For once I agree with Thomas Friedman

From People vs. Dinosaurs

From outside, Israel looks as if it’s in turmoil, largely because the entire political leadership seems to be under investigation. But Israel is a weak state with a strong civil society. The economy is exploding from the bottom up. Israel’s currency, the shekel, has appreciated nearly 30 percent against the dollar since the start of 2007.

The reason? Israel is a country that is hard-wired to compete in a flat world. It has a population drawn from 100 different countries, speaking 100 different languages, with a business culture that strongly encourages individual imagination and adaptation and where being a nonconformist is the norm. While you were sleeping, Israel has gone from oranges to software, or as they say around here, from Jaffa to Java…

..that kind of hunger explains why, in the first quarter of 2008, the top four economies after America in attracting venture capital for start-ups were: Europe $1.53 billion, China $719 million, Israel $572 million and India $99 million, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Israel, with 7 million people, attracted almost as much as China, with 1.3 billion.

Boaz Golany, who heads engineering at the Technion, Israel’s M.I.T., told me: “In the last eight months, we have had delegations from I.B.M., General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart visiting our campus. They are all looking to develop R & D centers in Israel.”..

… Iran’s economic and military clout today is largely dependent on extracting oil from the ground. Israel’s economic and military power today is entirely dependent on extracting intelligence from its people. Israel’s economic power is endlessly renewable. Iran’s is a dwindling resource based on fossil fuels made from dead dinosaurs.

So who will be here in 20 years? I’m with Buffett: I’ll bet on the people who bet on their people — not the people who bet on dead dinosaurs.

Since 9/11, we’ve looked to politics and politicians to solve our problems. As a result, everything from the Weather Channel to Rachel Ray has become politicized. We’re looking for solutions in all the wrong places. Innovators in IT and communications created successful revolutions without choosing between Obama and Hillary, global warming and global cooling, or Zionism and paisley scarves.

Although the media tries to sell the idea that politicians can be innovators, like most media marketing campaigns, it’s all fluff. Politicians are bureaucrats, and bureaucracies thrive on rules and routine. “Creative” politics is about as helpful as creative accounting. Politics creates a better society when it gets out if the way.

Like most successful nations, Israel thrives despite their politicians, not because of them.

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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21 Responses to For once I agree with Thomas Friedman

  1. Yup. Except that Israel has a political problem with the West Bank and Gaza with no seemingly obvious plan to deal with it. Investors generally are uncomfortable with that kind of uncertainty.

    It’s to Israel’s credit that they are attracting so much investment. They’d probably attract a lot more were the politics more stable.

  2. maryatexitzero says:

    Israel does have problems, but it’s becoming clear that the solution isn’t going to come from their politicians.

    After spending many years observing the business/tech scene, and after spending a few years observing the political scene, I’ve come to the conclusion that politics will never provide a solution to anything. Like most of us, if the average Israeli has a few free hours every week, he or she would be better off spending that time doing something productive, like gardening or watching old episodes of Star Trek, rather than doing something related to politics.

  3. Then the problem will likely remain.

  4. mary says:

    ..or, more to the point, Norman Borlaug’s solution to hunger and inequality was a lot better than anything Marx or Adam Smith came up with.

  5. mary says:

    Marxism was supposed to be a political solution to inequality, hunger, poverty, misery, etc. Capitalism was also sold that way. But hunger and starvation stopped being a problem only after the Green Revolution.

    They’re becoming a problem again partly due to the fact that people are, for political reasons, opposing the production of genetically modified foods.

    Religion pretended to be a solution to our worldly problems, but it never was. Now politics is filling the irrational void. It works about as well as religion did.

    Pretend that we all are willing to acknowledge that there never will be a political solution to the problems between Israel and their Arab neighbors. What other means do we have to solve the problem of a war funded by oil money?

  6. mary says:

    Marxism was supposed to be a political solution to inequality, hunger, poverty, misery, etc. Capitalism was also sold that way. But hunger and starvation stopped being a problem only after the Green Revolution.

    They’re becoming a problem again partly due to the fact that people are, for political reasons, opposing the production of genetically modified foods.

