through democratic means –

COLBERT: We already have a green revolution because I separate my plastics and I eat Kashi cereal so, what more are we supposed to do, Thomas Friedman?

FRIEDMAN, after laughing: What more, what more is there?

COLBERT: Thank you so much for joining us.

Late in his book, in his "China For A Day" chapter, Friedman explains his envy that China could effectively ban the thin plastic bag, and it is banned. Why can’t we be like that? But that takes not only a day of enactment, but an eternity of enforcement. Friedman isn’t worried about Day Two forward, because the liberal groups will enforce it (page 374):

...because if it is ignored by companies or local governments, a dozen public interest groups, led by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, will sue the violators (including the federal government) all the way to the Supreme Court. That is why being China for a day – imposing all the right taxes, regulations, and standards needed to launch a clean power system in one day – would be so much more valuable to Washington than Beijing. Because once the directions are given from above, we would be overcoming the worst part of our democracy (the inability to make big decisions in peacetime), and the next day we would be able to enjoy the best part of our democracy (the power of our civic society to make government rules stick and the power of our markets to take advantage of them.)

In a nutshell, the worst part of our democracy are the conservatives who prevent statism, and the best part of our democracy are the leftist lawyers who insure that statism is enforced.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis