“Sometimes you look at countries like China and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be an autocracy in times like these?'” Matt Frei, Americana, September 20, 2009

Three weeks after Obama’s election victory, Matt Frei was filled with the spirit of hope’n’change and was looking forward to the prospect of “America’s brightest people” once again having the chance to put the country on the correct path:

Thanks to the multiple distractions of Bill Clinton and his administration, some of America’s brightest people were too busy ducking subpoenas or grappling with indecision at the top to perform their best work.
The Obama administration is a chance for them to prove their critics wrong and to live up to past expectations.

Things haven’t really gone to plan since then, and it’s all been the fault of those pesky “distractions” again. On this week’s Americana Frei interviewed New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in the hope of finding a solution. And boy, what a doozy they came up with:

Matt Frei: Why all these distractions?

Thomas Friedman: There’s a lot of reasons. One, the end of the Cold War. The end of the Cold War made us really unserious because we lost our main competitor. Where would the New York Times be without the Wall St Journal? Everybody needs a competitor, right? All right, we lost ours so we got a little fat, dumb and lazy, and then we had money and politics out the wazoo. We now have a 24 hour news cycle. We have a blogosphere – I can start a rumour about you Matt that will tie you up for the rest of the week, OK, and by the time you catch it it will be half way to New Zealand. And we have a permanent presidential campaign. All of those have created an echo chamber where any bozo can come along and distract even the president.

Matt Frei: Sometimes you look at countries like China and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be an autocracy in times like these?’

Thomas Friedman: Well you know I wrote the other day that you know there’s only one thing worse really than one party autocracy and that’s one party democracy – what we have right now, where only one party is playing.

What Friedman “wrote the other day” received this response from Mark Steyn:

The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman finally gets to where he’s been wanting to go all these years. Everything would be so much better if we could just submit to the benign rule of an enlightened elite.

Jonah Goldberg expanded that thought:

If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman’s intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are “drawbacks” to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet.

Still, it’s a small price to pay for the autocratic rule of an enlightened elite, and far better than letting all those bozos and their distractions frustrate the wishes of intellectual superiors such as Friedman and Frei.

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