Two Worlds Cracking Up

The euro zone that came into being after the cold war and the Arab state system that came into being after World War I are both coming unglued at once.

Comments: 177

  1. It's kind of interesting to me that we have so much communication technology and yet some basic communication problems -- like listening to people different from ourselves -- persist. That seems to be a problem both in the E.U. and the Arab world described here (not to mention in our Congress), because where inherent homogeneity is lacking, communication among reasonable people of good will can go a long way toward working things out. I know there are all kinds of books and techniques for learning how to have difficult conversations in a constructive way. Maybe people need to be paying more attention to those kinds of basics.

  2. Some examples of constructive conversations between people with different views would also help, especially if the conversations showed the people learning, changing, and rethinking. Conversations where this happens are rare; often they occur not in reality but rather in works of art.

    A reality show aimed at creating an environment where this could happen might be worth watching.

  3. The reason for the difficulty is easy to identify and hard to correct. In order for people to communicate they must share mutual respect and common definitions of words and concepts with those they wish to communicate with. The problem is even more dificult if they speak different languages and have different cultures. There is a very wide range of "That which is acceptable" in Human Culture, there is an equaly wide range of "That which is not Acceptable".

    Take a simple example, a young women is sitting at a sidewalk cafe by herself wearing a modest sun dress, smoking a cigarette while drinking a glass of wine and eating a hamburger. It is easy to imagine educated people of good conscience but from different cultures taking offense with a number of the young women's actions including just being there by herself. Think how different the view of this scene would be to an American from New York, a Frenchman from Paris, a Hindu from India, or a tourist from Saudi Arabia. Think how dificult it would be for them to discuss the young lady without letting cultural biases intrude into the conversation.

    The problem is not just being able to listen to other people of different cultures, there is also a problem of viewing the subject under discussion from multiple viewpoints or even recognizing that there may be multiple points of view on the subject. Technology will not solve this issue, in fact it will make it worse.

  4. Do you think that the United Nations should have a renaissance today; and if so what is
    so lacking in the powers of the UN; what could be accomplished with a renaissance of
    this multicultural body; do they lack the will to unite???

    What are your views about the UN today???

  5. There is one major difference you didn't mention and that is the role of religion.
    Europe has become increasingly secular but the Arab world still clings to religion as a defense against the west and its modernity. Turkey as an "island" seems to be drifting back into Islam as a means of establishing some kind of sway over its old (Ottoman) empire. Europeans are fortunate (except for what happened in Yugoslavia) that religion does not divide the continent as it once did.

  6. It is not religion but the western mentality shared by the three Mosaic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ever hear of a war between Taoists and Buddhists? Or of one between Buddhists and Hindus? You did not hear because there weren't any.

    East Asia, and to a large extent India, have refrained from religion as "My way or the highway". Hinduism has had its struggles with Islam and Christianity, both of which are imports from the West. But relations between Hinduism on the one hand and Sikhism or Jainism on the other are relatively amicable. Even though Jainism and Hinduism are radically different religions (Jainism is atheistic) Jain weddings are typically performed by Hindu priests. It is not impossible for different religions to be each other's friends. In Korea and Japan it is not unusual for a person to belong simultaneously to two religions.

    But it is common for westerners to think, "If THIS is the truth, that THAT one is a lie." And this is why we have so many victims in the west, starting from Socrates on to Joan of Arc.

    One way to see the struggle between liberalism and religion which we see in America these days is that it is yet another symptom of the need to create conflicts by insisting on "one right way".

    But God (if there is a God) did not give us a world in which clean distinctions always make sense. By insisting always on a clean distinction and then attacking those who see things differently we create conflicts.

  7. Thank you! I believe every problem is based in religion and the fear generated by those who know it is a useful tool; useful in formenting more problems. Religion is not the answer, it is the cause of all that is sought by greedy people. Common sense, which is not very common, is the only answer.

  8. @ Rohit

    You forget the whole sad history between India and Pakistan which did have roots in religious conflict.

  9. "One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once?"

    They didn't. Neither one ever worked as intended, and they have been falling apart since the incomplete efforts to form them. It is one long slide for both.

    You just didn't notice. You sold the hype instead. It was never true.

    And by the way, the EU problem right now is that their banks did what ours did, and they would still by sliding slowly if they hadn't messed up their banks. Likewise, the Arabs did educate, and that is why their people are now unwilling to accept the dysfunctional government that their parents' generation accepted. So your factual premises are wrong in detail too.

  10. Good lesson; we would have liked more detail; from you

  11. "Likewise, the Arabs did educate...."
    Do you suggest the disenfranchised citizenry of the Arab world are still resting on the laurels of a long past civilization?
    The educational and vocational opportunities for the Arab youth AND their parents (and their parents parents) has been greatly diminished for countless generations by their own making as well as the intrusive influence of the Western world for years.

  12. If, the idea of a supra-national European Union along with its next post-cold war initiative of common currency and market, and the post-World War-I Nasser-led pan-Arab national unity move seem coming apart today, it's not because any infirmity of the two unity ideas, but the failures could be ascribed to the lust for power and dominance on the part of the concerned elite of the times, lack of institutional integration, and a skewed arrangement of power and resource distribution among the constituents through forced policy regime. It's the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in complicity with the European bankers and investors, dictating the austerity course to the debt hit southern nations, that's pushing the euro-zone and the EU itself to the brink ; while it's the global powers with Geo-strategic stake in the Arab region, and their clientele of Arab nations, with their own ethnic- sectarian considerations, ties with neighbours, and nature of alliance with the global powers, that's shaping the nature of Arab political dynamics. As for Turkey, irrespective of its status of EU membership or in long waiting, amid turmoil around, if not the crossroads between Europe and Middle East, it seems to be playing a power balancing role in the region. So, what Germany seems doing to the European unity, something like avenging for the WW-II humiliation, Turkey is doing today in the Arab world.

  13. You are so right Professor when you say that the failures of today's governments "could be ascribed to the lust for power and dominance on the part of the concerned elite of the times"

    Alexander Hamilton understood this point and tried to create a constitution that would avoid this issue, try this from the 1st of the Federalist Papers...

    "Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government."

    Here's a link that will get you the whole thing - amazing reading.
    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/

  14. Professor; thank you for you analysis; and I hope you will write more today.

    I would add that there would be a lack of willingness for Euro leaders to be objective is assessing their goal of a unified political status; as The United States of Europe; such
    as in North America ; we have excluding Canada; The United States of America.

    The Euro Zone should re think its political states and become the USE similar to the USA.

    What do you think of this idea???

  15. And perhaps the Muslim Arab nations should eventually evolve as the USME

    (United States of The Middle East); I guess that is more wishing thinking; but maybe
    someday???

  16. Our schism is our pride, we do believe so hard in our own civil achievements, that we blind out, how fragile they are even in our own culture.
    I do doubt democracy and freedom. I do doubt fair distribution of wealth and equal opportunities. I do doubt, that we have a stable social system, or know how to maintain it. In fact everyone is cracking, but those in pinstripe suits just look superiorly.

  17. Never doubt freedom, Matthias: it's one of the few things really worth risking life for.

    But democracy is another matter: it takes hard work to be sustainable, and perhaps ALL of us in the west haven't worked hard enough to make it work. Alexis de Tocqueville warned in the mid-19th Century that democracies don't work because, with a universal franchise (everyone votes), the less productive will tend to vote themselves entitlements that others pay for; and, at some point, when the cost of the entitlements becomes too oppressive, those who pay rebel -- and there goes your democracy. Maybe he was right; maybe wrong -- we're all still in the midst of this "grand experiment" of rule essentially by the people.

    I wouldn't worry overmuch about Germany. But the monumental pain that Europe's southern-tier is going to have to bear over the coming years, in or out of the euro, to regain global competitiveness, is a situation tailor-made for the emergence of dictators or thoroughly collectivized one-party states -- and ALL of the southern-tier states already have had their brushes with out-and-out Communism.

  18. What exactly is "fair distribution of wealth and opportunities"? Do a majority of the citizens of your country agree just now?

    The election in the US is going to be in part on that topic... the Euro zone seems to be having a messier version of the same determination just now.

    Your implied view seems to be falling to minority status.

  19. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is a terrible form of government but there is no better one; and the present situation of Europe is a plastic confirmation of the truth in his statement.

  20. The worlds population as it grows, all the differences between people, Tribal, national, European or Arab or American. One certainty is change, change we may not like or endorse. Leaders will fall, new ones will rise, who will be no better and in some cases worse than their predecessors. The Euro union may not last, because it is only a union, and not a country, The Arab League also will fail and fall apart as oil reserves are depleted and they to resort to older ways not more modern. They too are no country. Here in the U.S. where we are a country we see how differences play out between religious/political groups, people of north and south east and west all seperated by greater distances than all of the middle east or most of Europe distances as far as in those places but we have for 240 years made things happen. Only recently has nothing come to be the norm. The economic hurricane is on the horizon, but it's like living in 1939 with no weather radar and no one believing what about to happen. The IMF, World Bank and Federal Reserve bank had better step in strongly if they wish to preserve the fragile union that is the EEC & Euro, Germany is not going it alone on this, and there really is nwhere else to turn. China is reigning in costs as is India, growth has slowed, can't look there. The Arabs, their plight is so dire I cannot fathom what happens when oil does dry up other than more violence than a person can imagine. What goes around, comes around. Save the people !!

  21. It's O.K., Tom.
    You can do it.
    The NYT won't fire you.

    Just say "We Americans are different; we are exceptional. Greatest GDP. Never a coup, not even during Gore v. Bush. Best graduate education system in the world.
    Last hope of justified military force in the world."

    Nah, didn't think you could say it...

  22. Well, except for a minor skirmish between 1861 and 1865....

  23. And the cause of the financial crisis that has pushed the world off a cliff.

  24. "Justified military" ... you mean drones and mercenaries (er, "contractors")??

  25. When you consider the fact that in America, one of the two major parties has gone totally insane, it is hard to see how America has any better chance of achieving stability than Europe.

  26. Do you see EVERYTHING in terms of your hatred for the Republicans? If so, try not to. You'll be happier and less frustrated.

  27. Isn't polarization our problem in America--the inability to achieve consensus, finger-pointing?

  28. Carroll, its impossible to achieve consensus when one side is absolutist in their approach. Its even worse when that absolutist philosophy is believed to be of divine origin.

  29. The €uro has not brought more peace to Europe as it was declared ,instead it has brought much frustration and anger between the countries that are unable to pay their debts and those who are expected to pay the debt for them.

