I am really liking Thomas Friedman’s op-ed columns in the New York Times. Yesterday’s column was about taking a longer-term view in strategies for our national welfare, independence, and healthy commerce. The op-ed uses an analogy to the winning ways of Lance Armstrong and his support team:
I have been thinking about them lately because their abilities to meld strength and strategy – to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow – seem to be such fading virtues in American life.
I got notice of this op-ed on an email list, where it was picked out for scorn because of the sentences that followed that one:
Sadly, those are the virtues we associate with China, Chinese athletes and Chinese leaders. Talk to U.S. business executives and they’ll often comment on how many of China’s leaders are engineers who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest. They’re not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America’s most serious deficit is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.
Yeah, China’s ruling regime has delivered quite a lot of oppression and is certainly not a model of an open society. But Friedman isn’t advocating adopting those social policies that we find abhorrent in China. He’s talking about seeing past the projected figures for next quarter’s profits to work toward the things that we should really be concerned about: keeping good jobs here in the USA, making the switch to alternate energy sources and making the most of what energy sources we import, and, when exporting democracy to other countries, providing the resources to make those places secure so that democracy gets a chance to take root. It’s hard to argue that Friedman is wrong on those points.