Dorgan vs Friedman: Fair Trade or Corporate Nirvana?

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Tom Friedman were on the PBS News Hour (transcript) last week arguing the problems and virtues of globalization, and the contrasting views of their own books, Dorgan’s Take this Job and Ship It and Friedman’s The World is Flat. The flat world as Friedman sees it is basically due to computers, the internet, and software that enable business to be conducted worldwide.

I agree that there is an international class of business, professional and managerial types capable of throwing together a business pretty much anywhere on the planet, anywhere there is cheap labor. But the title of Friedman’s book suggests a level playing field and equal opportunity. That’s the part that his bosses at the New York Times eat up because, being in New York, the hub of international capitalism, the idea of a wave of business washing over the globe raising all boats is close to nirvana. The truth is different.

Much has been made of India’s booming economy, but India has a literacy rate of only about 60-percent, according to online encyclopedia Infoplease. In a country of over a billion people, that equates to around 400-million people who are illiterate. That’s about the population of the United States and Mexico combined. The situation in Africa is similar if not worse.

How will these people ever access the new global economy that Friedman talks about? What is the World Bank doing to address this? As the affluent pull away from the rest and inequality becomes even more pronounced, what will those societies look like? Think they’ll be stable?

During the “debate” Tom Friedman was quick to point out that globalization was not hurting the U.S. as evidenced by the its low unemployment rate.

If the Friedmans come over after work, we can make lasagna or open a can of spaghetios. Either way, it’s supper. The idea being, the old jobs were better than the new jobs, by and large, with better insurance, better pay, better retirement plans.

I like Byron Dorgan and two of our kids were born in North Dakota. North Dakotans are always preparing for tough times, namely winter, flood, or drought – or dealing with tough times. It’s a place that’s hard on the unprepared and the procrastinator. Those that feel the early chill and get the jump on freeze-up, and get busy winterizing the house and the vehicles, are likely to be ok.

The economic conditions in the United States are bad enough now for some but the trends in growing inequality and a shrinking middle class are cause for serious concern. Where will the downward trends in middle class wealth ultimately take us? What will reverse the trends?

The points in Dorgan’s new book are what the Democrats should be all about and especially talking about now, before the whole country suffers a Foley-news overdose and forgets what this mid-term election is for.

Cross-posted from SustainableMiddleClass

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5 Responses to Dorgan vs Friedman: Fair Trade or Corporate Nirvana?

  1. John

    Well said and great points. The Foley scandal while very ugly is taking the heat off the real issues and the economy to some is a very, very real issue.

    It’s going to be a long cold winter if things keep going the way they are going.

  2. Javelin says:

    Excellent post and review for those of us who haven’t heard of the Freidman book. On the economy, etc.

    I would like to add that I work in manufacturing; something I realized a long time ago is that the effect of producing goods with cheaper labor can destroy the very industy that is practicing this. In the auto industry, there has been a surge to outsource production from the big 3 to smaller, leaner, non-union shops. People now make about half the money to make these parts. To be quite honest, the pay isn’t that bad and the jobs are still in the U.S.

    The problem is that the car produced is still the same price, and now workers who are making the parts CANNOT AFFORD TO BUY THEIR OWN PRODUCT in many cases, as well as other products produced by Americans. Yes, they’re paid adequately and are insured, but because it has caused a large decline in purchasing this “savings” will actually end up making the auto industry tighten their belts more, and the whole thing starts snowballing……..

    What corporate America doesn’t seem to get is that well-paid blue collar workers invest nearly 100% of their income into the American economy; they spend virtually all their money on their own and other US built products and services. An investment in these employees and their families is an investment in our overall economy.

  3. Ginny Cotts says:


    What Americans also don’t get is that our monetary system (the Fed) creates continuing inflation to support the financial-millitary-industrial-congressional complex.

    We pay in inflation far more than what we would have been taxed because of the political suicide of raising taxes.

    I think the unions have a place in industry. They do need to be restructured. I also prefer in-house unions to large groups representing a specific trade or segment of industry.

    Americans need to understand that Globalization is doing to other countries what the Multinational Corporations have done to us. Take the resources and/or products, make a profit and don’t give much of anything to the host country. Reinvestment of profits and taxes are next to nothing – by laws imposed by the IMF and World Bank.

  4. Nick says:

    Friedman, like so many people living in Bethesda, MD. embodies what I have said a lot about people living here in suburban DC: People who are soo educated and soo well traveled and yet still so naive at the same time. These people travel around the world, and talk to people in the same (upper) class as themselves- and to no one else.

  5. Ginny Cotts says:


    Kinzer’s book was interesting in the personalities of the people he wrote about. John Foster Dulles was a smarter and more successful version of W. The religious beliefs and conviction of being right – even though he knew almost nothing of the working classes.

    I think what has amazed me in nursing is how intuitively intelligent a lot of people are – if you don’t mess with their minds. I really don’t see that many who are missing much of the happy meal. Too many of the rest have been sucked into infotainment, thinking it is at least close to the real deal.