Daniel W. Drezner

The Friedman Feedback Loop

In an offhand tweet today, I believe Matthew Yglesias might have stumbled onto a heretofore undetected threat to the American way of life. Here’s the tweet:  Cab drivers thinks new construction is creating too many traffic jams. #friedmaning — Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) May 22, 2013 Now #friedmaning refers to the common foreign affairs columnist trope ...

In an offhand tweet today, I believe Matthew Yglesias might have stumbled onto a heretofore undetected threat to the American way of life. Here’s the tweet: 

Now #friedmaning refers to the common foreign affairs columnist trope of quoting a cabbie to get a "man on the street" feel to any kind of reporting.

But this tweet reminded me that another Friedman obsession is America’s crumbling infrastructure. Which got me to thinking: What if the United States government started listening to Friedman? What if the government actually started to invest in shoring up its crumbling infrastructure, particularly in metropolitan areas frequented by Friedman? I think you’d face the much-feared Friedman Feedback Loop:

1) Tom Friedman calls for new infrastructure investment.

2) New investments in infrastructure inevitably lead to traffic snarls.

3) Cabbies, bearing the brunt of said traffic jams, start grousing to passengers.

4) Whether firsthand or secondhand, Tom Friedman hears about the clogged roads.

5) Worked up into a lather, Friedman pens many, many more op-ed columns dedicated to boosting spending to improve American roads.

6) Even more spending on infrastructure leads to even greater traffic jams.

7) Go back to Step 2 and repeat.

Unless infrastructure repair could somehow outpace Friedman’s output — highly unlikely — entire cities would soon be awash in renovation projects and traffic jams, leading to the overuse of Amtrak, thereby crippling America’s rail system as we know it.

One can only hope this looming threat is discussed at next month’s Friedman Forum.

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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