  30. At the end of the last century, the various media outlets attempted to ascertain which person had the most affect, for good or bad, on the prior 100 years. I don't recall who "won" the most votes, it may have been Churchill or Einstein. I realized there was one individual left out of the discussion. The events of the past decade only solidified my choice. The man's name was Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian terrorist, or freedom fighter, depending on one's perspective (some things never change), who assassinated the Austrian heir to the Hapsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophia, in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914.

  31. So, we live in parlous times.

    But do you REALLY regard Turkey as an "island of stability"? You have a hugely Islamist state that, for much of the 20th Century governed itself secularly, in large part due to a powerful military that saw such governance to be in its interests and that the people actually strongly supported for the order it imposed. Now, of course, Mr. Ertogan is actually a transformational religious nationalist, clearly bent not on building bridges but on imposing Shariya and on transforming his country into the dominant influence throughout the Islamist world; and the military that once kept things in line is now sidelined.

    Frankly, I think Turkey is ripe for a putsch, funded and otherwise supported by the wealthy and upper-middle-class who have the most to lose in a suppression of secularism.

    For all our problems, and despite our apparent identity as "the cleanest dirty shirt around", it seems to me that the only true "island of stability" in the world is the U.S.A.

  32. I would pick Canada over us.

  33. Canada is freaking out as well. Try Australia instead.

  34. Tom, You are in Turkey and you see Europe to the east? How did it get moved over there, and what happened to Iran?

  35. The story of what has happened in the middle east, including the rise of rule by one person or small groups over millions, involves much more than a mere "failure" to embrace education and development. As Norman Davies noted in his mammoth book EUROPE, "the Islamic world exercised a total ban on printing until the 19th century. The consequences, both for Islam and for the spread of knowledge generally, can hardly be exaggerated". Learning was suppressed. In turn, some elements, even to this day, blame the west for the lack of development in the region, which creates a corrosive resentment which does not spur further progress, but focuses the mind on the object of hatred.

    Europe, likewise, has been locked in the idea of separate states and separate national identities for most of its modern development. Even the nation states now extant, like Spain and Italy, are actually cobbled together concepts for nations, Spain with seven different languages and Italy, prior to its formation as a nation 150 yrs. ago, not having any agreed upon national language. Italy, according to many experts, remains much more a collection of distinct regions than a true national entity. Greece is locked into near medieval trade and professional restrictions. Who ever thought a single currency would unite people so fundamentally different and culturally separate? It seems like a graduate student's poorly formed idea developed in a drink induced state of mind.

    http://terryreport.com

  36. Since when has the European Monetary Union been "to the east" of Turkey? That command of basic geography casts some doubt on the remainder of your observations. Just correct this slip, and then we can discuss the veracity of the rest of the column.

  37. All too often Tom Friedman sounds like a local paper's lead sports columnist. Instead of wisdom and insight, we get conventional wisdom and an exaggerated expression of the fickle public mood.

    First there's Mr. Friedman's speaking of Europe in the past tense, as in "the supranational project did not work...." At least commentators like George Soros are offering practical solutions for tying together Europe's currency union in a sustainable way. Those solutions, like creating the European equivalent of the FDIC, are painful and extraordinary, but compare them to the consequences of Europe splintering. Nor are they remotely as painful and extraordinary as the remedy the United States undertook to correct the critical flaw in its union, that flaw being slavery.

    And then there's Friedman's cartoonish reduction of the EU's imbalances to German discipline having to coexist with Greek profligacy. Americans who have been following the European crisis even casually know that nations like Ireland and Spain were doing just fine with their work ethics and budget deficits until they were hit by the unexpected influx of cheap euro credit.

    What upsets me so much about Friedman's limited perception is that here we have this great expert on globalization, and yet, if he can get Europe so wrong, how can we trust him to on how American workers can remain relevant in today's hyper-competitive, hyper-connected globalized economy?

  38. Turkey is well advised to stay clear of the EU. There is nothing there to support their best interests. Turkey should be grateful it was not embraced by this spider web to start with. Turkey will be fine if it does not burdn itself with external economies.

  39. I think Thomas Friedman makes the world dramatically flatter every time he writes a column - soft heads solemnly nod at the pseudo-intellectual aphorisms...

  40. Thomas, unfortunately, there is a big difference between the EU and Arab League. Most living in the EU will see it for what it really is and remove especially because a lot there happen to be educated. Meanwhile, those in the Arab League will mostly ignore the failures and let it stay despite all concerns. Another big difference is that the EU doesn't use religion as a major role while the Arab League does. At least in the EU, they don't have government that resort to overthrowing their governments, but rather using elections wheras in the Arab League, unless you happen to grow a backbone, you are stuck with whoever is in charge. I know that a bunch of people, especially the anti-Israel crowd, are going to say that Israel is the fault of pan-Arabism when in reality, many of the countries had their own conflicts that prevented it such as the Iran-Iraq War. Unfortunately, in the countries where the dictators have been overthrown, many of them didn't become democracies but rather a regime change, which shows the true nature of the opposition groups. As for Turkey, the Islamists are starting to make Turkey go backwards from what it was trying to become after WWI, which is when it was fighting to de-Ottomanize itself. Also, the backwards movement in Turkey is really hurting its relationship with Israel especially with trying to give aid to Hamas, a terrorist group that is bent on destroying Israel, not making peace with them, by trying to get through the blockade.

  41. I think the E.U. was created to increase their competitiveness with the U.S. They simply went too far too fast. What they need now is a grownup conversation and some real leadership about where they go from here. I don't despair, but notwithstanding the pain of many, I consider it growing pains and certainly a solution that ameliorates the economic problems and leaves the E.U. intact remains possible.

    Without slighting Turkey, the U.S. is the real bridge on the this planet. Everything is connected to us and from us. Unfortunately, this means when things go bad here the entire world feels the pain. That is why we need to reverse our course and rebalance our economy and our goals so that the middle class is strengthened and our system has more equity. That means better pay and benefits, even if corporate profits are lowered. That means money must flow back into the hands of the middle in order to stimulate growth and development and encourage fairness.. Power needs to be wrested from the bankers and executives, and given back to the people, otherwise, we will be a bridge to further disaster.

  42. ah yes laurence.....a very nice thought....but unfortunately it will most likely just remain a very nice thought with no chance of actually being enacted....our economic system of ever larger wealth accumulation at the top and lack of jobs and opportunities elsewhere is going to be very hard to unravel and change.....sadly this is a world-wide problem that has existed recently for many decades and there is not the political power or political will to upend it.

  43. Friedman claims:

    "One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once? The answer, I believe, is the intensifying merger of globalization and the information technology revolution, which made the world dramatically flatter in the last five years, as we went from connected to hyperconnected."

    Yup. That's what happened, genius. It was the internet.

    Or -- and this is just my opinion based on facts and evidence -- we all had a massive housing bubble fed on by debt and Wall Street derivatives trading. When it went bust, everything collapsed. Consumer spending dropped. Crude oil dropped.

    But no, you're probably right. It was the "hyperconnectivity" or whatever.

  44. Tom hit it when he noted that most of the "national" boundaries in the Middle East -- and Africa, too -- are the result of colonial powers drawing lines on a map without regard to clans, tribes or cultural differences. Consider the alleged boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which splits the hereditary lands of the Pushtans, and which causes us so much grief today.

    I long ago learned that any straight line on a map, especially in what used to be called The Old World, is likely to be a cause for conflict sometime.

  45. Friedman does not know what he is talking about regarding Europe. The basic mistake he makes, which many American commentators do, is to assume that Europe should evolve a system similar to the federated one of the US. Well, it is a fundamentally different experiment in collective governance and will go its own way.

    I keep reading things saying the Europe is "splitting" or "falling apart". This puzzles me, I am not even sure what it means. Sure, there are problems with the Euro, but to assume that all the other structures, relations, and customs that have evolved since 1945 are collapsing or evaporating? No way. There have always been tensions between the nation members, most agreements must be worked out between sovereign governments, etc. But there is no question that Europe is operating as a unity, with open borders and a growing feeling of common culture and history.

    Once again, Friedman acts as if coming up with some kind of glib phrase - "German savers seething at Greek workers" - captures a far more complex reality. He does not get Europe.

  46. So you do not see as a probably reality that the eurozone could become smaller?

    Europeans sugar coat their own problems.

  47. Tom, why have you convinced yourself that Turkey is a country to be admired? How about some empathy for your fellow journalists who have been locked up and arrested for criticizing Erdogan? Your support of Turkey reminds of how the NY Times for years propped up Egypt under Mubarek as a modern rational Arab nation. Will it take a "Turkish Spring" for you to realize that Erdogan is represents a step backwards for Turkey? If Turkey's economy is so blooming great, then why are so many people leaving?

  48. Sometimes Mr Friedman is a lazy thinker, believing that the world has to conform to his thoughts instead of the other way around. Europe is not cracking up, but getting into shape. Gluing together numerous countries with their own languages and cultures is difficult. Sometimes it requires throwing an anchor uphill, to pull yourself towards the top. As concerns the Arabs, the rich ones should simply start living according to the Qur'an instead of going for shopping in the West.

  49. "To the east, you see the European Monetary Union buckling under the weight of its own hubris "

    East?

  50. Here is the paragraph:
    "The island of Turkey has become one of the best places to observe both these worlds. To the west, you see the European Monetary Union buckling under the weight of its own hubris — leaders who reached too far in forging a common currency without the common governance to sustain it. And, to the south, you see the Arab League crumbling under the weight of its own decay — leaders who never reached at all for the decent governance and modern education required to thrive in the age of globalization. "

    Tom got it right.

    To the WEST of Turkey
    To the SOUTH of Turkey.

  51. And Turkey is poised to become a major world state, because it is a viable, large, educated country with a long history and tradition of inclusiveness.
    But Tom, on behalf of all of us who have visited Turkey in the past few years, please keep the noise down. It's still a fairly well-kept secret that Turkey is the best place in Europe for a historical vacation, cultural vacation, or simply vacation vacation. And Istanbul is on a par with New York, London, Hong Kong.
    No more articles, please!

  52. A technique taught to me decades ago was to ask, "Who is orchestrating what is going on and why?"

    Yes, Arab leaders wanted to consolidate power and used hatred of Israel to keep their populations from asking questions about the lack of democracy. Not all were kept ignorant. 7% of Jordanians are illiterate while 30% of Egyptians are.

    Regardless, much of what has happened in the Middle-East was orchestrated by Western powers and by the (then) Soviets - today the Russians.

