I have just borrowed the book from my universities' library, thus I can't comment on the book itself, yet, I know where you are getting at. Thomas Friedman is trained as a journalist.... not to say much against journalist (although its my opinoin that anyone whose "trained" as a journalist in college spent most of their time doing things that didn't require much mental power), but yes I dont' think Mr. Friedman has the credentials to show that 'globalization' is beneficial to the world (if this is indeed his theme in the book).
I think if anyone doubts the utility of decreasing trade barriers in labor/commodity/financial etc. (or wants to learn more about this topic), they should pick up some textbook on international economics at the level of Krugman's "International Economics" 6th edition. This book actaully goes into depth about the various models of international trade and his exposition is suprsingly good for a textbook. The mathematics never exceeds school algebra so it should be very accesible. Also, he dedicates a chapter to differnt arguments of (both sides) on whether free trade is good or not. Of course, I suppose most people don't have the time to study a textbook for some period of time.
To conclude quickly, I have a big problem with most lay books just because they tend to simplfy their subject and in some cases distort the actaul statements being made by the people in these fields.
I don't love lay books either for similar reasons, and especially when people leave their area of expertise. Freakanomics is a good example - I felt like I was reading a highly stylized and likely oversimplified version of what were likely more complex problems.
Still, I'm not sure how you make things accessible _and_ make them detailed enough to be real.
Well I think the problem is you can't substitute rigor and formality for prose. Which is what any lay book that deals with technical issues does. The thing is when people read a lay book on lets say physics or mathematics, probably they will realize that such a book does not convey anything even remotely close to what is *actaully* being said in these subjects (of course there are exceptions, such as "The Road to Reality" by Penrose).
The difference with Economics is that most people don't eralize that its a technical field to begin with. Thus, I suspect, when people read about these issues in these books, they more or less take the statements made by the various lay authors as suffeicently accurate. The second problem I think with Economics is most of the lay texts are too mutled with this biased policy gibberish and politics. Afterall, most people are exposed to Economics via the lips of politicians (Who seem to have very feeble understanding of the issues themselves!).
I'm flipping through the book now and it just seems reek of peppy-pro-globalization propoganda. Don't get me wrong, I probably agree with most of the position that Friedman takes, yet for sure, differnt reasons. Maybe if people *must* read a lay text (because of time or laziness) then they should perhaps invest the money into the other Friedman (Milton). I warn people though, this author comes on very strong in his books, also since he's a direct student of Hayeck (and one of the founders of the Chicago school) he can be percieved as having some rather extreme positions on certain things. Although Dr. Friedman probably presents more of an intricate argument (in my opinion) for his causes, then this Friedman (and he's a Nobel Prize winning Economist to boot!).
Just to add a personal note, I had the pleasure of having Mr. Friedman as a special guest professor for a course on globalization in Spring 2005. As in the book, he offered a very passionate and engaging narrative on globalization, replete with anectdotal evidence.
However, he was pressed in class on some of the tougher questions that globalization poses, the same that you all have mentioned here, and his answers often lacked the "meat" (more math, ect.) that the economics professor in the course was able to provide. No matter what new issue we were addressing, Friedman's presentations in the class were often repetitive, because it became clear that he was working with a limited body of evidence and focusing on a rather narrow view of globalization (despite his proclamations about "the world").
I hope that all the widespread readership that this book has enjoyed prompts people to go further and look for some real analysis and some concrete answers to the problems globalization poses, and Friedman should be applauded for tackling these issues and bringing them into the mainstream. But as you all have implied people should stop short of accepting this attention-grabbing report as an authorative work on the subject.
I agree that he isn't qualified to provide the "meat and potatoes" on this issue. If you're looking for something of more substance, I would suggest Jeffrey Sachs who truly has the capacity to address such issues.
After listening to almost the entire audio program it is clear that Friedman is not fully qualified to write this book. He stubles over many sections and generally covers material a mile wide and an inch deep. He uses repitition in place of depth of content, restating the same points over and over and over. Unfortunately he also tries to make prescriptive statements to conclude his descriptive commentary. In these sections he often gets 80% of the economics right, but the 20% he gets wrong is enough to tarnish his point and make him sound very uneducated. If you are a lay person reading this then you probably don't notice these mistakes but in a sense that is part of the problem. In writing to an enormous audience, many of whom will take this book as one of their primary sources of information on the subject, Friedman has a greater responsibility to get things right. Those looking for an easy read might enjoy this book, more sophisticated readers will gain a lot more from seeking a more sophisticated source (The editorial page of the Wall St. Journal is always a good place to start for this type of content).
On last gripe is with the constant use of pet names. The 10 flatteners, the triple convergence, the islamolenninists, the steriods, globalization 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc, etc, etc. Friedman uses a pet name for everything he talks about. After a while it starts to feel like sesame street.
