The World Is Flat

by Thomas L. Friedman

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Does Friedman provide a balanced and accurate assessment of the present and future in The World is Flat?

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Great question!

In structuring your response to questions 1-2, I would definitely take a closer look at Friedman’s faith in the power of capitalist markets to bring global prosperity, as well as his belief in the ability of United States government policy to effectively deal with the challenges of a “flat” world.

It seems to me that one of the central theses of the book is that a rapid, global, “flat” economy will ultimately lead to prosperity for all if we are able to make the necessary adaptations. At the same time, Friedman acknowledges the many challenges that this new global economy will bring, including but not limited to lower wages and power for low-skilled workers in developed countries, and the challenges to the environment resulting from a reliance on oil.

You might wish to critique Friedman’s argument from a socialist/environmentalist perspective by asking the following critical questions:

  • Is a free-market system predicated on consistent economic growth consistent with environmental sustainability?
  • Will this system overwhelmingly favor the owners of capital at the expense of wage earners? Is Friedman’s argument that government policy can alleviate inequity through enlarging the number of owners of capital strong?
  • Do centrally planned economies have any place in the new economy?

From a completely different angle, you may wish to examine Friedman’s argument from a libertarian perspective by asking some of the following questions:

  • Is Friedman realistic about the ability of government policy to create a more educated populace?
  • Friedman talks about the need for a new national movement for restoring America’s “secret sauce” of success. In this day and age, is such a cohesive national movement possible? Is it desirable?

More generally, look at the assumptions he makes about markets, governments, and the way that change occurs. This will help you to evaluate whether his assessment of the current situation is “balanced and accurate.”

Hope that helps!

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