    Why? Control of oil, control of the Suez Canal, and military control in the Mediterranean Sea to project power toward Cyprus, across Turkey, across the Black Sea from the South and to provide some support for Georgia. .Georgia is a terminus for Russian oil and natural gas sold to Europe.

    The Russians are still at it and is why they are fiercely supporting Syria. Tartus, Syria gives them a major Mediterranean anchorage for ships as large as aircraft carriers.

    Force out the Assad regime, terminate the Russian anchorage in Syria, and governmental and social stability will return in Mediterranean Arabic coastal countries. As a bonus, unable to threaten the Southern NATO area, Russia won't as readily support Iranian nuclear sabre rattling.

  53. One self-perpetuating aspect of this crackup is that wealth today is not working bur rather hiding. It is hiding in the offshore bank accounts of the dictators and billionaires (two converging job descriptions). It is hiding in the vaults of banks who refuse to circulate their bailout money. And it is being taken out of the places that need it most so that it can be hidden in safe places that are, by the large, the places that need it least. Wealth has become a stagnant and, for most of us, useless (or worse) force.

  54. I agree. The health of an economy is the speed with which the money flows through the system. Political, economic, sociological forces combined with a bunker mentality is giving the world a heart attack.

    From whence comes the reformation? I'm optimistic... however, I hope it will come in my lifetime.

  55. Great point that seems to get swept under the rug. The banks are hoarding the bailout money that is supposed to be going to small business start ups and legit home buyers . They are waiting for better times when rates are higher then they (banks) can open the vaults and earn more interest when they do lend.

  56. One of the noted paradoxes of the information age is at play here - there is more information than ever, and there is a greater ability to consume only information that strengthens one's beliefs than ever.

    This is only partly due to the selection of belief-consistent sources. Now there is also a wide range of sources for belief-inconsistent information. However, exposure to belief-inconsistent information that it weak or overly extreme allows a person to easily reject the beliefs of others and further polarize their existing beliefs. This results in a feedback loop where the opposition is made to appear more and more preposterous, viewed as either unworthy of being taken seriously or incapable of meaningful thought.

    So less attention is given to mediation, and more effort is given to offensive or defensive actions, and those actions eventually change from verbal actions to physical actions to violent physical actions. And after the violence, enemies must be rehumanized, if still possible in a world where it is all too easy to find reasons to consider those who are different as lesser beings.

    Access to information produces freedom, but freedom to hate is an easy option. One almost regrets the greater control over media possessed by governments and elites of the intellectual and finance classes, until you remember that so many of those governments collaborated with those elites to inflict efficient and organized violence against citizens and foreigners.

  57. There but for the grace of God go we.

  58. If we wish to be more optimistic, we may reflect on the following theory: Organization ... Disorganization ... Reorganization. Formation ... Disintegration... Reformation.
    Thesis ... Antithesis .... Synthesis. Using this scheme as a guide, let us seriously consider what we may do to work through the cracking up to form a stronger entity.
    Then exercise the will to make it a reality.

  59. The options have always been there. It's the will that has been conspicuously absent.

  60. Well, let us hope and it is we the people that rise and work together to put the world back together for the whole, for the community of man, for society to thrive not to just labor for the wealthy to take more of all the resources of the world without a care for the planet and humankind.

    United we stand, divided we fall. The banksters and corporate robber barons have done a great job of convincing many of the commoners (that what they think of you) that they are the providers of jobs, wealth and everything good.

    What our so called "patriotic corporations" have been doing with the help of paid off elected representative of the people is systematically devaluing your labor and productivity you provide. They've devalued that in our wages and benefits, healthcare and pension and educating of your children. They don't want an educated workforce or electorate.

    The world is falling apart and when it does they will swoop back to the good ole US of A and invest in America if you will work for under $10 an hour and not expect decent working conditions, wages, number of hours worked. They've done it around the world in their attempts to privatized resources of the world and they will do it here.

  61. Forget all the tautological responses that will follow this all too cogent piece: Armageddon is looming larger and larger with the incipient conflagration of a runaway forest fire.

    Middle East first, Africa (already under way) next, then the Financial Armageddon followed by the Social Armageddon (already underway) of Europe. The dams burst, the tocsins sound, the bells toll. With all of mankind's learning and erudition it is the power of narcissistic, rigid conservative nationalism that will pull the chain hanging behind us.

    Walt Kelly aka Pogo, said it best: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

  62. I would suggest that Tom Friedman speak to a few experts on the situation of Turkey before he calls it 'an island of stability'. Consider the situation of the long suppressed Kurdish minority in Turkey. Consider too Turkey's attempt to balance and undermine the Malaki regime in Iraq through its paradoxically helping the Kurdish minority there and even recently signing an oil- and- gas deal with it. Consider the internal repression of Turkish journalists and freedom of the press. Consider Turkey's hostile relation with Syria and its fear of Syrian refugees pouring into it.
    There are many sources of Turkish instability including the Erdogan's regime turning away from the legacy of secular Turkey.
    Pontificating generalization may have its place but it is no substitute for real investigative journalism.

  63. I take exception to Tom Friedman's analysis of " the Arab world" in disarray when he ignores in this and other commentaries the relatively brilliant experiment in self-government taking place in Tunisia. To be sure, that country has its problems with salafists and unemployment but Tunisia continues to make strides in building institutions through a new constitutional process that should be a model for the Arab world and beyond. This is where the Arab Spring began and I hope that Mr. Friedman will go there and see for himself what hope Tunisia has to offer.

  64. Oh, here comes the Flat Earth thesis again. You've sold enough books, Mr. Friedman. Hyperconnectedness has not exposed interdependence; if that were true, peoples would be acting in concert. Rather, it's made everyone an individual thinking from their laptop as they expound on their Facebook page in the naive belief they have no stake in whatever happens wherever else. The earth is not flat, Mr. Friedman. It is wet and isolated: a series of islands - seven billion of them and counting.

  65. This is such an excellent article really describing what is happening over here. It is hard to know the answer but maybe the basic premise of, "Be good. Do Good." would solve the issues Thomas Friedman describes. We really need to have a larger vision for our countries and world that will improve it for our future generations. With all the technology and advancements we have made, sociially and emotionally we are more primitive than the cave men.

    Having lived and worked in Egypt for the past 15 years and attending the revolution and observing what is happening to the country and the people, I see how change is painful, confused, depressing, frustrating and for many, they feel they are coming full circle back to the old. way.

    I believe however that this part of the world is not the only one cracking. Russia, China are on the verge when you follow all the small but telling articles about demonstrations, political corruption, civil unrest. Egypt began the ball rolling who knows how it will end and will we as citizens of the world rise to the fore and emerge as better humans or will we begin another larger more devastating world war that will end in our destruction?

  66. Every one seems to think that a united Europe with one common government is the solution to the fiscal problems we face today. The facts on the ground are that not one person in any single country in Europe wishes to lose their national sovereignty or the possible damage that might do to their individual cultures.
    We have also seen how super-states inevitably decrease the individual civil rights of the citizens.
    In the mean time, Europeans in general see Germany as attempting today through fiscal manipulation, what they failed to achieve in two world wars.
    Possibly the worst thing that was done to Europe was the conditions of the Marshall plan that forced a sort of economic union between Germany and France after WWII. It may well have prevented further wars, but it has pushed the European nations into facing a possible union their citizens are not ready to accept.
    For those of us who live in and believe in the security, freedom and stability of our constitutional monarchies the concept of a central European government is anathema. We have seen what the USA claims is their democracy and found it wanting. We have little desire to emulate it.

  67. You keep on glorifying globalization as the holy grail for which all nations must strive to do well, keep up and deserve.

    Your flat earth romance blinds you to the reality that globalization itself is the problem. Its fundament and goal is the stratifying of societies for the benefit of a dominant minority that will end up with most of the marbles while the rest scramble for what remains.

    It is unsustainable on its (hidden) face, and the bloated economic systems it engenders are doomed to collapse under their own weight.

    Just as single crop systems are fundamentally weak and unworkable, our reality requires diversification and independent, interrelated moving parts to thrive.

    Turkey is a good example.

  68. This is really interesting and I am very much impressed with what have been said about some Arab states like Libya, Iraq, Syria...etc. loyalty to tribe, region and sect at the expense of the national interests is taking these states to nowhere. They have to realize that they have had enough and it is time to forget the bitter past and look forward into a bright future for the upcoming generations. Some groups erroneously believe that they are winners when the price is ending up with having a state which is a failure. On the short, mid and  long run, all people in a state are losers. They are only winners if they are able to build a civil state in which all forms of freedom, equality of opportunities, social justice prevail. If they stick to reversion with all its sectarian and tribal heritage, the Arab states will get nothing, but more corruption, insecurity and backwardness. Hopefully, the sacrifices of the youth will not be in vain particularly in Libya where the sacrifices made are great so we deserve a better future.

  69. As an American living in Ireland for 20 years I've seen the effects of the EU on Irish society and agree that the speed of communication, the hyperconnectivity, has made vast cultural changes here. This is not all bad. But it is requiring that individuals begin to think differently about themselves and their government as well as the EU.

  70. This is very convinient. Balme the EU for the global finacila crisis which actually started due to greed and incompetance of the govt to reign in the greed of the banks. Next blame the arabs for finally getting out of the schakles of the US imposed autocrats and dictators and asking for democracy. The two worlds are not getting ungluded nor is the US the glue to the rest of the world. The arab world is transitioning to a better world and Europe is transitioning to a world where it will not rely on the US anymore for anything. EU will start pegging its growth on China and Asia while Arab world will come out of this as a emerging market in the next decade follwoing Africa. US will not be the global super power anymore as it will still be recovering from its own failure and get bogged in retirees and obescity. The current ungluing is something that the world needs to move ahead.

  71. Maybe people are concerned about living in a world in which a person who has never been elected by anyone is cited as an authority on geo-politics, simply because he runs a big bond fund. Unfettered free markets are the real enemies of democracy.

  72. If the individual 50 states go too far in their separate ways, wouldn't we run the risk of Europeanization in that we would cease to be a cohesive social body? Example: If one state provides better education and health care to its citizens wouldn't that state attract the poor from other states causing resentment and border blocking over time? The alternative is a race to the bottom in social policy. This has happened in the past and why, over time, the federal government got involved and set overall rules.

