CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? For a dreamy-eyed globalist, Tom Friedman often seems seduced by a weirdly dark and apocalyptic view of the international scene. After witnessing the great diversity on display at his daughter's high school graduation, he chooses to celebrate this bit of cosmopolitanism with the observation that "Our greatest asset is our ability to still cream off not only the first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world but the low-skilled-high-aspiring ones as well, and that is the main reason that I am not yet ready to cede the 21st century to China. Our Chinese will still beat their Chinese."

Beat their Chinese at what?

Economic competition, I suppose. But the international economy isn't like a sports tournament. If Brazil wins the World Cup, Italy looses. If the Czech Republic plays better than the United States, we won't make it out of the first round. If the Rockets draft Yao Ming, he can't play for the Shanghai Sharks anymore. Economics isn't like that. An Wang moved to the United States and invented a bunch of useful stuff, but they can -- and do -- use that stuff in China and Brazil and Portugal and everyplace else. China getting richer doesn't make us poorer, and us getting richer doesn't stop China from getting richer. On the contrary, Americans would be much, much, much better off if Chinese living standards were higher.

There's nothing to "beat their Chinese" at except, maybe, a giant war that would devastate both countries.

--Matthew Yglesias

You may also like