Not sure, but I think he asked the right people good questions - except were he mentioned politics - then his statements are based on his own emotions/opinions and not objective fact - that is what ruined this book for me and undermined it as a whole.
Would you ask your accountant to write you a prescription? The issue here is: the book discusses economic issues like outsourcing and global economy. And when I openned this book, I expected a good analysis on those issues and I expected the author to include most available economic research and papers. obviously, he is not qualified to do that. And most his analysis are too shallow to add any value.
I don't think that Friedman's intent was to write an in-depth economic report, as it sounds like most of you are assuming (forgive me if I'm wrong). Having read the whole thing, it is obvious to me that his goal is to present the current global situation to us, try to explain how it got that way, and motivate us to incite change before we are overcome by the up-and-coming economic powers, namely China. I agree that it is a very broad, sweeping view of globalization and economics, but since his intended audience seems to be the general public who are more-or-less oblivious to these matters, I think it's understandable.
His view of globalization is not as gung-ho, full-speed-ahead as some imply. He says that globalization CAN be good for the world, and it IS good overall for those who are involved in it, but it must be managed properly. He poses several problems and obstacles to globalization, but also proposes solutions. Whether these proposals are any good from an economic perspective isn't up to me to decide seeing as that's not my area of expertise, but the fact that he attempts at solutions instead of saying, "Here's our problems, now you figure it out," is very refreshing coming from a journalist.
Considering what this book is--a call to action for the American people and our government to invest in our future competitiveness in a flat world--I think it accomplishes its job pretty well without sensationalizing things too much.
The point was well taken. People have different expectations. With all respect, may I suggest readers to take a look of some books or articles written by Paul Krugman, a NYTimes peer to Mr.Frieldman, but with a Ph.D in economics. (http://www.wws.princeton.edu/pkrugman/ ) Most of Paul's articles are not academic but very insightful. Someone then might find out that reading time could have been much better spent.
Paj is spot on here. I agree that Mr. Friedman's observations lack full academic rigor, but he never claimed to be writing an economics textbook. Criticising this book for its lack of 'math' is akin to criticising the New England Journal of Medicine for its paucity of glossy photos. With all the globalisation naysayers (who are mostly simply ignorant about how the global economy works, as evidenced so painfully by the recent Dubai Ports "scandal" in the US), public discourse needs someone like Friedman who can present more context to the discussion. By acting as an eloquent--if not provocative--commentator on globalisation he furthers the debate among intelligent people. It is my sincere hope that the book is read by as many people as possible--certainly every university student should be exposed to this kind of thinking. You may not agree with everything he says (either in his descriptions or proscriptions), but the fact that many other people are seeing these trends every day and living them every day make them impossible to ignore.
I think the issue of "qualification" is an interesting one. We generally theorize that if a person has been trained in a specialty, they are qualified to speak on the topic of that specialty while someone who is not, it not. Could we say that one can specialize in determining if another is qualified to speak on a subject? If indeed we could, wouldn't it be true that none of us could determine who is qualified except thouse who've been thoroughly trained in qualification analysis?
My point is that, it seems to me, it is up to each of us to do our "homework" and determine what we believe to be true. The most repulsive thing to me is someone who reads only authors who agree with their point of view. I feel it is impossible to get to the truth in this way, but then again, am I qualified to post an entry like this in this thread. I'd gamble that those of you who agree with the crux of my post think I am qualified and those of you who disagree would like to know my qualifications - no?
Remember, those who are trained in a specialty were trained by others who were trained by others and so the chain continues. At some point in the chain there was no 'specialty' and, honestly, the links usually only go back a couple of generations. This is true in psychology, economics, science and many other subject matters. I would encourage all, therefore, to study thoroughly those things they feel are important in life, and leave the others to others.
Good luck to all and, BTW, I'm an Information Systems professional, so all that I've just said is probably useless since I'm not trained in this area ;-)
Friedman presents a layperson's guide to global economics and globalization in the broader sense. Think of it as a primer that will spark your interest in a variety of issues; which may lead you to more in depth readings by more "qualified" authors. Friedman has one certain qualification- he is a truly global person. His writings come from his journeys around the globe. He talks about what he knows in a personal way. His knowledge is face-to-face. He interviews the people in their lands and gains a most intuitive feel and understanding about the issues he tackles. Perhaps he lacks the traditional learning, but he certainly has street credibility.
I appreciate your points, to a certain degree, but they are undercut by poor spelling and grammar, which is inexcusable from someone claiming to be well-educated (math and economics major) -- unless good, clear writing is no longer considered important in math and economics. You borrowed the book from your universities' library? How many universities are you attending? Are you reading several copies at once? You know WHERE an earlier contributor is getting at? Ack. What kind of grammar is that? "Journalist" and "opinion" are then spelled incorrectly. Proofreading is a courtesy to your readers -- I recommend it. Anyone WHOSE trained...should be "who's" (as in "who is"). Weak, sloppy writing is often a sign of weak, sloppy thinking.
