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The World Is Flat : A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
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Product Details
  • Audio CD: pages
  • Publisher: Audio Renaissance; edition (May 12, 2023)
  • ISBN: 1593977514
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 Based on 64 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: 957

Customer Reviews

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

3Interesting History, but Erroneous Conclusions, May 10, 2023
Friedman provides an excellent summary of recent changes that have created today's intense global economy. However, his conclusion that this is good for the U.S. - based on anecdotal evidence supplied by outsourcing supporters - is dead wrong.

Broader data show massive deterioration in U.S. workers' healthcare and pension coverage, and opportunities to use and develop higher-level skills (eg. software, engineering, production management, technical skills). The most recent data even show a decline in inflation-adjusted incomes.

Friedman observes that Asian competitors are quick learners, moving up the "food chain" from simple production managed by Americans to designing new sophisticated equipment and parts and then manufacturing them under local management. What he fails to note is that sooner or later they will also take over total control and financing - leaving only U.S. distribution to Americans. Thus, most of those that now support outsourcing will eventually find themselves also outsourced.

Friedman does have a recommendation for America in the "flattened world" - substantially improve education and pupil achievement. Unfortunately, even if accomplished (30+ years of reform efforts have yet to come close), it would be of little help. Experts have concluded that Oriental IQs generally average 10 points higher than those of Americans, while China alone has about four times the U.S. population, and then there's India, Pakistan, South America, etc. - earning as little as 5% of what Americans bring in. In addition, American corporations are hobbled by having to pay high healthcare costs, vs. other nations' much lower costs - largely born by government.

Clearly the mathematics are against us and the inevitable result is that our standard of living is headed for a substantial fall - unless some other solution is found. Rome, Spain, and England proved that a nation's strength is not permanent. Friedman summarized the factors eroding America's - unfortunately, he failed to look clearly into the future or to find a solution. And those are America's main concerns

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5Finally a book on why the world is going flat. Great Book., May 10, 2023
Over the past few years, we have sensed, read, or seen the slow transformation that has, and continues to take place in countries like the US, India and China. Many of us have a patchwork knowledge on why and how these changes were happening, but not the full picture. Friedman's book fills the gap in our knowledge and understanding of why and how this transformation is taking place, and what factors are at work to make these changes. Friedman clearly implies that education combined with the wide availability of bandwidth and technology has aided nations like China and India to move forward in the 21st century. Finally, here is a book that presents a cogent and well-articulated picture on how the world economy has, and continues to undergo some fundamental changes largely due to an important catalyst: technology. Friedman's book helps us sort out the changing nature of the world, and come to grips with it.

In this book that is aptly titled, "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century," Friedman traces the factors responsible for the flattening of the world. Flattening is an interesting concept that fundamentally talks about the increased inter-connectedness within the various regions of the world, and how good old competitive advantage is at work at the bottom of it. The net result is that the top and bottom line of companies and individuals has improved, but not at the same rate or pace. Friedman has identified 10 flatteners, and one of them includes the much debated term: outsourcing.

Although, the book does not have a formal theoretical framework it is clear that Friedman has done his basic homework in International Relations and Economy. He clearly states that capital always flows where profit is to be made. This central axiom has been lost to the world in the past few decades, and Friedman's book forcefully reminds us that what we are witnessing in the 21st century is the good old capital at work always looking for increasing profit. Like corporations, individuals too look for profit when they invest in stock markets, except we forget this micro picture and about our individual desires and goals, and instead focus on the macro picture.

The implications of Friedman's book are very clear and there are a couple of examples where he captures the essence of the change in a telling way. While Friedman was growing up in the 1960s in Minnesota his parents often urged him to finish his dinner and reminded him of all the poor, starving people in Asia. Today, Friedman tells his two daughters that they better focus on their studies or else they may not have a good job, since somebody in China or India is waiting to do their job. This example amply illustrates how many people have not paid attention on how and why the Asian economies are forging ahead, and it is not at the expense of the US economy. Education is a key differentiating factor and the US has been steadily lagging behind when it comes to education. Friedman has correctly identified this gap in American education as one of "Quiet Crisis."

The book makes for an interesting read and paints us a nice big picture of what is happening in the world when the US goes to sleep. The other side of the world is busy working away to meet the demands of the US economy, and in the process is able to steadily catapult their economies ahead.

I wish Friedman had utilized some kind of a theoretical framework for the book, or at least mentioned how the liberals and realists view the world through different glasses, and how that in turn informs and shapes the policies and dialogs within the country. Other than this minor oversight, this is a must read book for anyone who wants to know why, how and where these changes are taking place that is directly impacting us as individuals.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

4Surprisingly Entertaining , May 10, 2023
I usually gripe about a Friedman column but he is just heretical enough to warrant a closer look. This is NOT a political tome although politics, by necessity, is part of the discussion. The subject is not really original either - others have mulled over both the future and the shrinking nature of the world. What Friedman has done is offer analysis of historical events, project future trends and in general expound upon globalization and its effects. He does all this in such an intelligent prose that one is transported back to the days when public figures were actually literate.

He touches on most of the major issues - trade, knowledge, health care, education, work, etc - but concentrates on education, competitions, employment and most importantly, attitude. The main reason for America's success is an environment in which individuals have been free to experiment, produce and thrive. There is also the subject of "human capital", its investment in its people and their education. He has correctly identified this asset as one of the utmost importance, particularly in the light of the uproar over "outsourcing", a common sense practice that has existed for thousands of years. The idea of hiring workers for a lower wage will always be with us. Germans employs Americans who employ Mexicans who employ Guatemalans - all for the same reason.

