Tom Friedman on Brexit and Trump
By David Henderson
In the previous post on Tom Friedman, I neglected to mention that hours earlier he had flown in to San Francisco from Europe. That meant that he was likely in the air when the Brexit results came in. He led off with a good laugh line: Did anything interesting happen in the world in the last few hours?
To the extent he discussed Brexit, though, it was all negative. He saw it as Britain trying to isolate itself from the world. My guess is that he literally didn’t consider the idea that Britain, if it left the EU, might have freer trade with the rest of the world, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Africa. He seemed to have the elitist view that the only reason people wanted to get out is that they were afraid of globalization and immigration. Even if that were true, which it’s not, motives are often different from outcomes. He said not a word about the idea that Brits might be able to avoid some layers of regulation by “Brexiting.”
Related to that, in the little parts of the speech in which he discussed Donald Trump, it was about him and the many Republicans who support Trump being dinosaurs (my word, not his, but that gives the gist.) Not that I necessarily disagree with that, but he said not a word about the big D dinosaurs in the other major party. A sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to push for a vote on a bill when they don’t even have a bill? Give me a break.
In the first question in Q&A, my retired colleague Al Washburn of the Operations Analysis department asked Friedman if there was any upside at all to Brexit. I pointed out to Al afterwards, and Al agreed, that Friedman didn’t answer his question. Instead, he went back to his theme of the pro-Brexit people wanting to isolate. “We have to understand their concerns,” he said (or words to that effect). But he didn’t mention, or try to find, an upside.