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The World Is Flat

November 26, 2009

I did a book swap with my boss a couple months back: Friedman for Friedman. I lent her Hot, Flat and Crowded in exchange for his previous tome, The World Is Flat. If HFC is Friedman’s sober step back from the hype surrounding globalization, TWIF is him taking a Koolaid bath. Not that he doesn’t recognize the inherent challenges presented by the time honored practice of outsourcing all the dirty work to the lowest bidder. If anything, Friedman has to be one of the most honest and balanced writers out there in terms of looking at the issues from a well-rounded perspective. Strangely, reading this book actually made me more anxious about the future than HFC, which describes the doomsday scenario around the corner. What hit home for me was the realities of a highly competitive world in which, barring some dramatic turnaround, the position of the U.S. will continue to slide. Being mainly concerned with the rise of China and India, Friedman doesn’t talk much about Germany, but I always think Germany makes a telling contrast with the U.S. Unlike our service and financial based economy, Germany still relies on manufacturing as the engine of its economy. We, on the other hand, produce things like “social networking tools” to allow out of work PR professionals to have a second career as social media “gurus”. But this is the kind of economy we have created. As Friedman describes, Americans are being forced to scramble in order to keep pace with change and demonstrate their added value above and beyond the folks in other countries we have outsourced most of the real work to. We’ve still got a cushy lead, but how much longer can we stay ahead of the pack? (And, as individuals, stay employed?)

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