Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The World is Still Round…

In spite of Thomas L. Friedman’s best efforts to claim otherwise in his newly revised The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Release 3.0. Just as in his previous books, Friedman showcases his journalistic forte for information gathering, analysis, and insight-laden extrapolation. He supports well his own previous arguments for free trade, market specialization, and classical economic theories regarding absolute and comparative advantage. (Smith, Ricardo, ... Reich)

I’ll pause here to acknowledge that I, too, am a strong proponent of globalization. I have seen first-hand the dissolution of geographic and political barriers to trade and the ensuing benefits to the local economy. I find no fault in Friedman’s historical observations, including his 3 eras of globalization, his 10 flatteners, and even his recommendations for new hybrid fields of study he calls “Mash-Ups.” These ideas are spot-on in our global economy of increasing convergence.

But why all the doom and gloom, Mr. Friedman? Instead of telling your readers how the new “flattened” world will make lives better—spurring the economy of our New America into a greater leadership role as the birthplace of ideas and a nation of entrepreneurs—he focuses on the bad. Friedman follows the M.O. of Lou Dobbs, crying wolf over foreign theft of US jobs and a general disappearance of the American middle-class. Rather than pointing to the strengths of our human capital as inventors, creators, and brand builders, he tells readers that the American sky is falling in competition with Indian and Chinese ITs and engineers.

Friedman leans toward the dramatic, but what do you expect from an Opinion Columnist? He opens with this quote from an Indian software CEO: “The global playing field is being leveled… and the US is not ready.” This is followed by other sensational statements of hyperbole. “Today, people in China and India are starving… for your job!” he warns his children. But then, you are given to flights of the inflammatory if you are to make your living as an op-ed writer. The Title The World is Friendlier to International Business because of Improvements in Technology and Transportation doesn’t sell books.
--Shawn Butler

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