Thomas Friedman, For One, Welcomes Our New Chinese Creditor Overlords:

Because not only does China finance our deficit, it sets an Example of Governance and Shows Our Decadent Democracy the Enlightened Autocratic Way. In Friedman's hands, China is, dare one say it, nearly a City on a Hill. This is quite an op-ed, even for Thomas Friedman and even by the historical apologetics of the New York Times:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

Friedman does not mean this merely (merely?) in the sense that there are better and worse autocrats and dictators. That point was forcefully and correctly made by Jeane Kirkpatrick back in Dictators and Double-Standards in the 1980s. No, lest anyone misunderstand him, Friedman is at pains to emphasize that he is not doing a Double-Standards Dictators, Least Worst Alternative analysis here. That would be important, as assessing tradeoffs usually is. On the contrary, he is deliberately comparing autocracy and democracy, and specifically China and the United States, and finding the latter wanting by the admirably robust standards of the former.

There is the dismaying whiff here of the 1930s and the loss of faith in those years by political elites and the chattering classes in the future of parliamentary democracy as measured against the robust and healthy decision-making processes of those, uh, non-parliamentary systems; a loss of faith in the ideal of parliamentary democracy when what, in fact, was warranted was a loss of faith in a particular cadre of corrupt and cynical political elites themselves. There is decadence here, but it is not the decadence of democracy. (Update: To be clear, before chattering classes get all chattery ... it is just a whiff, of decadence, and no, not the F-word.) The impasse of the American political class over reaching Friedman's elite-preferences on everything from health care to climate change, and his dismissal of the processes of democracy in favor of China's autocratic rule, lead him to this remarkable thought:

There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today ... Our one-party democracy is worse.

It is characteristic of Thomas Friedman's thought to move from particular issues of policy to sweeping conclusions about the Nature of Man and God and the Universe, typically based around some attractively packaged metaphor - flat earth, hot earth, etc. Rarely, however, has he been quite so clear about the directness of the connections he sees between his preferred set of substantive outcomes; his contempt for American democratic processes that have, despite all, managed to hang in there for, I don't know, a few times the length of time between the Cultural Revolution and today; and his schoolgirl crush on autocratic elites because they are able to impose from above.

Let me just say for the record that this is a monstrous column. When faced with American public defection from elite-preferred outcomes on certain policy issues that involve many difficult tradeoffs of the kind that democracies, with much jostling and argument, are supposed to work out among many different groups, Friedman extols the example of ... China's political system, because it's both enlightened and autocratic? Who among us knew?

(Update: Thanks, Instapundit, for the link; likewise Jonah Goldberg. I'm gradually cleaning up some grammar and poor wording.)