Category Archives: problems

It’s a 401(k) world — good luck / bad luck

Friedman’s editorial in the NYT

I agree with many commenters that Thomas Friedman is oversimplifying and conflating at least 2 issues:

– hyperconnected world (internet)
– globalization
– corporate takeover
– personal responsibilities
– personal opportunities

Yes, individuals are very empowered. But the flip-side: so are businesses. So it’s not quite as easy as “If you are self-motivated…” Good luck or bad luck? “The limitation of the personal view” Jerry Mander calls it.

There are lots of very self-motivated, hard-working, smart people who are having trouble getting by.

Check out the highlighted comments. An example:

In a previous response to one of Mr. Friedman’s articles, I suggested that he was getting a bit rusty and ought to take time off and meditate in a Buddhist monastery. But after reading this article, I think the New York Times should oblige him to take early retirement – without a golden parachute.

In Friedman’s universe, there are two types of people: innovators, who are the only people who create anything worthwhile and deserve their hugely inflated salaries, and everyone else, the drudges, who are disposable. His vision of the future bears a resemblance to the colonial regimes of the 18th and 19th centuries, in which a tiny elite of “civilized, enlightened” Europeans exploited millions of “backward, superstitious natives” and claimed it was all being done in the name of progress. Far from being new, Friedman’s “401(k) World” is a very old story that is unfortunately likely to be replayed for future generations – unless we do something to stop it.

The ironic thing is that Friedman, who is telling everyone to “reinvent themselves,” always writes the same thing, over and over again. Which doesn’t make it more palatable.

Perhaps he should be replaced as op-ed columnist by the Dalai Lama?

I’m not kidding.

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