  73. Mr. Friedman, geography alert: one observes Europe to the west of Turkey, not to the east.

  74. What a difference a year makes!!! I remember all those giddy optimistic columns Tom Friedman kept writing about how the overthrow of all these vile entrenched Arab dictatorships throughout the Middle East would finally lead to a democratic Arab world where there would be liberty and justice for all!!! That really worked out great didn't it. Today Egypt is a mess, Syria is embroiled in a major civil war, and the Sultan is still on the throne in Bahrain. Now that reality is setting in that things didn't work out as anticipated, Tom Friedman is forced to play the role of apologist trying to analyze what went so horribly wrong. Stop making excuses Tom! Just man up and admit you were wrong!!!

    The crystal ball is still murky about the future of the Euro. Initially it sounded like a great idea--one currency would unite Europe and eliminate all the monetary confusion country to country. In time the Euro will probably be dropped and the franc, lire, drachma, etc will be restored.

    It's not easy saying "Uncle" is it Tom?????

  75. I agree with the last two speakers. Basic communication is needed to get us out of this mess. Trust is needed and should be build carefully and it takes a lot of time and patience. It's not that bigger groups need more time, but the leaders of those groups should be more aware and responsible of these mostly unconscious mechanisms.

    Then there is the need for change. But an existencialistic fear of change is a complicating factor, so leaders should be really persevering. I recently saw the movie Marley, an artist bringing two oposites together. But I'm also thinking of Carl Rogers, a truly incredible listener who worked with all kinds of groups and governments.

    In stead of some cynical Late Night show (which can be quite funny) or flat, egoistic programs like Dr Phil (who always get it right), media should be more focused on tranquility and sensitivty for each other. Everybody can learn honesty, cooperation and looking for win-win situations, as long as we have good examples.

  76. The main difference is that in the Arab world no one is making profits; in Europe there is a distinct country, Germany, that is reaping all the benefits of the situation. Matching the two situations, to me, consequently miss the point.
    Also if the internet could have risen the expectations of Arab peoples the way television did with the balkans, in Europe it just served to spread uncontrolled rumors, biased statement and panic.
    Of course the problem is not so much in the social network themselves but in the suspension of disbelief the users have on them: especially if the critic check on what is said is substituted by the "Like" number.

  77. Isn't the US also cracking - the politics at Capitol Hill is so polarize, budgets cannot be pass, albeit it being grossly in deficit. Is the US any better?
    Yes, the Arab world is undergoing a metamorphosis and timely too, as wealth concentration in the families of the ruling is absolute, just like the US, where the wealth concentration is at Wall Street and its peripheral.

  78. America is cracking apart--- we managed to repair the immediate damage from the 1980s under the Democrats in the 1990s, leaving a strong economy with shared prosperity and a budget surplus, but once 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court handed the election to Bush in spite of 500,000 fewer votes nationwide and arguably more votes in Florida too, budget busting tax cuts, the invasion of Iraq, the hate-filled propaganda spewing from Fox and Rove, the disenfranchising of registered voters..... blocking any attempt to pay for construction workers to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, firing teachers......Republicans are destroying America.

  79. Shalom,
    From the beginning I did not have much faith in the EU project for the simple reason that there are too many languages spoken there. Languages keep people in educational/traditional/historical/cultural lacunae.
    As for the Arab world - for as long as they dont practice demographic congrol their rulers will mostly solve that problem the traditional way.
    The smartest people in this respect, as much as my limited knowledge goes are the Chinese.
    The Europeans also had no daily labor infrastructure and welcomed immigrants while they themselves,( knowing very well the demographic and ecological consequences and predictions) limited their demographic growth.
    Our news said yesterday (?? was it on the news?) that USA returned a million mexican infiltrators last year to Mexico.
    Nations should regulate their demographies and also educate their citizens that the welfare state is not a free handhout and there should be some kind of national service for each person who receives food stamps or other things from his or her nation.
    And last but not least, - yes, M.Thatcher realized the historical, caltural and linguistic uniqueness (not to mention geographical position) of her country and her choice not to join the EU truly proved itself ...

  80. "To the east, you see the European Monetary Union buckling under the weight of its own hubris... "

    Didn't realize Europe is now east of Turkey. Wonder where that leaves Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, not to mention Iran.

  81. My Friedman, I am a US national born in Europe and I would like to comment something about Turkey and Europe. Both Turkey and the countries of continental Europe are nation states with cultures define by Muslim (Turkey) and European religion. For over 1000 years Turkey was the enemy and the antithesis of Europe and vice versa. I am very upset that the US gov. has been lobbying for so long and so hard for Turkey's admission to the EU where it doesn't belong. Europe can never be a multinational multicultural superstate like the US because of its history. The fact that even countries that are so similar in spirit and religion fail to get along in a super national state way it is not surprising for anybody in Europe.

  82. Good observation, Mr Friedman. The world was reordered by the victorious Allies under the guidance of Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George and Paul Clemenceau at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The reordering of the world after World War I was overseen by men (yes, men) unafraid to wield national power in the interest of stability. Yes, that means "interference" in the affairs of other nations and other states. Yes, that means "imposing" your cultural values, of which you are proud. That makes you "uncomfortable", doesn't it.

    That arrangement lasted almost a century. It is time for a new generation of leaders to step forward. Where are they? Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton? David Cameron? Francois Hollande? Angela Merkel? Of these, I would say Merkel leads the pack, but she is still far from adequate to the task.. Maybe if she was President of the United States, but not from her current perch.

    Obama is clearly not interested in governing the United States, much less the world. Maybe Koffi Annan will come up with some ideas. Yes, let's call Koffi.

  83. George Bush tried to govern the world from his position as President of the US, and look where that got us. We spent our surplus and gained only sorrow.

    I am glad President Obama does not wish to govern the world, because the United States cannot and should not. We need to take care of this country and its people.

    I have observed more than a few Presidents in my lifetime. I believe that President Obama is doing a good job. He is thoughtful and cautious but actually very, very determined (one could almost say ruthless). In fact, he reminds me of President Eisenhower, whom I greatly admire even though I am an Independent who usually leans Democratic.

    I'd like to know the reasons and evidence behind your cavalier assertion that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are allegedly not interested in governing? Or are you just spouting propaganda?

  84. Why are both the Arab and European state systems imploding at the same time, Mr Friedman asks? Yes, globalization and technology are big factors, but the true elephant in the room is demographics.

    The Arab states have seen an explosion in fecundity over the last couple decades resulting in an overwhelmingly young population, and one increasingly foreclosed from the global tide of rising prosperity and progress. These young people need an outlet and their societies cannot provide it, having been for too long obsessed with Israel rather than internal development and reform. Therefore they rip themselves apart.

    Look at what happened to Western societies when their nearest equivalent, the Baby Boomer generation, came of age in the '60s and '70s. Now imagine if all those young people found there were no jobs or future and peaceful political reform were not possible. That is what is happening in the Arab lands.

    Europe's problem is also demographic. With birthrates far below replacement level, every single nation is now experiencing, or very soon will experience sharply declining population, coupled with rapidly aging populations demanding greater services from a shrinking labor pool. Fewer people are available to shoulder the burden of social services and growth.

    For Europe to grow means they have to have rates of per capita GDP growth in excess of rate of population decline, and this they cannot do.

    Demographics is destiny.

  85. unfortunately even with most european countries having close to zero birth rate grown there still doesn't seem to be many jobs to be had.....which is a frightening situation.....both for them.....and the rest of the world.....including the u.s.............without jobs for the under 35 folks that will enable them to live a reasonable middle-class lifestyle it is that resulting discontent which fuels anger and violence and destruction and the huge tsunami is just starting to build.

  86. The reality is that in a hyper connected world there is no need for large unions, such as the European Union. Smaller, more natural political units can thrive without a common currency. There is no need for a central authority to collect information and make resource allocation decisions. The breakup of the Soviet Union was a precursor to the breakup of the European Union.

    In Europe as well as the Middle East, a strong central authority is no longer necessary. All information is readily available and resource allocation can be done on the local level. Bureaucrats in Brussels are as useless as a Dictator in Damascus. Central authority is not necessary in the age of transparent and instantaneous information flows.

  87. If anyone thinks information is transparent or instantaneous (Wikileaks) think again. It's all scripted, rehearsed, focus group tested, run through the Madison Avenue ad mill then regurgitated by the corrupt aiding and abetting 24/7 news media cycle.

    Yes ideally, the Internet was to spread and share ideas: the unlocking of new scientific discoveries, the sharing of new medicines, etc -- that vision has long ago been perverted.

    Yes in this hyper connected world one can ask is there a need for representative governments and central authority. Can we all not txt, press 1 for Yes, 2 for No on referendum, click our mouse, etc?

    Sure but all governments were designed to keep power concentrated and not democratized no matter what label/name they carry.

    And yes you have hit the nail on the head, there is no need for a strong central authority: look around there aren't any. They are hollowed out shells, with Hollow corrupted men and women.

    Resource allocation by financiers and large corporate interests is happening at an exponential pace and on a grand scale: the globalization of poverty and mass human suffering.

    There is a strong central authority: you need to look more intensely.

    Start with the board rooms and executive suites.

  88. Diana Moses is right about communication across differences, something the EU has not done very well. The EU is a heterogeneous club of member states, but defining membership in this way has obscured still other forms of difference. Catalonia, a nation that lacks its own state, is a case in point. In the 1980s, the great hope here was that integration into the EU would allow us to stand on the world stage as ourselves, not as counterfeit Spaniards. This has not been the case. Catalan representatives in the European Parliament have struggled for years to get official working language status for Catalan, a language with approximately 10 million speakers (far more, for example, than Danish speakers) who live not only in Catalonia proper but in two other Spanish autonomous communities, in southern France, and in Sardinia. The EU has steadfastly refused such recognition, prevented translation of its website into Catalan, and threatened to eliminate the position of its one Catalan translator. One especially valiant Catalan eurodeputy, Heribert Barrera, responded by refusing to address the parliament in either Spanish or French (in both of which he could express himself fluidly), speaking slowly and with effort in his heavily accented English to startle his colleagues into awareness of the problem. After two decades of alienating experiences like this, it is not surprising that voter turnout here is low for European elections.

  89. I'm not sure we are so stable here in the U.S. Reagan's statement that government in the problem can be purchased for use as a ring tone on a cell phone. People wave the flag but hate the federal government. If the schisms here continue to widen, we may find ourselves in a second civil war.

  90. A third factor has to be energy scarcity. At the moment we see it as high prices but the prices reflect supply. Cheap energy made everything work, without it Europeans discoverer that their social experiment is too expensive to maintain and old intramural animosities that we're lurking beneath the surface return. In the Arab countries population grew unrestrained by normal checks and balances, oil money provided bread and circuses for sme of the masses -- true many Arab countries like Egypt have elittle oil but grants have played a role. Arab oil also fueled a religious fundamentalism that helped keep the population in line. It's all disappearing as petroleum is no longer sufficient to power Arab organization at the scale it has become.

