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on 21 August 2001
Friedman succeeds in explainings the whys and the hows of today's complex interaction of financial, political, technological and scientific values. this book is a must read for all those who feel unconfortable with the "no-global" thesis but search for words. Unfortunately I have to notice two let downs. Mr Friedman's vision of the world is surprising america-centric for a man who has travelled so much. Yet again here we find a Yank who feels he has the right to put his model on top of all others and judge the rest of the world. Well, he's right on most of his conclusions but we'd all rather like it to be expressed with more care. Clearly the book has been written with american readers in mind and provides them with the ever needed holliwood-style pat on the back. The second really unfortunate thing is that the Anchor edition paperback has litterally fallen into pieces by page 100 and I have had to keep track of all the loose pages for the duration of the book. Pity.
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on 8 July 1999
All doors were open for foreign affairs columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman. Anybody, everybody anywhere ranging from Alan Greenspan to street sellers in Hanoi. With a creative and enquiring mind he has created a very rich storybook. Easy to read, many times funny but with depth. Every body knows about globalisation. But what is it exactly? Is it beneficial or dangerous? The globalisation is based on free market capitalism. What counts is speed. It is no longer the big that eat the small but the fast that eat the slow. The speed is made possible by the "democratisation" of finance, technology and information. With "democratisation" is meant "used by and available to" ordinary citizens. Globalisation is made possible by these democratisations but is driven by the "electronic herd". The "electronic herd" consists of the persons and institutions that invest and move money in and out of countries at extremely short notice. As soon as a country or a company moves in a direction the herd does not like the money is withdrawn or held back. Good behaviour for government means: free market, low inflation and a balanced budget (the "golden straitjacket"). Nobody is in control of or can control the electronic herd. The consequences of this globalisation are serious both for government and individuals. A government that does not put on the golden straitjacket will be "punished" by the electronic herd. It will withdraw its money or make no further investments. To be able to cope with globalisation countries need to be flexible; laws and stock market regulations must be enforced. The government must be able to adapt rapidly to change. This is only possible with a "small" government, no state enterprises and a competent government. The only governments that can in the longer term meet these criteria are democracies. Globalisation creates enormous wealth for countries as a whole and for individuals on average. There are however several substantial risks. Persons unable to keep up with change and the new competencies required may revolt. Democratisation of technology gives enormous power to individuals (see a young man that bankrupted the oldest bank in England). frustrated persons can create enormous damage.The increasing gap between the rich and the poor further aggravates the problem. Ther are also countries with difficulties. Russia because there is not the proper respect for law. Robber barons plunder the country. China because it has a large inefficient state sector, corruption and no democracy. Japan because it has crony board-management-government relationship that leads to a snail's progress in making the necessary restructuring. The fourth and most serious risk is that the world becomes unliveable because of over-consumption and disregard for what the planet can cope with. Mr Friedman offers many useful suggestions as to what should be done. The solutions presented are less complete than the description of the problems. Perhaps by putting these ideas together with those of Mr Soros presented in "The crisis of global capitalism" and with those of the Dalai Lama about a spiritual revolution in "Ancient Wisdom,Modern World" a solution can be found. The book is a treasure chest of information and ideas, useful for businessmen, politicians, consultants involved in strategy development.
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on 23 January 2006
Those fearing this book is a treatise in economics, take heart. Lexus isn't about numbers or the arcane world of international banking - it's about attitude. If your attitude is open to global thinking, untrammelled by tradition or restrictive cultural ideas, you will surely succeed in improving your lifestyle. If you hold too tightly to traditional ideals, you will just as surely fail. Either way, you'd best buy, read, and understand this book. Friedman's analysis conveys the thinking of too many people. You cannot afford to ignore it.
With evangelical fervour, Friedman explains how the end of the Cold War unleashed American capitalism around the globe. While "free market" capitalism had been a weapon in those years of missile diplomacy, the breakup of the Soviet Union left the American economic model without a major opponent. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, coinciding with the rise of the high speed digital communications, led to a new era of global finance. Once, "the sun never set on the British Empire." Now the Internet allows investment activity continuously and without hindrance. The market is never closed as international financial transactions occur constantly, and at light speed. And the market is open to anyone wishing to participate. Anyone possessing the resources, that is.
Friedman argues that the American model of capitalism is the ideal version. Government must play a minimal role. "No one is in charge" simply means no overseer to represent the community's interests. Labour unions are to be quelled. No favours are to be shown to any not meeting the new performance standards. The "wounded" firm must be killed off to allow the successful to continue. There will be disruptions in peoples' lives, but emerging new businesses will pick up any slack. The reward will be growth and enhanced living standards. The system is so well established now, according to Friedman, that it can, is and will be exported successfully around the planet. Anyone it touches need only accept it without question.
Global acceptance, of course, is the rub. The world isn't [yet] American. Scattered around our planet are numerous cultures who either haven't seen the light or resist its premise. These are the peoples who cling to their "olive trees" in defiance of Americanization. Friedman recognizes their concern over losing what they feel is valuable. He should, his interviewees have told him so often enough. He doesn't want them subjugated to an American ideal, he wants them to buy into the system voluntarily. Many want what the new economic system offers, he stresses. They simply have to learn how to adjust their values enough to bring America's financial methods into their own culture. How are they to achieve this feat? Replace restrictive or unresponsive governments. How this is to be achieved in the face of the pace of globalization is left unexplained.
