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Thursday, December 1, 2016

What keeps Thomas Friedman up at night?

I really get cranking about all the climate, environmental, financial and geopolitical problems I see emerging today.  If America goes weak or into decline, I believe my kids won't just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a fundamentally different world — one that is less stable and less dedicated to expanding the universe of free markets and free people. And my view is that right now America is in a slow decline — just slow enough for us not to stop and do everything we can and must do to reverse that decline. All those things are big and hard –and you can only do big hard things when you do them together. They require collective action. And right now our political system is so broken and dysfunctional we cannot do anything big and hard together. So all the things we know we should be doing are "off the table.'' Right now the pile of things that are off the table is so high it has reached the height of the table.  We kick our country around like it is a football. But as a friend of mine likes to say: it is not a football, it is a Faberge egg and we can drop it and break it. We are in danger of doing just that.

Answer by Thomas Friedman:

What keeps me up at night?

Well, I can ruin any dinner party when I really get cranking about all the climate, environmental, financial and geopolitical problems I see emerging today. But what keeps me up most is America. I am a big believer that America is far from perfect, needs to earn and re-earn its "exceptional'' badge every year– it and makes more than its share of mistakes.

But on balance, I also believe that America, when it is at its best, is a beacon of hope, an example of democratic capitalism and the provider of an enormous number of free global public goods — by the way it has helped balance Europe and Asia since World War II and the trade and international financial systems we support and the way we catalyze action against thugs like Putin when they take a bite out of the country next door.

If America goes weak or into decline, I believe my kids won't just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a fundamentally different world — one that is less stable and less dedicated to expanding the universe of free markets and free people. And my view is that right now America is in a slow decline — just slow enough for us not to stop and do everything we can and must do to reverse that decline. All those things are big and hard –and you can only do big hard things when you do them together. They require collective action. And right now our political system is so broken and dysfunctional we cannot do anything big and hard together. So all the things we know we should be doing are "off the table.'' Right now the pile of things that are off the table is so high it has reached the height of the table.

We kick our country around like it is a football. But as a friend of mine likes to say: it is not a football, it is a Faberge egg and we can drop it and break it. We are in danger of doing just that.

What keeps Thomas Friedman up at night?


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