    So we have vendor and customer in a fix. One not willing to take on the tough job of building a post petroleum world and the other clinging to the old paradigm. Economically we have failed to heed the lessons of the 1930s and one wonders if we will fail to grasp the harsher lessons of the 1940s.

  91. Ultimately the world's problems will be addressed (not solved) the same way they always are, through bloodshed. This is a crucial difference between Obama and Romney. The chickenhawk Romney will foolishly engage us in any conflict he can so that his pals in the military industrial complex will profit from the deaths of our young people. It will be done under the phony umbrella of 'freedom'.
    Obama has proven to be more constrained, which has made him more effective. Romney is the last person the world needs right now to fix its problems.

  92. Perhaps the US will finally have the possibility of fighting a real war for freedom very soon, but they will not be very enthusiastic about it.

  93. When I first moved to Europe (from the US) one thing I had to get used to quickly was not to generalize about Europe and say "In Europe they do this." The EU may be cracking (particularly the Euro) but many European countries are still a better place to be middle class than the US. The country I live in has less than 5% unemployment.

    Germany, Scandinavia+Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria for example are all doing quite a bit better than the US and have good social programs to protect their middle class. France and the UK are at about the same level as the US in economic health but both have better social programs as well. That's about 85% of the population of the US. Additionally, they have better education systems than the US for the middle class.

    Middle class American's need to know there are many better countries to live in. For example, due to NAFTA, they don't need a visa to work and live in Canada.

  94. Friedman talks about "a genuine national community." Isn't that a neo-colonialist phrase? The late anthropologist Ernest Gellman wrote a very interesting book on nationalism and how it is a construct of nineteenth-century European expansion. Tribes and clans strike me as much more natural building-blocks of human solidarity than a manufactured "national" identity, and far less lethal. I suspect that the late Edward Said may have had something to say about this as well.

  95. Yes, we are in a "hyper connected" world, but that has always served America well. The genius of our Founding Documents, the built-in tolerance of our people, and the greatest free market system in the world when government isn't intentionally supressing it. All this make America unique and the melting pot of the world where anyone can succeed.

  96. “you end up with German savers seething at Greek workers, and vice versa.”

    End up? It started out that way. The German economy was much superior to the Greek one when Greece was admitted into the EEC in 1981, having been a democracy for only six years. The Germans knew this.

    As has been stated, for the EEC to work, there has to be a transfer of money from the northern countries to those in the south, which is what we are witnessing today.

  97. My husband is a transplanted American, having lived in Canada for several decades, originally from NYC; he's been reading the NYT since the 4th grade.

    Canadians are not inherently boastful people. However, I feel that perhaps you should look not to Turkey for the stable island you're describing, Mr. Friedman, just grab a map of N America, and look up.

    A stable economy, a stable system of government (even if the ruling party's not to my liking at ALL), with most, if not all of the necessary institutions in place to continue as such. Problems? Sure! It's a country after all.

    But a sense of foreboding about the future (that appears in many of your paper's columns about the prospects of the US after the next election)? Nope.

    You might take a look up here- it's a lot closer than Turkey!

    Cheers,
    Michelle

  98. "European's failed to build Europe..."? You've got to be kidding. Goldman Sachs cooked the books for Greece, Italy, Spain, and Iceland. Europe was becoming an economic powerhouse before the 2008 tailspin, sure to dominate the world economically, very quickly leaving the United States in a position where it would have to play by European rules internationally - especially with environmental laws. Is Thomas Friedman a proponent of "American Exceptionalism"? As a Canadian I'm very impressed by my European's friends' progress. To me Europe looks like the future while Canada and the United States slide quickly backwards on nearly everything I care about - education, environmental policies, limiting military intervention, support of culture, etc. Sorry, but I'm seriously suspicious. When the Europeans get back on their feet, what steps will you Americans take to ensure that Europe doesn't become a dominating world power? Whose books do you plan to cook next?

  99. I am less optimistic. In order to foster our growth we released the dragon of the German imperialism.

  100. Why did I read this? I avoided Friedman for years because of his flat insights and just tried again and now I have the usual disappointment.
    First of all, nothing is stable. Yearning for stability is just misunderstanding the laws of the universe. Europe falling apart? Where they at any time more together than now? Friedman already concluded that the European supranational project did not work while it is in the middle of working.
    He is probably sitting on a roof terrace in Istanbul enjoying the views and needing to make a few lines for the NYT contract. There are no further musings on Turkey which at one time owned all the states on the Arab side of his story.
    Friedman, go, go have another cup of Turkish coffee and enjoy the morning breeze. I will do the same, now that you told me that we have the cleanest dirty shirts.

  101. Worlds cracking up? I don't understand. Aren't we one yet? Long ago the flat world became round, then the world was divided, unimaginatively into new and old, then a third was added. Now many. The growing worlds is clearly deceptive. In the US a child of the sixties was told the seas were unlimited, the deserts would bloom, means of travel without personal work was there for the purchase, chemicals performed magic flawlessly. The world was becoming one.
    Lets look at some other tales: JFK: nuclear strength OK, etc.
    There are others aren't there?

  102. Excellent!

    It's like what Warren Buffet said after the financial crisis broke in 2008: When the tide goes out you can see who's naked. The tide has gone out and exposed many naked situations in both Europe and the Arab/Muslim world, as Friedman explains it.

    A similar situation occurred in the 1990's with Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was also a sham and held together illegitimately. With the death of Tito, the end of the Cold War and the growth of globalization Yugoslavia's fracture lines were exposed, which ended in its break-up.

    But the Yugoslavian example offers some hope. The regions it broke into are slowly on the mend and learning to live together. Europe and the Arab/Muslim world will slow get their acts together. There is no alternative.

    It's like the Emperor has no cloths.

  103. "We should be the world’s island of stability today. But we’re not."

    That's because Republicans have decided their way or the highway is the way to govern. No compromise, no support for a president if he's a Democrat, and make the people of the country hate their own government . . . until Republicans are in charge, and then it's a police state for the poor and an unregulated free for all for corporations. It's America's own form of tribalism.

  104. The US should be on this list -- it is rapidly becoming "unexceptional" -- just another banana republic in the western hemisphere, albeit one with nukes. The author also fails to mention explosive population growth as a cause of current geopolitical instability in the middle East, Europe and the United States.

  105. Friedman's analysis of the financial crisis in Europe is just plain wrong. That's not the way it happened. Look at the financial state of the EuroZone countries before the crisis. Paul Krugman has shown in his blog that except for Greece they were all doing fine, thank you very much. Greece was only admitted to the Zone because of fraud aided by Goldman-Sachs. We know the crisis was caused by lack of regulation and reckless behavior on the part of bankers, both in the US and in the EuroZone.

    Look, I would love to see a United States of Europe, but it ain't gonna happen in my lifetime and maybe not even in my daughter's. We can pull out of this mess if we acknowledge past errors, repeal of Glass-Steagall, failure to regulate credit default swaps, unregulated commodities speculation, etc. Fix these mistakes, and develop a policy based on sound economic principles, not on a morality that seeks to punish countries for perceived bad behavior. If you want to punish someone, go after the bankers.

    It does Germany little good to stick by its guns if the South goes under and its customers vanish. This would be a perfect example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  106. It is enough for Germany to loose the rope around the neck of the other countries just enough to breath and purchase its products but not enough to develop their countries. The plan is of course the one of the third reich where inferior people do the hard job under the management of Arian ones that also decide in their wisdom for them. In that situation she will be able to export corn at cheaper prices than China.
    But of course this shall eventually fail as it happened all the several past times.

  107. Tom Friedman and David Brooks seem to be saying the same thing this week:  The People need to subject themselves unquestioningly to Authority and Power.

    Yes, much of the opposition in the US (and other places) are ill-informed reactionaries, often creating more problems.

    However, it is the corruption of our establishments, which is driving the People to reject those establishments.

    In fact, Mr. Friedman made the point in a recent column:  When legitimate and informed dissent is being crushed as a threat to the status quo power holders, all that remains is an ill-informed and unstable opposition.

    The Koch brothers fund, propagandize, and co-opt the Populist Tea Party to advance their agenda of making paupers of our working class.

    The People elected a President with a clear mandate for major reform and empowerment of the People.  Instead, he has further empowered the corrupt power factions.

    There is clear consensus in the US on many issues.  60%+ want single payer, out of the wars, REAL investigations and reform of the banks and Wall Street.  Where is leadership on those issues?

    When both Democrats and Republicans compete to see who can sell out most completely to Wall Street, Big Insurance, Big media, Big Oil, National Security State: Who are the People supposed to follow?

    We need to be MORE critical of our leaders - INCLUDING those on "our team".

    There are very few leaders worth following.  And the so-called "news" media is certainly a big part of the problem.

  108. There is one simple regulation that would fix Europe. No financial institution or entity be it public or private is allowed to hold debt from a county whose cumulative debt exceeds 50% of that countries GDP.

    If Europe adopted such a rule and the rest of the world followed suit, governments would be unable to sell more bonds at their debt approached 50% of GDP. This would force governments to be fiscally responsible and prevent banks from over-investing in government bonds that rapidly decline in value, default and force the bank to require a bailout.

  109. Yes, and like Europe, we're NOT exercising American exceptionalism, just austerity for the masses and none for the elite or rather perpetrators.

  110. You expected that making the world flat would have no consequences you had not thought of?

    You expected that pushing "democracy" in the Arab world would have no unpleasant consequences? (Democracy is more perverted in the U.S. today than it was 35 years ago.)

  111. Mr. Friedman, you have stated the obvious, I have become used to a little more inciseveness from you. In fact I was even surprised that you justified the Germans and their irrisponsible obstruction to act in the interest of the whole union based on their antipathy to slothful Greeks. Immagine New York State keeping unto itself all the benifits of being the financial Capital and refusing to help out New orleans because they party too much?!

    Keep up the good work and continue to share your ability to cut through the veils of talking points and propaganda!

  112. "Immagine New York State keeping unto itself all the benifits of being the financial Capital and refusing to help out New orleans because they party too much?!"

    Actually maybe that is the answer to the differences in Red State/Blue State economic ideology. If we were to end all funding/financing to those areas and regions of the country with no capacity for their share of the equal services they benefit from, they would pretty quickly understand that we're all in this together.

