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1,411 of 1,584 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competing in a shrinking world, April 5, 2005
This review is from: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 4, 2006 1:36:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 4, 2006 1:38:03 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2006 8:39:06 AM PDT
A. Pack says:
If you considered that a "retelling [of] the entire book," then you are sorely mistaken. Perhaps you would be better off skipping this book in any case, as you seem to have already made up your mind about it. Or, check out your local library - they may very well have this book so you don't have to "shell out good money" for it.

Posted on Nov 3, 2006 1:25:28 PM PST
For John from Oxbridge: when will the Brits (and most of Europe) learn that "Protectionism, tariffs, quotas" are actually not beneficial to your countries economy!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2006 2:23:46 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 28, 2006 2:33:22 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 20, 2006 8:24:59 AM PST
pep strebek says:
For thoughts on the issues you wish the author had addressed, see The Lexus and The Olive Tree. The thoughts are a little dated, but they are all in there.

Posted on Aug 30, 2007 1:19:26 PM PDT
90210 says:
I was about to write a review but you summed up exactly what I would say. The book is incredible but Friedman conveniently leaves out the five things you listed. The picture the author paints is a little too positive when it is obvious that some nations suffer from globalization.

Posted on Oct 11, 2007 11:07:28 AM PDT
Y. Li says:
Globalization was never easy, there were always resistant force. However, when the globalization flip, the countries which export the globalization ideas, when they are at the recieving end of of the power, most countries recoiled. US. probably have the most protected textile industry and yet, the textile industry is dying a slow death. The future of American do depend on the education. Maybe it is time to stop the social promoting, and maybe, we should actually demand our children to learn what they are suppose to learn instead of cuddling all their sensitive self-esteem.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2008 6:49:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2008 7:25:06 AM PST
This is a pretty cold assessment of how to deal with the effect of globalization on the poor and uneducated. While it is true that many children are raised with unrealistic belief in their exceptionalism (much as the United States has always been convinced of its own), many are not capable of being sucessful enough to succeed in the global economy. This may be because they grow up without the support of parents who value education and with no role models in their environment, or simply because the media promote the idea that they are entitled to all the material goods they want. Li also conveniantly forgets those who simply lack the innate ability to excel in school. He suggests that "we" demand that all of these kids learn even though if they all did, there would still be losers in the race for success. Exactly what is he proposing? It sounds a lot like survival of the fittest, and the devil take the hindmost. This being said, it is true that education is generally undervalued. This is a trite observation, and expecting children to take more responsibility on their own is an oxymoron in this case. More importantly, we need to show that we value education by ensuring equal access to learning for all. To do this we will need to fund preschool, which is a predictor of later success, demand and pay for more continuous schooling at the elementary and secondary levels, and ensure equal access to higher education through expanding student loans at favorable terms by providing government funding for those who commit to a serving in the military, educating the young or who commit to volunteers in the Peace Corps and similar organizations. We could also fund a secure safety net for the losers in this system.

It wouldn't be hard to fund these things if the fortunate few had to pay a share of the tax burden proportionate to the benefits they receive from this system, if we stopped wasting the money on unneccessary wars and unneeded weapons systems and gave up the notion up the notion that privatization is always a good thing. Look how we practice privatization in the United States. in the United States. We grossly overpay Halliburton, deregulate corporations and financial institutiions to the point that we get Enron, Worldcom and no-bid contracts to Halliburton and others. Now we are paying Simpson Thatcher an outrageous amount to manage the bailout of the very clients who have provided their revenues and who got us into the global catastrophe we are now facing. It's not like we don't have a choice. We could have managed it the way Britain did, but instead we foillowed blind ideology to avoid real nationalization and have no guarantee that taxpayers will ever be paid back (see Naomi Klein's "The War Profiteers" in the latest Rolling Stone for the details). It's time we give up corporate welfare. What trickles down from the resulting profits to the average citizen is not wealth.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2008 6:30:13 PM PST
Apparently, you missed one of the major points of the book! Your call for more preschool is another useless ideology of throwing money at problems. It is stated that our FOURTH GRADE students are at the top in math and science. Conclusion: we dont need preschool to catch up! The drop occurs later in students lives and it is not an economic factor. Its due to a huge bureaucracy in education and societal issues in the US which make young impressionable minds more apt to want to be the next celebrity than the next Bill Gates! The most valuable asset the US has now is not its young minds, its our MARKET! Globalism is lowering our standard of living and causing us to compete against third world cheap/child/slave labor which is a NO-WIN situation for the US. The reason we have "corporate welfare" is to keep the last remaining vestiges of family supporting jobs that we have left here! ROSS PEROT was right! All these agreements for free trade do not mean "fair" trade to the US. What good does opening a market in China do for us when the average Chinese citizen cannot afford to buy an American product? American workers lose every time when we enter into these agreements. Blaming business is exploiting class envy and deflecting investigations into the true reasons for America's economic and educational problems. Our society and what little culture we have left is responsible for a huge percentage of young adolescents and adults who just dont have the drive and work ethic or the desire to do what it takes to succeed! Those who put forth the effort and delay the desire for self gratification that most young Americans have, usually are able to achieve admirable goals in our country. But from your leftist and progressive tone, it would be "unfair" of anyone to expect individual responsibility. Why dont we all just demand the government take care of us as the dependent children FOREVER. Sounds like a place you would think is utopia!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2009 7:28:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 3, 2009 7:28:55 PM PST
C. Butler says:
@Giles: Amazing how many peopole said your post didn't add to the discussion. Is it because they truly feel is doesn't add to the discussion or b/c they don't want to hear what you said... the truth. For those that argue see Smoot Hawley, the very reason why the US suffered the Great Depression. Or see the trade wars of Italy and France. Giles is right.
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