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FRENCH FRIED FRIEDMAN

The Nouvelle Globalizer

by Greg Palast
Friday, June 3, 2005

Vicente Fox got a well-deserved boot in the 
derriere for saying Mexicans come to America for 
taking jobs "not even Blacks want to do."

But Thomas Friedman earns plaudits and Pulitzers 
for his column which today announces that East 
Indians are taking jobs the French are too lazy 
to do ["A Race to the Top," New York Times, June 
3 
(<http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/03/opinion/03friedman.html>)]. 
His fit of racial profiling was motivated by his 
pique over France's rejection of the globalizers' 
charter for corporate dominance known as the 
European Constitution.

It's not the implicit racism of Friedman's 
statement which is most irksome, it's his ghastly 
glee that "a world of benefits they [Western 
Europeans] have known for 50 years is coming 
apart," because the French and other Europeans 
"are trying to preserve a 35 hour work week in a 
world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 
35-hour day."

He forgot to add, "and where Indian families are 
ready to sell their children into sexual slavery 
to survive." Now, THERE'S a standard to reach for.

In his endless series of pukey paeans to 
globalization, Friedman promises that free trade, 
an end of regulation, slashing government welfare 
and privatization of industry will lead to an 
economic nirvana.

Yet, all he and his globalization clique can 
point to as the free market's accomplishment is 
the murderous competition between workers across 
borders to cut their wages for the chance to work 
in the new digital sweatshops.

Friedman praises the New India, freed of the 
shackles of Old India's socialist welfare state. 
I've seen the New India: half a billion people in 
dirt huts supporting a tiny minority's right to 
shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang 
film in Hindi.

There is, of course, a hopeful, growing India 
where the much-heralded cyber work is based. But, 
Mr. Friedman, please note these brains for hire 
are found in Karnataka and Kerala, states whose 
cussed adherence to social welfare makes them 
more French than France and nothing like 
Thatcherized dog-eat-dog Britain or Reaganized 
America.

The computer wizards of Bangalore (in Karnataka) 
and Kerala are the products of fully funded state 
education systems where, unlike the USA, no child 
is left behind. A huge apparatus of state-owned 
or state-controlled industries, redistributionist 
tax systems, subsidies of necessities from 
electricity to food, tight government regulation 
and affirmative action programs for the lower 
castes are what has created these comfortable 
refuges for Oracle and Microsoft.

And the successful Indian states, unlike the 
dreadful free-market Uttar Pradesh, have labor 
unions so tough they make the French CGT look 
like a luncheon club of baguette biters.

A few years ago, I dropped in on a fishing 
village in Kerala in Southern India. Most 
fisherman worked from motorless dug-out log 
boats. Their language is Malayalam, but a large 
banner slung between two cocoanut trees announced 
in English, "WordPerfect applications class 
today." After they brought in the catch, the 
locals practiced programming on cardboard 
replicas of keyboards.

What made this all possible was not capitalist 
competitive drive (there was no corporate 
"entrepreneur" in sight), but the state's 
investment in universal education and the 
village's commitment to development of 
opportunity, not of a lucky few, but for the 
entire community. The village was 100% literate, 
100% unionized, and 100% committed to sharing 
resources through a sophisticated credit union 
finance operation.

This was the communal welfare state at it's best. 
Microsoft did not build the schools for 
programmers -- the corporation only harvested 
what the socialist communities sowed.

The economist Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize in 
1998 for predicting that Southern India, with its 
strong communalist social welfare state, would 
lead the economic advance of South Asia -- and do 
so without the Thatcherite sleight-of-hand of 
pretending that riches for the few equates to 
progress for the many.

When I asked the fishermen on their way to 
programming lessons what the West could do to 
encourage their efforts, they did not suggest 
privatizing Kerala's social security system. 
Rather -- and this was before the Seattle 
demonstrations of 1999 brought the World Trade 
Organization to the West's attention -- they 
called for the abolition of the WTO and greater 
protection for their wooden fishing fleet against 
the foreign factory boats marauding in their 
waters. With protective trade barriers, they 
could do as the US did for a hundred years: build 
up local resources and industry that creates the 
infrastructure of growth.

And the programmers themselves do not dream, Mr. 
Friedman, of stealing work from indolent 
Frenchmen or slothful Seattle geeks. Indians are 
not in love with the new method of brain-drain by 
satellite. They would hope for the opportunity to 
write code in their own languages for their own 
industries.

Friedman ends with the typical globalizer's 
warning that, "it's a bad time for France and 
friends to lose their appetite for hard work," or 
they will lose their jobs to Indians and Chinese 
willing to work for noodles. What Friedman means 
is that the French should give up their taste for 
old age pensions, universal health care, 
top-quality public education, protection of their 
skies and waters and all those things we used to 
call advances but now, according to the Friedman 
world order, stand in the way of progress.

It is too bad that the Times' opinion columns 
have not been outsourced to India. Were it so, a 
Keralite might explain to Friedman that human 
advances are measured not by our willingness to 
crawl lower and lower to buy ourselves a job from 
Bill Gates, or by counting the number of Gap 
outlets in Delhi, but by our success in 
protecting and nurturing liberté, égalité and 
fraternité among all humanity.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times 
bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy 
which contains his investigation of 
globalization, "Sell the Lexus, Burn the Olive 
Tree." Subscribe to Palast's columns at 
www.GregPalast.com.