  113. Thank you Tom Friedman. Will the world trundle on beyond these crisis'? It will after the whole thing implodes. There is not enough time nor money to fix these problems. Europe is back into a corner without drastic action, which the financial elites would never allow. The Middle East is in disarry because the global elites will not allow real democracy. It might be "unstable" or the people "inexperienced", but what they really mean is they might not be controllable and want to own their own assets. The bloodshed is unnecessary, but then it has always been unnecessary. Greed makes a farce of the so called efforts to fix Europe, as it has to fix the Middle East. It seems since greed is such a given on the stage of world events, Tom Friedman doesn't find it necessary to make a point of it. But it would be refreshing to see some more analysis on this in the mainstream media.

  114. Globalization and information technology hardly explain economic and social fractures and explosions of the sort we are seeing in Southern Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, and China as well, unless you are making the case that these are bad things, or somehow destructive (or more than just disruptive) in themselves. Hyperconnectivity and flatness generalize the symptoms but are not the disease. Surely we have to explain why developed economies are no longer growing profit rates and prosperity as they did before 1980, and why the global economy cannot translate those areas that do have high GDP and profit growth (as currently in Africa and Asia) into real development for the increasingly restive workers of the global south. Is capitalism still working, or has it in fact become so mired in a crisis of overproduction and speculative financial capital that it no longer creates enough new real value to sustain itself. There has to be some actual explanatory principle at the bottom of your discussion here, because Europe and the Arab/Muslim Middle East haven't changed their (unsustainable, anti-democratic, unrepresentative) fundamentals in the last five years, but some greater weakness in the global economy seems to be calling their bluff.

  115. To a large extent its demographics in both places. The Europeans don't have enough young people to support their economies. The Arabs have an enormous youth bulge that finds it prospects unsatisfactory, to put it mildly.

  116. Looking at the United States of America from a distance, a good distance, one might have the same doubt about its future as Mr. Friedman suggests for Europe or the Middle East, given the sectional differences in our Country that are only growing bigger. It is not merely a matter of politics, with ironclad red states and blue states and a handful of battleground states in between. It is a matter of religion, culture and education driving people further and further apart. Why shouldn't the people of the deep south have the 10 Commandments carved into the facades of their court houses, ban all abortions and allow everyone to carry concealed weapons? Why shouldn't Texans ban books they consider offensive from their schools and libraries and reject any form of health insurance that would grant access to all? Why shouldn't New Yorkers ban all concealed weapons, encourage the reading of all books and disallow religious activities of all kinds in their schools? One can go on and on. The sectarian differences are simply irreconcilable. Or are they? Is not the arc of history moving all of us all toward a more progressive, liberal democracy?

  117. The fact is, as the Euro currency comes undone, there will be a flight to safety that will benefit the US for years to come, as many countries (especially European countries) pour money into US bonds. This will be great for the US in the short term, but will allow us to kick the fiscal can down the road for another few years, delaying the financial reckoning (correction) that will surely take place...unless, of course, our politicians are able to forge some grand bargain...which is highly unlikely.

  118. The flight to safety is a mixed blessing. The Euro/Dollar ratio has already dropped from 1.60 to 1.24. It means that it is easier for us to borrow money, but it also makes our exports relatively more expensive, which costs us jobs. The the drop in the Euro has already had a significant impact on U.S. unemployment.

  119. Grand bargain. Do you mean a compromise allowing a mix of ways to add revenue while cutting costs? Egads, that means tax increases and half of our elected representatives have signed the solumn vow pledging against that. It also means cutting something besides someone's programs or services.

    What are you, some kind of radical?

  120. There is one thing that Mr. Friedman does not mention. And it is this: The United States--this "island of stability"--has been the principal player in shaping the world after WWII. The failures that he recounts should be laid at the doorstep of this country. It is a sad legacy of its policies in the post-war world.

  121. The Great Depression infused a shared mentality of frugality amongst those who grew of age during the height of the era. This generation always was optimistic yet always hedged their bets. Never believing that the bad times were an aberration or that the good times were the norm. They understood how to build a society without borrowing from future generations.

    They saw desperation and felt the impact of being forced to live without. They did not hate those that achieved or look to blame their plight on others. They took responsibility as a personal challenge - not expecting others to carry them even for the shortest periods of time.

    And look at how that generation - a generation who looked first for answers from themselves - built this country into the powerhouse that was the envy of the world.

    Now we have a new generation raised in a challenging environment. What lessons are they learning from their parents and leaders? Are they learning that sacrifice is something that other people do? Are they learning to resent others and to not accept responsibility for their personal failures or successes? Are they learning that frugality is too much of a personal burden and that someone else should carry them?

    Leaders are emulated by others not because they demand respect. Leaders actions are effective and are quietly inspirational. Where have all the great American leaders gone? Where will the generation growing up in this era take our country?

  122. I suppose it's difficult to provide a convincing argument for the apparent demise of complex forms of governance, but this article is exceptional in its lack of established facts or causal relationships. These two regions were forged and in some cases flourished as a result of daring ambition, cooperation and hard work on the part of many people. It is unlikely that the factors described in the above article accurately depict the fundamental dynamics and underlying causes of recent national and pending supranational failures. I don't think EU countries ever intended to cede their sovereignty for a few dollars more. Assuming there is no middle ground limits your ability to come up with solutions.

  123. So the country that invented bureaucracy is the last one standing. .... What I find somewhat amusing is that if the EU had allowed Turkey in, unemployed southern tier workers would be flocking to Turkey since her economy is booming. But prejudice prevented it and now one safety valve is gone. www.valhallapress.com

  124. "To put it another way: In Europe, the supranational project did not work, and now, to a degree, Europe is falling back into individual states. In the Arab world, the national project did not work, so some of the Arab states are falling back onto sects, tribes, regions and clans."
    Well said, and in my mind this is the core of the problem. None of these entities are real, or ever were real. The EU did this to itself as an experiment; the Arab states had it forced on them by the West. In both cases, the carefully balanced relationships and alliances that human beings had built up over generations were superseded by a good political idea. But we as a species don't seem to succeed when we forget how our bodies, minds, and social groups evolved.

    We like to think that we can be rational, and forge rational solutions. But unless we take our own basic natures into account, these solutions will fail. My most glaring example is much more local: the campaign against bullying. No matter how much we publish against it, no matter how much we teach sensitivity to the children, they keep doing it. It's evolved behavior; just watch monkeys and apes. As with nations, we must find a solution that works with what we are, not what we aspire to be, so that we can reach closer to that aspiration.

  125. Why can't you (meaning power elites who are incapable of thinking outside the box and their enablers in the media) just admit that a) we have a bizarre and untenable financial system and b) global capitalism, the economic system, is also untenable and on the verge of collapse?

    (I guess I've answered my own question in the sense power elites are inherently incapable of fundamentally changing the systems that keep them in power)

    These systems, financial and economic, are not divine (contrary to Republican assertions). They are human constructs and both need radical re-structuring very soon if we are to avoid a cataclysmic hard landing ( much worse than the last one).

    We need to break the ironclad grip that "money" in almost all of its iterations, from high finance to 'makin' rent,' has on the very soul of humanity.

    And there are ways to do it!

  126. It seems the Euro and Arab social systems have out lived their purposes, primarily because of excursiveness, monetary in one case and governance in the other. The world will now feel the ripple effect of these two social systems reorganizing. Unless congress retreats from its excessive unwillingness to collaborate, the US will become an other social system to reorganize.

  127. It's funny, Tom, that you make the observation about what happens when countries share the same currency but not the same work ethics or budget discipline. Yet don't see the same thing happening in the US. We have half the population behaving like Greeks trying to live off the other half who are, like the Germans, rightfully resentful.

  128. Good point. Most of the red states receive more in federal funding than they pay in federal taxes, while in most of the blue states, the opposite is true. Since red state politicians get elected on low tax platforms, they need to mooch off of the blue states to provide needed servies that everyone likes. Yes, you have half the population trying to live off the other half.

  129. Very well said. This realistic perspective reduces fear & inspires encouragement for Americans to continue our leadership throughout the world. As usual Tom, Thank you.

  130. Thom,
    I think most of the economic systems you refer to have one thing in common: "That giant sucking sound" of money being taken out of every nation, at every point around the globe. Since we've all agreed to use money as the energy, work, material(s) unit to live our lives without pure subsistence, questions other than those normally posed need to be addressed.

    Where is all the money going and to what end will it be used? It can't just vanish! Without money available none of the progress you so rightly propose in your great body of work will ever be possible.

    It would be of great service to us readers if you started to investigate and report on this worldwide phenomena.

  131. "Turkey these days is neither a bridge nor a gully. It’s an island — an island of relative stability"

    Why the gentle treatment of Turkey ? Because Prime Minister Erdogen is Obama's "best friend" ?

    Under its ruling Islamic party, Israel is now demonized.. Jews are no longer visiting, and hundreds of journalists are imprisoned without charges according to Turkish human rights groups. Media and Judges are nervous and compliant.

    Turkey - a friend of Hamas and Iran - is continuing to be a disruptive influence in NATO and an unhelpful ally in the Middle-East.

  132. I like this column. And the question posed in the 3rd to last paraqraph is a good one. Lots to think about!

    Another thing to think about is the concept of federalism. Is it a viable system of governance? Most people, if they knew their choices, would probably pick a republic with democratic traditions. But would they unite different peoples/geographies/economies/cultures/races? I doubt it. I tend to think that the smaller the unit of governance is the better off we all are.

  133. Europe and the differences among member countries. Helpful, in understanding the ongoing difficulties, would be to see, for a period of say the last 10 years, the trade balances. Which countries bought what goods from which countries . Perhaps Mr. Friedman would be so kind as to comment on these figures.

  134. Thomas - a brilliant summary of what is going on in Europe as well as the Arab World. Democracy only works when societies have culturally evolved to some common ground. Clearly that is not the case either in Europe or the Arab world.

    As the US becomes more culturally diverse, American society is showing signs of un-ease with the emergence of many splinter groups like Occupy, the Tea Party and the like. The American way is in decline.

  135. Tom,

    Turkey is an "Island of Stability"? Wasn't Atlantis also located on an island? Turkey carries a lot of historical baggage, they look to the West and see the beginnings of chaos, they look to the East and see more chaos, failed States, and nearly failed States. Turkey remembers that not so long ago they ruled many of the areas both East and West that are currently in or near chaos. Imagine the thoughts that pass through minds that view the world through such a prisim! "If only we were a nuclear power like Iran" is at the top of my list.

