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Monday, July 18, 2011

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman

Where were you when you discovered the world was flat?

I've taken a number of basic economics classes over the last 5 years and I've tried to tell people about what I have learned about globalization as a reality. Friedman likes to ask people when they learned that the "world was flat", meaning when they learned that the advent of cheap instantaneous technology coupled with lowering trade barriers, and the fall of many political barriers (like the Berlin Wall) has made the world a very small, very competitive place, indeed. Well, I learned the world was flat last summer when one of my econ classes visited a Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana. When I tried to tell people who have not taken economics lately about global supply chains and comparative advantage they looked at me like I was a babbling fool. Now, my mom has read this book and now she suddenly understands my economic babblings and we speak the same language.

Thomas Friedman
What kind of book is The World Is Flat? Well-writen, often funny, well-researched, full of interesting facts and, perhaps, a glimpse at the future. I followed my wife around the house reading passages to her - and she didn't tell me to get lost! I must have told 15 people to get this book and read it.

Do I agree with everything in it? No. I think he fundamentally misunderstands George W. Bush (it's just two pages so don't let that offend you or thrill you - it really is not a big part of the book), which is surprising because he really, really understands the threat of Al-Qaida and bin Laden and explains the rise of the Islamo-Leninists (a.k.a. Islamo-fascists in other circles).

This book is a chunk (469 pages of text) but it is very readable. Friedman makes the complex really quite simple (although this "world is flat" stuff isn't that hard once you get it) and usually doesn't overexplain things. Once or twice I found myself skimming passages, but this is no dry textbook.

Couple this book with Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and you have a lot of food for thought to mull over the rest of the summer.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on July 5, 2006.

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