Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Tom Friedman suggests today that

There are two important recessions going on in the world today. One has gotten enormous attention. It’s the economic recession in America. But it will eventually pass, and the world will not be much worse for the wear. The other has gotten no attention. It’s called “the democratic recession,” and if it isn’t reversed, it will change the world for a long time.

It is interesting to consider that Friedman's focus on globalization may, in fact, obscure the importance of observing trends in the growth of democracy. David Brooks' recent column (discussed here) suggests that technological change is more essential than globalization as a factor driving our economic evolution. Today's Friedman column, with its focus on the importance of oil in driving corruption, makes clear the importance of the economic structure of a society in influencing its political organization.

Friedman has, in the past, suggested that globalization is one of the principal meta-narratives of our time. I think that today's column gets much closer to specifying the actual issues that influence our lives and our future.

In short, technological change and democracy are much more significant factors in global development than is globalization. It is to our intellectual detriment that we misconstrue the relative primacy of these factors.