    The causes of the Chaos seem to be easy to identify too. In a word "Tribalism". In Europe the Tribes also mostly have their own States, so the problem is the same as it has been since Roman times. The tribes don't play well together when the going gets tough. The Middle Eastern States that have or are going to fail are the ones where a minority tribe rules a different majority tribe. These "Failed States in waiting" we're crafted largely out of bits and pieces of the remains of failed Empires by the "Tribes of Europe". In much the same way they created similar states in Europe itself with exactly the same results. So knowing this why is anyone suprised?

    That leaves the American Tribe, which in the past spoke a common language, learned a common history, and was not based on where your ancestors came from. To understand the current American problem simply read the Federal Form that asks your tribe, "American" is not one of the choices!

  136. Don't forget: you can't let Europe wash its hands of the unfolding disasters across the Arab world. It was the French, after all, who placed the minority Alawites in power. That was a little over 40 years ago, hardly long enough to absolve them. Indeed, Europe (okay, mainly France and Britain) have their fingerprints all over the maps of the East (near, middle, and far) and can be found at the root cause of most hotspots across the globe, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, not to mention throughout Africa and anywhere else Imperialists sold out entire nations to one clan or another in order to secure an expedient exit.

  137. Well said. Needs to be said.

  138. Very true. Arabs were promised self rule if they supported
    West against Ottomans. They did and helped dismantle
    Ottoman empire. In return Sykes-Picot secret agreement
    to divide ME between Britain and France and their
    subsequent chess game of favoring one tribe over the
    other created this mess. Britain even went a step further
    and made the decision, Belfour declaration in 1917,
    to create a Jewish state in return for bribe from
    Rothschild. The politicians have always been in cahoot
    with the financiers.They set the example of murky
    governance and tribal politics which continues today.

  139. An excellent column by Tom in which he manages to use almost every major Friedmanism in his standard set. He left out a mention of green technology and failed to use a Friedman Unit. Oh well, better luck with the next column. Perhaps a conversation with a cab driver is in order.

  140. "America’s flexible federal system makes it, theoretically, well-suited to thrive in a hyperconnected world, but only if we get our macroeconomic house in order and our education up to par (or better)."

    Sorry, Tom. You may not have noticed, or may not be willing to accept, that America is breaking up as well.The regional animosities that had been muted (to some degree at least) by post-Civil War exhaustion, expansion across the continent, WWI, WWII, and the cold war now have re-emerged in the absence of a significant global opponent. The corruption that has fed on unlimited electoral funding and the redistribution of wealth to those at the top of the economic scale coupled with a greedy, gluttonous, ignorant electorate has eroded at any sense of national community that once existed in America. Fueled by social media technologies, this erosion is occurring at a startling pace. It's only a matter of time (and chance) before this breakup becomes generally accepted. An Obama win in November may delay this to some extent, a Romney win will accelerate it. Hang on - America and the rest of the world has an interesting few decades ahead of it.

  141. "And us? America’s flexible federal system makes it, theoretically, well-suited to thrive in a hyperconnected world, but only if we get our macroeconomic house in order and our education up to par (or better). We should be the world’s island of stability today. But we’re not."

    While we aren't anticipating the actual nuts and bolts of disintegration in the US that Europe and the middle East are experiencing, surely the polarization flames being stoked by the GOP across the country is the next best thing. You have to wonder how the Union can survive with a major component absolutely refusing to co-operate unless it gets every last thing it wants - if your notion of bi-partisanship is complete submission by your opponents.

  142. Aside from gentle mockery of small-minded humans, dealing with the societal problems is going to be very hard. In the USA, our problems will not be solved until there are consequences imposed against those who delivered us our current despair. We all know who they are, or if we don't all know, enough of us do to demand of our legal system to do what it was put in place to do. Make sure the law is obeyed, and punish those who manipulate the laws, abusing them for their own benefit, not society's. By punishment, I mean life in prison, and no country club prisons made available. Their crimes against their fellow citizens, for that is who we are, only they think they're somehow special and we're not, deserve being permanently separated from their ill-gotten gains, and their luxurious lifestyles at the expense of the rest of their lesser fellows. That has to be how they think. Living as prisoners in one of our state "correctional institutions" will give them plenty of time to atone for their sins against us.

    If those among them happened to be in high office, they must not be exempt. After all, if Mubarak is serving a life term in Egypt, a country he ruled with an iron fist and inhumane cruelty, it can happen here if justice is done. I could list a few names we all know who deserve the same karma. We have an Attorney General bringing suit vs. a state governor. He can surely bring action vs. past, but recently past, evil-minded actors, some still in gov't.

    We want justice!

  143. Forget about hyper connectivity, perhaps the real reason for disintegration lies in both of these areas have always been nationalistic and at their root essentially tribal.

    Trying to unite sects, tribes, different cultures, religions, languages with people that have been at war for 1,000 years was a fool's folly.

    The question to ask is: who orchestrated the 2008 financial toxicity that will singlehandedly take down Europe (other than UK, our most favored ally, with its own currency and stronger financial system) and crimp China's ambitions?

    And equally who propped up dictators and strong men for well over half a century to quench their greedy thirst for oil?

  144. Come on Tom, you who were beating the drum so loudly for us to go into Iraq. I hear no mention of the U.S. going into massive debt to bail out Europe or send millions of our troops over from Iraq and Afghanistan into Syria. This is just the natural cycle, most people want peace and prosperity, when they achieve this they deservedly rest on their laurels. While they are doing this, those that crave power and wealth, will seize control and start destablizing everything. Most people don't realize what is going on until it is too late and you either have Depression, War or both. Now that we are entering a war/depression phase (mostly in the name of religion again) this will last for probably 5 - 10 years, until the people have had enough and it either fades away or we have another revolution.

  145. I strongly agree with what you said but for the time scale. If, as it is most probable, Greece votes for the opposition and leaves the Euro and Mrs.Merkel sticks to her positions at the meeting of June 28th many events will unravel very quickly.
    Debt rates for Italy, France and Spain will raise to unsustainable levels. People will start collecting money from the banks bringing them to collapse all around, what will push them to sell their huge amount of state debts bringing rates close to 30%. Pensions will start not being paid as well as public workers, the surging poverty will increase violence and robbery, smugglers first from Greece and then from the other states shall try to reach Germany to be first repulsed and then shot at. England will react with an ultimatum bringing in the US and Russia. Germany will ignore the ultimatum... all this by the end of August 2012 :-)

  146. Thank you Mr. Friedman. What a clear and honest description of Europe and the Middle east. Well put.

  147. Dear Mr. Friedman:

    I am sorry you can not see beyond the tree and you are losing sight of the forest. It is us in the West who wish to see Turkey as an "island of relative stability" as this suits our purposes. You can not ignore, I am sure, since you have lived in the Middle East, the potential threats that are just hovering around: civil rights abuses, Kurdish aspirations, and mistreatment of minorities. How can a country suffering from such ills be an island of stability?

  148. Friedman of Flat world fame writes, "One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once? The answer, I believe, is the intensifying merger of globalization and the information technology revolution, which made the world dramatically flatter in the last five years, as we went from connected to hyperconnected"If we have to home in on one single reason for the breakdown of the global economy it is the culture of Unlimited Consumerism propagated globally by the so called 1% totally for the benefit of corporatism.Theories of market economy touted by laureates ,the Internet connectivity that helped the market facilitators such as the bankers and corporations to trade money and stocks and make their greedy profits at lightning speeds seemed to make investment banking and finance as the real " creators " of wealth .They all forgot the basics that it's manufacturing of goods and trade and commerce based on marketing solid material goods that are manufactured in a country that is the basis of wealth and ,not financial management. Management of finances comes only second to manufacturing of goods .Banks instead of serving and servicing industry turned into their bosses dictating terms to industry . The Economists put the cart before the horse. The real driving force is engineering and manufacturing and not banks and financial servicing .( contd )

  149. Thank you for your final paragraph which might help to explain the current immigration policy conflicts here at home. Although newly arrived immigrants historically were viewed with antipathy and suspicion, we did seem to have a melting pot of sorts. Could the "hyperconnectivity" of today's world be negatively impacting upon the earlier views of immigration's important role in the development of America's society and economy?

  150. With German stubbornly refusing to "bail out" Greece, I wonder where it would be today without the Marshall Plan. Greece wasn't even trying to conquer the world.

  151. During the Marshall Plan years though the Germans developed an ethos of hard work and fiscal conservativeness on spending. The Greek ethos of send us your money so we can continue to retire earlier than you obviously doesn't ring well in the German press.

    And who in Europe hasn't tried to conquer the rest of it or the world at some time? If you go back far enough you find some bad history just about everywhere.

  152. No need to wonder Jim! Just read the other op-ed by Hans-Werner Sinn: "Why Berlin Is Balking on a Bailout".

    An excerpt:

    Greece has received or been promised $575 billion through assistance efforts, including Target credit, E.C.B. bond purchases and a haircut after a debt moratorium. Compare this with the Marshall Plan, for which Germany is very grateful. It received 0.5 percent of its G.D.P. for four years, or 2 percent in total. Applied to the Greek G.D.P., this would be about $5 billion today.

    In other words, Greece has received a staggering 115 Marshall plans, 29 from Germany alone, and yet the situation has not improved. Is that not enough?

  153. This is a brilliant analysis and really helps clarify the cloudy waters. Thank you!

  154. Mr. Friedman has, as usual, fairly accurately assessed what is happening in Europe and the middle east. I would say he probably could write another column on a similar cracking in the United States right now. The political climate is so toxic with factions fighting for their particular views that we are in danger of having splits along religious, racial, ethnic and political divisions that will be the downfall of what we cherish as an all inclusive democractic republic. Without some effort to begin to compromise for the good of all people, not just a particular group view, there is no way for democracy to survive. It would be wise for Americans to look at the world and see our own country through the same lens we use for seeing others.

  155. Civilizations come and go. There is no God given right for a civilization to be superior or stronger or better than others forever. In fact, all of them ended in disasters throughout human existence.

    European civilization and culture is now in decline. The Eastern civilizations are making a come back. Get used to it or we in America will follow Europe downhill.

  156. It was so when the world was local. At the present time the famous butterfly in the rain forest produces a storm in Japan as do problems in remote states to the worldwide economy. If Europe suffers no one may have fun given their own exportations and investments suffer. Perhaps we are not ready to this interconnected world and this makes the fortune of countries like Germany that by nature are able to destroy an organism from within.