He hit on something important when he stresses that continual education and training are necessary to meet the challenges of world competition. As old industries wither due to competition or technological changes, we must be prepared for the next phase. As the world gets flatter, resources are leveling out. The discussion on the Mideast was good if slightly optimistic. This is a good and important book.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

4Illuminating in some ways, but a bit pollyana-ish, May 10, 2023
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer winner, is the pre-eminent commentator for the lay reader on American foreign policy today. His widely-syndicated pieces appear in many American newspapers, but also many Arab and Muslim-world publications.

Nominally a liberal and probably a Democrat, he has trod a fairly middle path, supporting globalization and laissez-faire capitalism, the subordination of individual countries' economic interests to global institutions such as multinational corporations and the International Monetary Fund, and the use of military force to further U.S. economic interests (including strong if uneasy support for the war in Iraq).

In his new book, _The World Is Flat_, Friedman argues that recent technological and political developments have brought most countries much closer, broken down corporate walls and hierarchies, and raised both the stakes for American competitiveness on the world stage and the potential rewards for all. Friedman lists ten causes of the earth's flattening, from the fall of the Berlin Wall and supply-chaining, to out-sourcing and in-sourcing, by which specialists in one task become partners or pseudo-employees of their clients (e.g., UPS handling not only all deliveries for Papa John's Pizza and Toshiba, but even equipment repair for the latter).

If all of this sounds a little too "rah-rah for capitalism," well, that's how it reads. Friedman has wonderful stories to tell-about Third World startups, Web journalists launching with $200 of equipment and breaking stories of national impact, a 17-year-old confined to a wheelchair by severe cerebral palsy while becoming an eBay entrepreneur-but how he connects these dots is less persuasive.

Roughly 85 percent ofThe World is Flat is boundlessly optimistic, but 15 percent of warning and possible doom nags at the reader for its potential to overwhelm the rest. Friedman notes the downside of working for, and living near, a Wal-Mart; China's voracious hunger for more energy (especially oil) and the effects on politics and the environment; the continuing scourge of HIV and malaria across the less developed world. Solutions to these problems are weak to nonexistent.

There are too few zingers on the order of "too many politicians in America today . . . go out of their way actually to make their constituents stupid. . ." and "If . . . you are just a let 'er rip free market [fan]-you are not only cruel, you are a fool."

A whole book-a very different one-could have been based on his passing remark: "If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, in one fell swoop he would dry up money for terrorism, force Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia onto the path of reform-which they will never do with $50-a-barrel-oil-strengthen the dollar, and improve his own standing in Europe by doing something huge to reduce global warming."

There is much in this book to please and provoke thought, but perhaps its over-optimism might be tempered by a tandem reading of Jared Diamond's _Collapse_.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

3A Good Book, But Not Flat Enough, May 9, 2023
That is, the book is about 100 pages too long.

Perhaps I expected too much. I loved The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and when I heard the title of Tom Friedman's new book back in the fall, I got my hopes up. Just by the title, I knew what he was getting at, and I was thrilled to see such a high-profile columnist calling attention once again to this phenomenon that is globalization.

But now, having read The World is Flat, I'm a little disappointed. And yet I will recommend the book because I agree with his message, and I think it's critically important that we have writers like Tom out there explaining the many ways that globalization makes the world a better place to live.

However, the book could have been much better with some ruthless editing. As a reader, I don't like being talked down to, and I feel that Tom does that a bit too much, primarily by repeating many of the same concepts and buzzwords over and over again. For example, he explains why the world is flat early on. It's a good metaphor, but Tom proceeds to attach "flat" to everything he sees. He sees customer service reps in India "flattening" their accents. He writes of the "coefficient of flatness" and "compassionate flatism." I felt as if Tom tried way too hard to make his flat metaphor stick. And maybe it will stick.

Here are a few nuggets from the book that did stick with me:

"In the future globalization is going to be increasingly driven by the individuals who understand the flat world, adapt themselves quickly to the processes and technologies."
This is such a key point. The interesting thing about globalization is that it empowers individuals, even more than countries.

Tom stresses that globalization helps the small firms as much as the big firms, perhaps even more. As the owner of a small firm, I agree. Tom quotes UPS CEO Mike Eskew: "You know who the majority of our customers and partners are? Small businesses. They are asking us to take them global. We help these companies achieve parity with the bigger guys."

Tom talks about Eriksen Translations, a New York-based translation firm featured in our Savvy Client's Guide to Translation Agencies. Tom mentions how Eriksen embraced Skype, the VoIP service that is revolutionizing the telecoms industry. After the first six months of using Skype, the company cut phone costs by 10%. I only wish Tom had talked a bit more about translation agencies - these firms have been outsourcing work for decades and have always been early adopters of new technologies, from email to VoIP.

"The Indians and Chinese are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top." The Lenovo/IBM deal is one example. And just wait until Chinese automakers start making their way into the US...

"China has more than 160 cities with a population of one million or more."

While I didn't love this book, I liked it. If you've been reading The Economist for the past few years then much of this book will come across as old news. But if not, it's worth a read. Tom is truly passionate about all that is good about globalization, and it comes through in his writing. The world needs more voices like his to prevent the US (and other nations) from knee-jerk protectionism as we collectively slouch toward a more connected world.

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