Thomas Friedman is an economic developer

I usually avoid wildly successful books about economics or self help and such because the few I have read turn out to be brain candy. The books are meant to be fun to read but you come away with a sugar headache.

I had this initial opinion of Thomas Friedman and his new book. Here’s a witty NYT columnist who has figured out how to state the obvious in a mass market format and make piles of dough.

But Richard Ogle twisted my arm at the Ideas Festival to read it and so I will. Ogle has an interesting perspective on things and he is convinced that Friedman’s ET revolution is not only a green one but an economic development one as well.

Problem is I am backed up. I am the kind of person that buys books that look interesting and end up with 3-4 in reserve that I have to get through and that is where I am now. So when I get through this biography of Andrew Carnegie and a couple others, I will read it.

But I did listen to an 80 minute lecture on the book Friedman gave at the LSE (thanks for recommending UChannel) and I am convinced now that Friedman in his heart is an economic developer. He understands the economic potential of an ET revolution and puts it in the context of the industrial revolution or others that fundamentally changed the economy and brought enormous new wealth to people and communities that leveraged it.

But at the end of his talk, he lamented that ultimated it is all about leadership and that the American system of government is not really geared up to lead this ET revolution. In America, Friedman says, you don’t get change until you have a Million Man March. Political leaders don’t change their approach until they see a direct political reason to do so.

And the same thing applies in New Brunswick. Until someone shows the body politic that there is a direct link between the policies and actions of the government and the province’s economic well being we will never see any serious change in approach. We will continue to see the same old 50% health care, 20% education, 15% debt repayment, 10% road improvement and 5% for everything else kind of provincial budget that we see these days.

That’s is why I get so saddened when people tell me it is no use trying to cast this ED message into the wider public view. I had one senior guy tell me that if 1-2% of NBers really understand it that would be a win.

I disagree. I want 90%. I want the kids in my school to write essays on why New Brunswick has witnessed chronic outmigration for 100 years and what we can do to fix it.

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0 Responses to Thomas Friedman is an economic developer

  1. mikel says:

    Come on now, do you HONESTLY think New Brunswickers don’t understand that ‘jobs come first’? Virtually the ONLY defense of the second refinery has been the constant chorus that “at least jobs will be created”. New Brunswickers know ALL about economic development.

    What they don’t necessarily do is agree with you that the best way to do it is FDI, and that’s simply from experience. Yesterday’s news is that after getting another 10 million from the province, Nackawic will be laying off people. Whenever a new company is announced its invariably accompanied by “this will cost taxpayers X amount..” So in that NBT is right about trying to sell to China, he’s just wrong because EVERY province has something to offer…taxpayers money, poor environmental regulations and no labour laws. But Graham seems to have a knack for looking stupid, after three years in office he waits until an economic slowdown that has even China laying off so many people that that revolution may finally happen. And he thinks that they are looking to expand abroad?

    Kids ALREADY know this stuff, they know it so well they actually grow up and accept it as a fact of life. Live in a nice area? Fine, but a new open pit mine comes first. Enjoy your cottage in the country? That’s ok, but you may find mining prospectors laying a claim and forcing you to sell your land. Like your woodlot? Well, we certainly can’t put big box stores on the northside of Fredericton-people may actually GO there!

    I’d agree that most books can be easily stated in an article. But the one area where you may actually agree with other New Brunswickers is on the ‘green economy’, which has been the chief lobby of the green movement for DECADES. Like the free trade agreement, nobody has ever come out against trade-it was just that one specific plan that let US companies buy most canadian ones and suck out the resources for a song.

    New Brunswickers have long known most of this, the main difficulty is that you don’t work with ‘New Brunswickers’ but with politicians, business people and bureaucrats, so you have no idea what is going on ‘out in the streets’. Sorry to be so critical, but this is important stuff, that guy was right-politicians respond to political pressure, that is what they are SUPPOSED to do. It seems quite obvious that if you want to change that-you apply political pressure. I may be wrong, but it almost sounds like you prefer a government that does what ONE person wants (so long as its you), rather than one that enacts policies being pushed by that ‘million man march’.

    People invariebly see EVERYTHING along ED lines, you can look at the facebook group on the now defunct newspaper in Woodstock, while it is sometimes cast as a media monopoly issue, it is just as often analyzed as trying to build the media industry in the province past two bureaucratic monsters.

    So again, its not that New Brunswickers don’t see the importance of ED, its that they see it TOO MUCH. A wider view, one that some here would call ‘regionalism’ but which is usually about making a decent place to live, is the one most conducive to actual economic development (the quick example is to do a search of MacAdam’s community forests program). So dude, ‘get green’ as fast as you can, you’ll find more allies than you will with “lets get more ED officers in China”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    In searching for something positive in this gloomy environment and shallow political leadership, maybe the increasing dependence on Federal money is it.

    Maybe the Feds will say, wait a minute, maybe you don’t need to fill every pot hole, open hospital beds in every tiny community or promote the ‘lucrative’ minimum wage tourism jobs.

    Maybe we need to make strategic, sustainable investments in ED so we can reverse our decline.

    Money talks. Maybe it will make provincial politcians listen.

  3. nbt says:

    I prefer David Friedman myself. lol

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mikel, according to your line of thought ANY initiative is economic development.
    – You set up a hospital in the middle of nowhere? Economic development!
    – You build a road to nowhere? Economic development!
    – You bail out a business that doesn’t make sense? Economic development!
    – You support a mining operation that is viable only under artificial economic conditions? Economic development!

    I thought that this space was trying to elevate the level of the discussion to a more constructive (and instructive) level.

    Oh, and I won’t let you off the hook. I am still waiting your answer to my challenge of yesterday:

    Please tell us the top 10 achievements of the last three governments. I guess it won’t be difficult because some governments “have DONE lots”. And to make it “easier” for you, you can combine Liberal and Conservative governments. I am VERY INTERESTED to see what you consider to be good economic development initiatives. Good luck!