    Religion pretended to be a solution to our worldly problems, but it never was. Now politics is filling the irrational void. It works about as well as religion did.

    Pretend that we all are willing to acknowledge that there never will be a political solution to the problems between Israel and their Arab neighbors. What other means do we have to solve the problem of a war funded by oil money?

  7. Dave J says:

    “They’re becoming a problem again partly due to the fact that people are, for political reasons, opposing the production of genetically modified foods.”

    That, plus subsidizing the growing of “food” to be used instead as fuel, which invariably pushes its price through the roof, with the prices of other goods to follow as producers chasing the subsidies produce less of anything else. Modern energy and environmental policies have together combined to do what would’ve been unthinkable until very recently: to reverse the long-term decline in overall food prices that started more than 150 years ago with the repeal of the British Corn Laws.

  8. mary says:

    The use of ethanol was a bad idea when it was first proposed, and it’s still a bad idea, but that doesn’t stop people from supporting it if they think they’ll profit.

    Speaking of bad ideas, don’t even get me started on carbon credits.

    The only efficient form of ethanol is the kind they make from sugar cane in Brazil. But environmentalists are totally opposed to any expansion of farmland in Brazil, and they’re opposed to the building of road. We don’t want to harm those poor arrow-shooting red-painted Indians.

    Of course, there’s no proof that sugar cane fields or roads will have any effect on those Indians at all…

  9. The only efficient form of ethanol is the kind they make from sugar cane in Brazil. But environmentalists are totally opposed to any expansion of farmland in Brazil, and they’re opposed to the building of road. We don’t want to harm those poor arrow-shooting red-painted Indians.

    No, the primary opposition in Brazil is to the eradication of large amounts of rain forest. The land under the forest is not terribly good farmland, so it ends up being used as grazing land for cattle, and absorbing far less carbon than the forest did.

  10. mary says:

    the primary opposition in Brazil is to the eradication of large amounts of rain forest

    Opposition to the eradication of large amounts of the rain forest makes sense, but as far as I know, the primary opposition is to a road that would cut through the rainforest.

    This road would not destroy large amounts of old growth trees, but it would improve Brazil’s economy, it would help soybean farmers transport their crops and it would turn the country into a modern, productive state.

    Western environmentalists oppose this road because it’s ‘asphalt’, and because it ‘helps the rich’. And we wonder why the Brazillians don’t like us?

  11. Opposition to the eradication of large amounts of the rain forest makes sense, but as far as I know, the primary opposition is to a road that would cut through the rainforest.

    The opposition to the road is because then illegal tree-fellers then use the roads to transport timber. Every time access is provided to a new section of the forest, the forest is illegally harvested.

    They’re becoming a problem again partly due to the fact that people are, for political reasons, opposing the production of genetically modified foods.

    Were this true, food prices in the US would be rising more slowly then elsewhere. That isn’t the case.

  12. For example, bad weather seems to be more the issue than whether GM crops are allowed.

  13. mary says:

    The opposition to the road is because then illegal tree-fellers then use the roads to transport timber. Every time access is provided to a new section of the forest, the forest is illegally harvested

    But this isn’t ‘large amounts of the rain forest’. In fact, there’s no real evidence that this road threatens Indians, wildlife, the world’s atmosphere, harpy eagles or woolly monkeys.

    However, there is plenty of evidence that it will help Brazil’s economy.

    Brazil has high hopes for their more effective brand of ethanol. Some Brazillian govt. officials have bragged that sugar-cane ethanol could replace petroleum. I wonder how Chavez feels about that?

    I also wonder why the Western Greens who oppose the rainforest road also tend to support Chavez. It’s all about the science and the woolly monkey, right?

  14. But this isn’t ‘large amounts of the rain forest’. In fact, there’s no real evidence that this road threatens Indians, wildlife, the world’s atmosphere, harpy eagles or woolly monkeys.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information from, but the primary opposition to new roads is they open the area up to illegal logging. And what soybean farmers are growing crops in the middle of the jungle? Really dumb ones, if any.

