Then why does the New York Times still employ the mediocrity Thomas L. Friedman?

Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times columnist who…

  • earns a salary of $300,000 a year, with
  • a legendary travel/expense account, plus
  • royalties on books that are bestsellers largely because he is a New York Times columnist, and
  • lecture fees in the high five figures – per lecture – again, largely because he is a New York Times columnist, on top of
  • millions of dollars in income from investments, much of which derive from his wife’s family’s vast fortune…

…had some bad news for his readers the other day. His column was headlined “Average is Over.”

Are you ready for this?

the reason we have such stubbornly high unemployment and sagging middle-class incomes today is largely because of the big drop in demand because of the Great Recession, but it is also because of the quantum advances in both globalization and the information technology revolution, which are more rapidly than ever replacing labor with machines or foreign workers.

Amazing, right? A veritable bolt from the blue. You can’t get this kind of insight for free, can you, folks?

But Thomas L. Friedman was not finished blowing our minds…

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius.

Cheap genius? As in cheap pundits? What an unsettling thought!

Yet Thomas L. Friedman’s cries of warning did not abate:

There will always be change — new jobs, new products, new services. But the one thing we know for sure is that with each advance in globalization and the I.T. revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more and better education to make themselves above average.

Oh Thomas L. Friedman, how will our workers achieve this lofty goal?

nothing would be more important than passing some kind of G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education.

Problem solved! Thank you Thomas L. Friedman!


For those who don’t mind reading less well-paid and less predictable punditry on this subject, here are some relevant posts from this site:

The Ouroboros Economy

Robopocalypse Now

The Cognitive Separation

Ouroboros Gulps Again

Innovating Disemployment

Goodbye to College

Against Friedmanism

The Posthuman Childhood

What Technology Wants

Robotizing Retail

Douglas Rushkoff also had an interesting take on the mechanization-disemployment problem a few months ago. “Are jobs obsolete?” I don’t quite agree with him, but at least he thinks more originally than Friedman.


It seems that a lot of writers find Friedman irritating. Among them:

Matt Taibbi: “Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? … I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now.”

Bill McKibben: “Thomas Friedman is the prime leading indicator of the conventional wisdom, always positioned just far enough ahead of the curve to give readers the sense that they’re in-the-know, but never far enough to cause deep mental unease.”