Thomas L. Friedman
Friedman is not an Economist. He is an intelligent, decorated, and respected Journalist. Take that as you may, I'm not trying to discredit his findings or opinions, just reminding you that his point of view is not that of an informed Economist, just an informed, intelligent Journalist. Also, as a reader, I am coming into this with a background in Information Systems so the events described that pertain to Information Technology are not entirely new to me. Please don't get me wrong. Frightening, though it is, I really enjoyed this book and I think every American should read this. Friedman is on to something here.
Informative. This is where he builds up to his idea of a flat world and his logical conclusions. The annoying tone is that of a child that has found a new toy. I think he could do more research on information technology and specifically Open-Source and Linux, but it's a good preface to what he has to say later. He doesn't get the birth of Linux quite right. Linus wasn't out to develop an OS to compete with Microsoft, as a matter of fact he even says so: ...(just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu)....
This is where Friedman turns on the heat. I began to like the book even more after getting in to the focus on America and the implications for its labor pool. His message is repeated several times (but in different contexts and levels) and it gets increasingly annoying to read the same things over and over, but I suppose he's really trying to drive the message home. The message is basically (very basic) know your stuff or get snuffed out by the overseas competition. A lot of his ideas are centered on the global communications network and how it helps tear down the walls. Yes, I believe it does, but it's only half the battle.
I believe his section on Parenting is one of the most important reads for any generation. It pretty much says it all about what we are doing (or not doing). I totally agree that for our future success in the global marketplace or a county as a whole, we need to change the way we are raising our kids. One of his points touches on something dear to my heart: reading. I have been pushing the idea of education and specifically reading for pleasure for a while now. I believe it is imperative that children are encouraged to read often not only for class, but for pleasure also. Reading is like exercise for the mind.
Remember these key words/phrases and they will pretty much sum it up for you:
Did anyone else notice that he mostly interviewed the elite? There were two other people (that I remember) mentioned that weren't a CEO or VP for a government organization, and they were examples of the New Middle. Is this method bias? It seems to me that the people who can see the flat world are people sitting from high positions (i.e. CEOs, decision makers and VPs), and the people who don't get to see the flat world are the people at the bottom (i.e. factory workers, manual labor folks). At least, that's the impression that I get from Friedman, until he says something along the lines of individuals competing on a level playing field. Aren't the factory workers and laborers individuals too?
Another impression that I get is that the old work force is not going to be useful any longer. Yes, there will be a shift away from them, but they will still be useful, just not to the extent they have been. Are we expected to just sweep millions of jobs/people under the rug and move on? No. We should find a way to re-assimilate these jobs/people back into the American work force using all the power America has, with government resources or private resources. Friedman offers his advice for re-education and reformation in the form of what the New Middle should look like and what we can do to educate our children, but what about the jobs/people in the present? Friedman only offers his sympathy, because it's going to be painful. Yes, it is.
Near the End:
In his final chapters he hits the nail right on the head. We are Americans, and we shouldn't be afraid of terrorists. You must read this to know what I mean. He says it all here.