    Brazil has high hopes for their more effective brand of ethanol. Some Brazillian govt. officials have bragged that sugar-cane ethanol could replace petroleum.

    You keep flip-flopping on whether ethanol is a good thing or not.

    I also wonder why the Western Greens who oppose the rainforest road also tend to support Chavez.

    Who are you referring to?

  15. Cite:

    “Unfortunately, there is little government control in the Amazonian frontier,” said William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

    “Illegal logging and land-clearing are rampant. New roads that cut into the frontier almost always initiate a process of spontaneous colonization, logging, hunting and land speculation that is almost impossible to stop.

    Cite:

    Logging in the Amazon is closely linked with road building. Studies by the Environmental Defense Fund show that areas that have been selectively logged are eight times more likely to be settled and cleared by shifting cultivators than untouched rainforests because of access granted by logging roads. Logging roads give colonists access to rainforest, which they exploit for fuelwood, game, building material, and temporary agricultural lands.

  16. mary says:

    And what soybean farmers are growing crops in the middle of the jungle? Really dumb ones, if any.

    They’re not growing crops in the middle of the jungle, they need roads to bring their crops to market. Environmentalists are opposing roads that would make general transportation easier within Brazil.

    You keep flip-flopping on whether ethanol is a good thing or not

    Brazilian ethanol could be a good thing, but it’s not a complete solution at all. That’s why we need to devote more time to real scientific research on alternate fuels. I don’t think corn-based ethanol is a good idea at all, especially when the weather is being so uncooperative this year.

    Who are you referring to?

    Leftists in general. ‘Anti-war’ rallies are lousy with Chavez supporters.

    You know who else would oppose anything that makes life easier for soybean farmers in Brazil? American soy farmers. Apparently Brazilian soy production is a big threat to our market.

    I wonder how many Caterpillar-driving red state farmers are secretly giving big contributions to Greenpeace :-)

  17. Environmentalists are opposing roads that would make general transportation easier within Brazil.

    What is your source for this information? I can’t find any such article.

  18. Also, if soybean farmers are unable to get their product to market because of a lack of roads, how are they getting fuel, fertilizers, and farming equipment to their farms?

  19. mary says:

    What is your source for this information? I can’t find any such article

    From the BBC

    Soya bean farmers in Brazil are demanding that a 600-mile-long stretch of highway, which runs due north through the Amazon region, should be paved so it can be used in all weathers. But environmentalists are alarmed at the plans to cut through the country’s natural assets.

    We began the week-long journey in Cuiaba, which is the capital of Brazil’s major soybean state, Mato Grosso.

    There were five of us, squeezed into a 4×4. For the first 300 miles, the road ran through vast fields, which stretched away to the horizon, with not a tree in sight.

    Once this was all rainforest, but now it is all farming land, mostly soybeans.

    It is the soy farmers who want the road paved, so they can export more cheaply, going straight up the road to the River Amazon, and then over the Atlantic to Europe and beyond.

    ..and from the New York Times – Relentless Foe of the Amazon Jungle: Soybeans

    But experts are unanimous in warning that as soybean farming continues to spread through the adjacent southern Amazon states of Mato Grosso and Pará, the threat to the Amazon ecological system is likely to worsen in the next few years.

    Environmental groups had hoped that Brazil’s left-wing president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, would take steps to combat deforestation. But Mr. da Silva has instead emphasized increasing agricultural production to swell exports and feed the urban poor, a position that has earned him criticism even from allies…

    ….Economists say that the main spur to the soybean boom is the emergence of a middle class in China, much of whose newly disposable income has been spent on a richer, more varied diet. During the past decade, China has been transformed from a net exporter of soybeans to the world’s largest importer in some years of whole soybeans as well as oil and meal byproducts.

  20. mary says:

    Damn leftist government

    Indeed. They want to pave an already-existing road to help bring food more cheaply to poor people. And they want to put more food into a worldwide market that is desperately seeking food.

    I support the idea of paving this already-existing road, and I’m not even a damn leftist. I suspect that the people who are spending money to oppose it are not worried about the rainforest, logging or woolly monkeys. They’re worried about economic competition.

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