If I hear one more time that the world is flat, I may scream. Mind you, the people saying it are pretty important people — let’s call them PIPs for short –so that’s a bold statement to make. Still, tidbits from Thomas L. Friedman’s latest book, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” are making the lecture circuit, as evidenced by references from the likes of former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and business guru Tom Peters at The Donnelley Group’s Information Privacy Forum July 8-9 in Aspen, CO.
Friedman argues that the collapse of communism and the rise of the Internet have broken down the barriers to global competition — or, as an IT outsourcer from India told him, “The playing field is being leveled.” I guess Friedman didn’t like the sound of “The World Is Level.” This explosion of economic growth in China and India, with a combined population of more than 2 billion, is already affecting U.S. jobs, business and politics.
That’s why Clinton mentioned accountants in India who did hundreds of thousands of Americans’ tax returns this year — all with people’s names and Social Security numbers stripped off before they’re sent to avoid any data security issues. That’s why Powell said all concepts of time and space have changed, as well as political boundaries. If any unit of work can be reduced, it will go to the cheapest place.
Since I don’t like feeling left out, I ran to the bookstore (yes, one of the real ones) and bought a copy. On the bookshelf next to it was that other book of the moment, “Blink,” which is about how the first two seconds of looking – just go with your gut – is all you need to make a decision. I guess they finally moved “Who Moved My Cheese” to the bargain bins.
I have not read the entire book yet, but what have I deduced so far besides that Friedman likes to use the word “flat” a lot? Just that I want to write a book and call it “The World Is Round.” In it, I will discuss how the prosperity that the United States has experienced has traveled around (not flatly) the world, how we have competition from other countries because we have adopted a sense of entitlement about the way we live and act.
Sounds like I may be better off reading Powell’s book.
Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on www.dmnews.com and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters