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Round review on “World is Flat”

Scary. That’s the best word I can think of to sum up this book in just one adjective. I don’t know whether I should jump in my car right now and drive up to the White House with a picketing sign or catch the earliest flight to India.

What might be funny, but is also true, is that what I was most impacted by in what I read in this book is how in some parts of the U.S., such as in Missouri, fast food companies like McDonald’s outsource to call centers hundreds of miles away. These restaurants don’t outsource jobs like creating the wrapper your Big Mac comes in, they outsource the job of the person who takes your order.

To say the least, I was completely shocked by this information, as I was with most of the other information “divulged” in this book, but that seems like Thomas Friedman’s goal in the work. I have to say, however, I’m not entirely convinced by all of his allegations, but only on the basis of, “How can it be as bad as Friedman describes and I don’t know about it?” Is this some plot by our government toward the success of initiating a one world government someday?

I like how Friedman organized the book, particularly how detailed he is in spelling out his argument in a chronological manner (“List of 10 World Flattening Forces”) on why the world is essentially being taken over by big corporations and how all of our jobs are being outsourced to foreign countries.

A good portion of the first quarter of the book – and many spots intermittently after – was dedicated to expressing just how much of the Indian population America supports with outsourced jobs, mostly with call centers. Friedman went as far as to say how much it means for Indian students studying in colleges to get jobs in call centers linked to American callers. Instead of studying for a law or medical degree, many Indian students work to get these jobs working for Americans. They go as far as to take classes on how to sound and act more “American” over the phone, and some even change their names to more “American-sounding” names to have a better chance of being hired at one of these call centers.

To me, that information alone disgusted me. I realize this book was published in 2007, but that’s only three years ago. We’re in an economic depression right now. I don’t care what anyone says. People all over the country are being laid off, while others can’t afford groceries and some can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads. All this is going on while the American system is supplying countries like India with jobs and money, and thus security. How can we afford this? How can these corporations continue to let this happen, or, rather, continue to make this happen? As Friedman points out, we can’t, but it’s not going to stop because “it’s all about the money, baby.”

And this is where Friedman’s fifth chapter comes into play: “America and Free Trade.” Here, Friedman suggests the idea of a ban on all outsourcing, and to put a stop to any ideas of wall-building or border boundaries. Instead, he talks of improving education and training, preparing American citizens to take on a global world, not just a national world. My question to this chapter is, “Isn’t that what we’re doing by outsourcing our labor?” Friedman doesn’t specifically mention what his idea of what “Americans must instead be prepared to compete on a global playing field” means. He simply states it, and that’s the end. It sounds a lot like a one world government to me.

For the most part, I liked Friedman’s ideas on how we can adapt to this unstoppable force that is globalization, as with such descriptions as his “synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, versatilists” (chapter six). These terms, mostly invented to drive his points home, are used to put a description on key point in what he thinks we should do as Americans to prepare ourselves and make ourselves ready for this already shaping event.

As with his “Great Synthesizers” explanation, Friedman goes into how we need to “bring together mathematicians and marketing experts” who can optimize search engines more efficiently, and how we need to “bring together bio-scientists and computer engineers” so that we can better map the human genome…etc. These are excellent ideas because pulling our best people together to come up with (in theory) some of the best and most efficient ideas on the planet will help us keep up with competition around the globe, and thus promote competition. We can’t just give in and let other countries step in and take our jobs from us, essentially, as Friedman suggest, though most of us aren’t even aware of it in the first place.

Chapter 10 really hit home for me when Friedman mentioned the statistics on China and how it’s making its way up in the world, and fast, overtaking Mexico as the U.S.’s number two importer in 2003. It made me think about how just about anything I pick up in my house has “MADE IN CHINA” stamped on it. And again, it brings that question to mind, the one Friedman pulls for in his writing, “What will it take for us to stand up and do something about this?” Why is China making most of our weapons, toys, packaging, etc? Why aren’t we making these things?

All in all, I think the message Friedman was trying to deliver in this work, or at least what I took away from it is that as people grow and become more able to get together and collaborate on tasks, issues, problems, etc., people become more able to compete and create with other races, cultures, countries, religions, backgrounds, languages, etc. This book, in my opinion, is a real eye-opener. It brings these issues to the table and puts them into perspective. It may not answer all the questions or provide solutions to all the problems, but it does suggest plausible solutions and promote the general idea of trying.