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Business-school Argot is No Substitute for Critical Thinking

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Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

In paragraph five of his column today, Thomas Friedman approvingly quotes Pres. Obama’s complaint that “Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle….” (“The Next First (and Only) 100 Days [2],” Dec. 11).

Ignore the fact that this Luddite lament – while in tune with the sympathies of Lord Keynes – is supported by zero historical evidence.  Focus instead on Mr. Friedman’s call, in paragraph eight of his column, for a “future … where people learn, imagine and create value rapidly by combining universities, high-tech manufacturers, software/service providers and highly nimble start-ups that collaborate and compete to invent things that make people’s lives more entertained, productive, healthy, educated and comfortable.”

If, in paragraph five, innovation that makes people more productive is a regrettable source of permanent job losses, how in paragraph eight does innovation that “makes people’s lives … more productive” – and, hence, destroys some jobs – become a desirable policy goal?

Donald J. Boudreaux