Friedman's answer for an economy that is producing no jobs, three and a half years after the start of recession? We American workers are all going to have to be more entrepreneurial in future.
Here is a sample:
Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.
Oh yes, we need to become more inventive. This is the right prescription for the country, because we Americans have all been such unimaginative slackers in the past!
Friedman neglects to consider the larger problems in an economy that seems to define "adaptability" in its workers as a readiness to be outsourced, downsized, and foreclosed out of the house.
As far as resilience is concerned–Friedman recommends strengthening "the muscles of resilience," wherever those are located–the best example of resilience I know is my sister-in-law, who has been out of work in Silicon Valley for two years and whose unemployment checks are running out–and yet still manages to keep looking for her next opportunity, stay cheerful, garden, and dance.
Don't get me wrong: Entrepreneurs are great. But the idea that all of us should be entrepreneurs is total nonsense.
We cannot all afford to live in a constant state of risk, not if we want happy kids who can count on going to the same school tomorrow as they go to today.
Some of us are never going to have cash thrown at us by VCs.
We can't all make our own jobs–especially if our neighbors are all broke, too.
None of us is entirely self-sufficient, and most of us need to rely on a healthy economy that makes jobs for us. We are not all Olympian characters. And even if some of us could be Olympian characters, well, it's not always nice for the spouse and offspring to tag along behind our more grandiose dreams.
Does Friedman know this? I doubt it. He clearly moves in a world in which every character fancies him- or herself Olympian. Read Friedman's interminable bio on his website, and you get the distinct sense that it has been a very long time since financial worry or job insecurity prevented his doing anything he wants…and possibly these were never a factor in his life. He seems to have no imagination for such problems. And isn't this exactly what's wrong with our economy? A failure of our leaders to imagine the problems of the small?
I'd no more take employment advice from somebody like this than I'd take marital advice from a eunuch.
Meanwhile, the Great Recession has made me more adaptable, more keenly aware of the things that differentiate me in the marketplace, more willing to chuck the best-laid plans in favor of changing market conditions.
Not in my work. I've always been those things there. But in my gardening style. I can't afford to have the house painted or the porch fixed or a new foundation installed under the garage, so I am stepping back and allowing the vines to take over. I have roses and clematis around my front stoop, a volunteer Boston ivy climbing the bay window, a variegated Virginia creeper snaking its way up an obsolete cinder block chimney, and grapes and honeysuckle erasing my carriage house.
My house is beginning to look like a tree house. You can barely see the crumbling Victorian woodwork behind all the vigorous plants twining around it, clinging to it with tiny cuplike appendages or wicked thorns, sending out large leaves and small tendrils, and ascending the architectural summits as if there will be no stopping them until they are waving at Zeus and Hera on high.
My house looks like the place where somebody wise lives. Somebody who knows that economic trauma comes and goes, but the power of the sun and the vine is eternal.