Thomas Friedman is an economic developer

I usually avoid wildly successful books about economics or self help and such because the few I have read turn out to be brain candy. The books are meant to be fun to read but you come away with a sugar headache.

I had this initial opinion of Thomas Friedman and his new book. Here’s a witty NYT columnist who has figured out how to state the obvious in a mass market format and make piles of dough.

But Richard Ogle twisted my arm at the Ideas Festival to read it and so I will. Ogle has an interesting perspective on things and he is convinced that Friedman’s ET revolution is not only a green one but an economic development one as well.

Problem is I am backed up. I am the kind of person that buys books that look interesting and end up with 3-4 in reserve that I have to get through and that is where I am now. So when I get through this biography of Andrew Carnegie and a couple others, I will read it.

But I did listen to an 80 minute lecture on the book Friedman gave at the LSE (thanks for recommending UChannel) and I am convinced now that Friedman in his heart is an economic developer. He understands the economic potential of an ET revolution and puts it in the context of the industrial revolution or others that fundamentally changed the economy and brought enormous new wealth to people and communities that leveraged it.

But at the end of his talk, he lamented that ultimated it is all about leadership and that the American system of government is not really geared up to lead this ET revolution. In America, Friedman says, you don’t get change until you have a Million Man March. Political leaders don’t change their approach until they see a direct political reason to do so.

And the same thing applies in New Brunswick. Until someone shows the body politic that there is a direct link between the policies and actions of the government and the province’s economic well being we will never see any serious change in approach. We will continue to see the same old 50% health care, 20% education, 15% debt repayment, 10% road improvement and 5% for everything else kind of provincial budget that we see these days.

That’s is why I get so saddened when people tell me it is no use trying to cast this ED message into the wider public view. I had one senior guy tell me that if 1-2% of NBers really understand it that would be a win.

I disagree. I want 90%. I want the kids in my school to write essays on why New Brunswick has witnessed chronic outmigration for 100 years and what we can do to fix it.