You state that you have a problem with lay books and recommend an economics textbook by Paul Krugman (whose lay books are always worth reading). I think you're missing the point here. People don't want to read a textbook because most of them are written in deadly dull prose and are too detailed. Friedman's book serves its purpose by introducing the subject and generating discussion on it. Those who want to dig deeper can do so.
Finally, you question Friedman's expertise to write this book. There are two problems with that. First, as I just mentioned, he doesn't need to be an expert, just a highly knowledgeable generalist, for purposes of a book directed at the general reading audience. Second, you appear to be devaluing the knowledge and expertise that come with living to be 50-something and traveling the world, living in other cultures, etc., as Friedman has done. Although he may not have studied economics, it is quite possibly (even likely) that he has read widely (and even deeply) on the subject. Educated people are often autodidacts who have no degree to "prove" their knowledge and expertise. Is he an economics or math expert? No? Is he a smart guy whose ideas are worth considering. Certainly. I agree this book is less than perfect (maybe 3.5-4.0 stars), but it serves its purpose. It is highly readable, interesting, entertaining, and very well-written -- qualities that are not to be sniffed at. (Or should I say, at which one should not sniff? Nah, that lacks the zip and clarity provided by the idiomatic expression even though it ends with a preposition).
Bottom line: Friedman is always worth reading and his points are worth considering.
I am about 80% done with this book, and have trouble validating most complaints people have posted. While Friedman is a bit scant on details, they are not totally necessary because so many of his interviewee's say virtually the same thing - things are happening quickly, and we can get talent from anywhere.
I dont see the "peppy pro-globalism propaganda" anywhere. He does an excellent job of laying out the facts and letting you make your own conclusions. With the exception of about 30 pages (out of over 500), he strays from throwing rocks at King Bush. When Friedman does pick on George, he has a VERY valid point - stop cutting the NIH budget and promote education amongst the youth. To that extent, I would say he picks on parents more than Bush.
As to the use of "pet names" I believe it makes for an easier read. Certainly Friedman purposely gave "pet names" to reach a wider audience. It is not a hard book to read, and it is certainly eye-opening for middle America.
I am just a business major at a community college. I read the book in '04. I saw the author interviewed on Charlie Rose. His passion for the subject caused me to buy the book. I was just taking classes I thought would help with my current job. After reading the book, I changed my whole approach. I picked a major, added other classes I thought might keep me "untouchable", and, like the lion or gazelle in the old African proverb, started running.
This book is not a text. It gave me the desire to get up and find out for myself. Two years later I am 15 credits from my AAS, I have been promoted and make $10,000 more than I used to, and am more involved in helping people in my organization become prepared for change.
Was it all this book? (Rumsfeldian huh?)No. It just helped me by pointing to possible next steps. Being academically stuck-up only widens the divide between "Acedameia" and the rest of the world.
I saw a program on Stephen Hawking and they only touched the edges of what his theories really were. My best friend is in a master's program in math and has a physics degree. When he talks to me (B Math 126) about his classes, he has to REALLY simplify some concepts.
Freidman gives us a starting point for learning and discussion. That someone is inspired to learn is, in itself, a worthy outcome.
One of the major problems that occurs when you read the work of " Modern" Ph.D economists,who are supposed to be qualified to write on economic issues, is that all of their doctoral training is based on the supposition that all markets in all countries can be analyzed(stock,commodity,money,bond,labor,output,financial,etc.) either as being (a) normally distributed or (b) "as if" they were normally distributed.This builds in an a priori claim that markets are naturally self adjusting and converging toward the optimal(mean) outcome in the long run.Therefore, they are inherently stable.There will be a series of short run deviations around the long run full employment level of output(mean) in the short run which are self canceling over time.As J M Keynes(see the Keynes-Jan Tinbergen debate published in the 1939-40 issues of the Economic Journal) and Benoit Mandelbrot(for his latest work see The (Mis)Behavior of Markets,2004(with Hudson) have demonstrated, there is no statistical,historical,or even anecdotal evidence that the relevant time series data in the above mentioned markets is anywhere close to being representable by a normal distribution.It turns out that it is the Cauchy distribution or power law distributions that are supported by the available evidence.The major conclusion is that markets are unstable in the long run and do not converge in the limit to any stable long run mean.
This means that Friedman is certainly equiped to write this book.His major failing was that he had never read for himself what it was Adam Smith actually said about trade or free trade(see my review above).Present day economists have no idea of what Smith's entire system of classical liberty was because they stop reading the WN after p.125 or p.150 and call it a day.
There is no Nobel Prize for economics. The Nobel Prizes, established in 1904, are awarded by the Nobel Foundation for Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Physiology or Medicine. Friedman won The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which was instituted by Sweden's central bank in 1968.