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|The World is Flat|
by Thomas L Friedman - 18 Jan 2008
| Competing in a shrinking world, April 5, 2005 - © Amazon.com
Review by By John Zxerce
I'd forgotten the pleasure reading good prose brings. Friedman not only writes well, but does so on an important subject- globalization. He states, "It is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world."
He claims, "When the world is flat, you can innovate without having to emigrate". But, how did the world `become flat'? Friedman suggest the trigger events were the collapse of communism, the dot-com bubble resulting in overinvestment in fiber-optic telecommunications, and the subsequent out-sourcing of engineers enlisted to fix the perceived Y2K problem.
Those events created an environment where products, services, and labor are cheaper. However, the West is now losing its strong-hold on economic dominance. Depending on if viewed from the eyes of a consumer or a producer - that's either good or bad, or a combination of both.
What is more sobering is Friedman's elaboration on Bill Gates' statement, "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they're in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations. . . . The percentage of a population with a college degree is important, but so are sheer numbers. In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor's degrees as the U.S., and they have six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind."
Friedman sounds the alarm with a call for diligence and fortitude - academically, politically, and economically. He sees a dangerous complacency, from Washington down through the public school system. Students are no longer motivated. "In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears -- and that is our problem."
Questions I wish Friedman had explored in further detail are:
1. When should countries do what benefits the global economy, and when should they look out for their own interests? (protectionism, tariffs, quotas, etc.) 2. What will a `flat world' mean to the world's poor? (those living in Haiti, Angola, Kazakhstan, etc.) 3. What cultural values (or absence thereof) are contributing to the West's loss of productivity, education, and excellence? (morality, truth, religion, meaning, hope?) 4. How will further globalization effect cultural distinctions? (Are we heading towards a universal melting pot?) 5. What will a `flat world' mean environmentally - particularly for those countries on the verge of an economic explosion?
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