  157. China's on the rise and the US is on the fall because we've been sending all our middle class jobs to them to make the stuff we buy with debt. Producing stuff for others to consume is a great way to create jobs and from that a middle class. America today is one of where the middle class is viewed as fat to be trimmed so the top doesn't have to share profits. Eventually it will buckle under the wait of the hubris that this can go on forever.

  158. The eastern governments were all formed by Europe. What exists now is the remnant of colonial governments that left heavily armed minorities to rule over majorities. Those governments were all imposed on the populace, with borders largely drawn in European capitals. The right people do have is to choose how they will be governed.

  159. "To the west, you see the European Monetary Union buckling under the weight of its own hubris — leaders who reached too far in forging a common currency without the common governance to sustain it. "

    No that isn't what's causing Europe to buckle. Its the unreality of the "social welfare" state. It's a simple as European governments living outside of their means, and the US is heading down the same road. Spend more than you earn year after year and you've got to declare bankruptcy at some point.

  160. Or the flip side of the same coin: tax less than you spend year after year. We've had big tax cuts during the Bush term that were paid for with more borrowing, and we have a convoluted system with unnecessary giveaways for capital gains, carried interest, non-cash pay (eg health insurance), subsidies, etc etc.

    Over the long-term the US has been spending 22% of GDP and raising revenue of 18%. Seems the logical solution is not 1 but 2: spending down and taxes up, both meeting in the middle at 20%.

  161. Actually these troubled Euro states have had far lower debt to their GDP than the U.S.A., so the social welfare argument is just pablum talking points from the right of the tube. In fact the most successful economies in the world right now with nearly balanced budgets are the 'total welfare states' of Scandinavia. Where do you get your information?

  162. Overly simplistic and largely in error. For example, Greece's problem was that not only did it dramatically increase its social net, but it did not bother to collect taxes to fund the system. No, the alleged "social welfare state" is not the problem, but a union forged more like that the US had under the Articles of Confederation -- incomplete and without a means to resolve problems.

    The US' problem is not its social safety net, which, by the way, is far less secure than other western governments. That is one of the sleaziest lies the right repeats and that is too often picked up as truth. The problem the US has is unrealistic commitments.

    Organizations like NATO provide a more political purpose than military. Republicans and the right insist military spending must continue to increase or we will succumb to our enemies. Exactly which enemy? If one means China or Russia, than the military should not be the primary defense, but rather an economy and society that leads, rather than tries to move its enormous bulk in reaction to that super connectivity of globalization. If the enemy is any number of Arab/alleged Islamist groups that pop up, then massive militaries are not the response, either.

    The US can and must cut its defense budget without making our military or security any less effective. Our European and Pacific allies must take greater responsibility for their own defense. Our greatest defense spending must be on education and societal equity.

  163. ( Contd
    The top could be rebuilt if the bottom holds.You can't build a building or structure, concrete or economic,without a firm foundation.Let the top fall to save the foundation.Friedman , are you getting the message?Do not compare or club together what's happening in developing economies with developed economies and confuse the issue.Don't try to piggy back on developing nascent economies to hide the flaws of own,just because it's all happening at the same time.Don't jump to the conclusion that there is an imaginary common cause to string them all up.Many phenomena occur simultaneously,doesn't mean they are in anyway interconnected or even correlated or even have the same cause behind them all is a primary lesson taught in statistics. For example,the internet came up so popular because people yearned to become interconnected,yearned to be informed and its not the other way round,a yearning that had been nursed from primordial times but come to fruition now after generations of humanity working at it.Even now,its not super connectivity but rather under connectivity that humanity is trying to overcome.But certain people are used to using random statistical happenings to hide facts or to confuse and confound instead of clarifying.Sorry to see that.Extending the thesis of super-inter-connected-ness do you think that its the global warming that's making the bankers and the corporate heads greedier than ever and irresponsible and,the 99% ask for more,like Oliver Twist ?

  164. Like the boundaries superimposed on the map of Africa, the states carved out of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire were doomed from the start. The leaders of Europe just drew lines to their own advantage or preference. Of course, the clans, tribes, and sects that were always there superseded these artificial lines. I believe the balkanisation of the Arab world is inevitable.

    I think you're also far too optimistic about the USA. It's already balkanised, and rather than becoming an island of stability, it will become the Middle East of the West, and break apart completely into regions, tribes, clans and sects, none of which is willing to make common cause with the others despite their differences.

  165. I am offering a different alternative. Despite many pitfalls, the U.S. and Israel, in various regions, work well. Yes there is discrimination to a degree, but by in large, many different ethnic groups live in reasonable harmony. What to both countries have in common (along with Canada by the way) is that they will built upon certain democratic ideals and are countries of immigrants. In other words, people chose to be there to suit their needs. The Arab countries, and many African as well, were carved out with historically existing factions still intact. These factions carried the roots of earlier conflicts (between one another) with them-they were now a State but it changed nothing regard to old tribal or religious conflict. Thus, my thesis is that when a State is created not out of common ideal but out of geographic need, whoever is there, including families with long standing feuds remain. When states emerge that profess a set of core values and then becomes inhabited by new immigrants it has more chance to define an integrated whole based upon those ideals and the desires of the mmigrating population to conform to those ideals.

  166. "One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once?"

    No they won't, it was obvious. There was a spike in commodity prices due to several natural disasters occurring at once. Massive wildfires in Russia, earthquakes in China, flooding in the U.S. It caused a sudden but unsustatined rise in food prices from about the 3rd quarter of 2010 through the first half of 2011.

    Those higher food prices set off the already primed explosives inside the Arab state, for a lot of the reasons you wrote about at the time: "...more population growth and more global warming together are pushing up food prices; rising food prices cause political instability in the Middle East, which leads to higher oil prices, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to more instability." - Thomas Friedman, June 7th 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/opinion/08friedman.html

    At the same time, the ECB (or Trichet in particular) was so ideologically blinded that they misdiagnosed the commodity spike, double-dipping Europe: " it’s now completely clear that the recent rate hikes completely repeated the mistake of 2008, when the ECB reacted to an obviously temporary spike in commodity prices by raising rates, even as the economy was sliding into recession. It’s truly remarkable that it would do exactly the same thing again." -Paul Krugman, Oct. 7th 2011 http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/eurotrashers/?gwh=DBB9B0D3DA...

  167. Mr. Friedman, I do not think you have gone far enough with your analysis. Is America so homogeneous in this hyper-connected flat world? Are we one country? Wasn't the housing crisis in it's genesis the result of the Fed to give our "Greeks" the same interest rates as our "Germans"? What is going to happen when the US becomes even more connected and flat? Do you think our Germans are going to want to deal with our Greeks? Won't they also want to deal with "Germans" in other countries, in China for example? The crackup in Europe is only the beginning. Fortunately, our Germans cannot choose to not bail out our Greeks. In other words, we will all sink together.

  168. Friedman seems to miss the fact the the USA is fracturing along lines of extreme ideological politics. When the far right, and the far left can't talk to each other, we are doomed to follow Europe. We must find a way to meet in the middle in order to make our country grow.

  169. Some commentators have suggested the Germans should give a Marshall Plan to the Greeks' i think another op-ed in the times today ("Why Berlin Is Balking on a Bailout" by Hans-Werner Sinn) answered that nicely:

    ... Those critics should look at the numbers.

    Greece has received or been promised $575 billion through assistance efforts, including Target credit, E.C.B. bond purchases and a haircut after a debt moratorium. Compare this with the Marshall Plan, for which Germany is very grateful. It received 0.5 percent of its G.D.P. for four years, or 2 percent in total. Applied to the Greek G.D.P., this would be about $5 billion today.

    In other words, Greece has received a staggering 115 Marshall plans, 29 from Germany alone, and yet the situation has not improved. Is that not enough?

  170. Mr. Friedman, as far as my education goes, most Arab states were established after WW II, not WW I. Between the wars they were either mandates or protectorates or puppets or full colonies of the colonial powers.

    And the main reason for their failure is not their tribal structure -- its the classical failure of socio-nationalistic centralized military dictatorships in achieving any sort of progress anywhere they ruled -- where national vain pride and empty state symbols were more important than the the life of the population and their well-being.

  171. Is there animosity in the Arab countries for the excesses of the dictatorial Ottoman Empire that lasted centuries but collapsed only after WW1? After all, the Chinese are still hostile when it comes to the Japanese (for WW2), and the Germans, French and British have varying degrees of grumpiness towards each other for a wide variety of conflicts over the centuries...

    I'm just curious.

  172. You've got to hand it to Tom Friedman; If anyone is capable of indulging the professorial crowd, its him. I almost feel like I'm back in college. I can't remember when I last read so many diverse dissections of the plight of the world
    .
    Europe wanted to challenge American dominance,which is what it was seen as, started their own club and after much debate about what to call it, adopted their own currency. My French brother in law proudly forecast the demise of the dollar: I laughed.

    Europeans were told that they could now up and travel without having to worry about losing each time they changed their currency into that of the place they were going to. I remember the revelry. It doesn't take much to sedate a people.
    The French as usual demanded they have first dibs on what the currency would be called: the "ecu" they chanted, a reminder of their glorious past with Kings and Queens. All of whom they dispatched rather ingloriously. Finally they conceded, and we got the euro. A currency that not a few are suggesting needs to be archived, somwhere. Perhaps in the wondrous pyramids in Egypt.

    Turkey, unlike the Arab Middle East is happily placed to tell the EU to go stuff it. They've been snubbed more than needed.

    The Arab Middle East will eventually cobble together some form of government their citizens will accept, if the West and Russia mind their own business.

    Israel, like the 'cheshire cat ' sits smiling, wating, and scratching its head.

    The world will survive,. Just.

  173. It is sad and scary to see so many countries with skin in the game not recognize that "WE ARE ALL STUCK IN THE SAME ELEVATOR", and act as this is not the case. human beings are not civilized, we are only semi-civilized, and it doesn't take much for our old lizzard brain to take over, as demonstrated by recent and historical behavior. i have a long term suggestion. ALL HEADS OF STATE BE WOMEN. I think that as a group, men are not as evolved as women. less flexable, quicker to react rather than respond. I am a man, but also a therapist, and i see the difficulties men have in trying learn how to solve a problem, rather than WINNING

  174. What's the difference between an "horrific murder" and a "truly horrific murder" ?

  175. You conveniently left out the military expansion of Japan, with attendant horrific atrocities of pillaging, rape, torture and worse in Korea and China and the islands. Buddhism is one of the two major religions practiced in Japan.

  176. The atrocities committed by the Japanese was by Shintos who are not Buddhist. Don't put the blame on Buddhists just because they are one of the major religions in Japan today.