Book: The World Is Flat

I just finished The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and have to say its a bit of a mixed bag. First, I found the book to be over-long, especially since the entire premise of the book in presented in the rather verbose introduction and then slowly tortured for the next four hundred pages or so.

Granted, some of what follows serves to expound on some of his introductory points but frequently it ranges into breathless, almost infomercial prose about certain big corporations that the author loves to name drop again and again and again.

In later chapters he starts ranging more into politics and this is were he starts to get both annoying and contradictory.

First he posits that no two countries participating in a global supply chain would dare go to war with each other. Really. I guess he missed the part where the US attacked Iraq, nominally over oil supplies (that the US wants to control). It seems the current (US) thinking is to go to war in order to control a global supply chain and not to protect it.

Next he spends an inordinate amount of time slagging off Islamic countries and enumerating their perceived shortcomings with various economic figures and assertions. Thomas, I’d be interested to hear those same numbers for Israel, as well. How many new patents are created there per year? What is their GDP growth? How does it compare to other countries in the region? With Europe? If the constant loans from the US are any indication, probably not well. My point is that he needs to be careful about where he shines his spotlight and to do it evenly and without bias.

It is also curious in this discussion that there is no mention of Turkey and the reforms that Attaturk put into place after the second world war. Granted, Turkey is not exactly a world economic powerhouse, but they have gone a long way toward separating religion from the government and economy. Also, I note that toward the end of the book he’s back to swooning over the high tech situation in Malaysia (an Islamic country), where is laptop coincidently was built.

And speaking of the laptop, did we really need the tedious two page recounting of where every part in his laptop might have come from? I could have done without it.

Finally, the assertion that anyone who is concerned about the side effects of globalization (pollution, natural resource over-consumption, etc) is a ‘socialist’, ‘communist’ or ‘Trotskyist’ is gratuitous and something that I would expect more from Fox News than an even handed discussion regarding globalization.

Overall, I found this book overly long and ponderously presented. It would have made a very nice short essay (preferably without the race-baiting and political posturing).

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