Friedman's eagerness is contagious. It seems cruel to refute a man who presents his case with such honesty and in such a readable style. He carries you along with finesse and you have no feeling of being duped by someone so forthright. He wants everybody to accept his assertions because he sincerely believes those who do will benefit from the new economics. He addresses every objection, meeting each head-on with convincing arguments. He admits, for example, that not everyone has access to the digital communications making globalization possible. Easily solved, he says. One cell 'phone per village is a good start. Even the environmental concerns are [very briefly] touched - conservationists adopting capitalist tactics will save the rain forest. I'm not making this up! He means what he says.
What he fails to recognize is that high speed communication, instantaneous finance and rapid economic growth carries an exacting price. Consumption at the American pace over the whole planet means production to meet the demand. That level of production is reflected in the inroads being made on the world's resources. The pace of growth is faster than "environmentalists" can cope with. Environmental issues are brought to view only when it's too late. If people sit back, allowing unfettered capitalism to buy off their future, there won't be a world left for enjoyment of that enhanced lifestyle. Friedman rejoices in the assertion that "no one is in charge" because it means no fetters to American capitalist ideals. That lack of control may sound the knell of the ideal. Capitalism, as a philosopher once noted, carries the seeds of its own destruction. Sprouts from those seeds may be found in Mark Hertsgaard's "Earth Odyssey." Read Friedman, then immediately take up Hertsgaard. Only then can you realistically assess your own attitude. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 16 February 2003
Friedmann sets out to portray the new world system of globalization, which he sees as replacing that of the Cold War. While he puts forward some interesting ideas about the change, too often does he take anecdotal evidence to be sufficient to prove his case. This is in keeping with the style of the book, which is very much geared towards a popular audience, with an insistence upon pointless metaphors for economic agents and actions (eg. "Electronic herd" and "long-horn cattle") for some of the most basic ideas. The overall effect of this to give the impression that Friedmann sees the readder as being incapable to understand the system without this inane dumbing down which while, at first amusing quickly becomes irritating as it is continued throughout the book.
In summation then, if you are looking for a readable and entertaining guide to the world today this is worth buying, as it is undenaibly well written, but it is more a collection of stories about a journalist's travels, than a rigourous explanation for the current global paradigm it claims to be.
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2003
Light reading, but ultimately anecdotal and written from one of the winners in a system creating many more realtive, if not absolute losers. Friedman is a bourgeois journalist writing up his day in the jetset, thats about it.
Worth reading along with Klein's No Logo since they are both emotive and polemical, choose a side, but if you want to even begin to understand Klein or Friedman are only starting points on a long journey.
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on 16 January 2004
Globalization is a new international system with its own rules of logic, pressures and incentives that influence politics, environment, business, and economics in virtually every country; it is the dominant world system that shapes everything else. The new rules are so different from what has gone before and the different threads are intertwined in such a complicated manner that few understand them. Who would have thought that the 1997 collapse of the Thai currency would ultimately lead to the collapse of Long-term Capital Management in the US where two economists had won the Nobel Prize the previous year for their contribution to managing risk? The global market place has become an electronic herd of anonymous traders and investors connected by screens and networks; a herd that knows only its own rules and that will crush any one - and even governments - that stand in its way. Globalization is not a choice but a reality, but the problem is that no one is in charge.
Globalization is not new. Round I of globalization took place before World War I and was founded on cheap transportation. There was a period of relative calm until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism triggered Round II which is founded on cheap telecommunications. We can now reach further, faster, cheaper and deeper than ever before. Previously non-tradable services such as accounting, telephone answering and engineering design can now be transferred to low wage countries; production, research and marketing can be located where strategically most advantageous. The Berlin Wall did not just fall in Berlin; other walls came down in other countries at roughly the same time. Three changes caused the walls to fall - how we communicate, how we invest and how we learn. These changes allowed Thailand to move from being a low wage rice producer to the world's second largest producer of pick up trucks and the 4th largest manufacturer of motor cycles in 15 years. These changes give individuals more power to influence markets and nation states than at any time in history - as occurred when investors brought down Indonesia's Suharto in 1998. These changes allowed Jody Williams to win the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for an international ban on land mines by organizing human rights groups by e-mail. These changes allow us to tune into almost any public or private TV station worldwide so we can now see and hear through almost every conceivable wall. These changes allow a company like Cisco to close its books within an hour and to operate without paper.
Lexus in the title stems from a visit to a Toyota car factory where 66 people and 310 robots produce 300 Lexus sedans daily. Lexus represents our drive for improvement, prosperity, modernization, and innovation. The Olive tree stands for stability, family values, and a sense of belonging. The anonymous, transnational, homogenizing, standardizing forces of the Lexus are the biggest threat to the olive tree. Our challenge is to find a healthy balance between the two while recognizing that competitive pressures oblige us to build a bigger and better Lexus every day. Globalization can be likened to a race that you have to run day after day after day. However many times you win, you still have to run again next day. If you lose by a fraction of a second it is as though you lost by an hour. By just entering the race you threaten the very existence of your own olive tree. By not entering the race you may not even be around to enjoy your olive tree.
We cannot hope to understand and manage globalization without reference to all its components and how they interact with each other. Friedman has provided us with a guidebook giving the various components of globalization and suggestions on how we might go about managing globalization. This book is essential reading whether you want to be a Lexus or an olive tree.
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on 5 December 2000
I achieve to read this book during my holidays, which tells you that this is a rather entertaining & well-written one. The only problems are: 1/ if you are already interested in the subject, and been reading article on this matter (which is very likely, otherwise, don't buy that book ! ),you won't learn anything, apart from the author's anecdotical experiences... 2/ if you are interested on the author's take on the subject, it can be summarize by : there are good sides and bad sides to globalisation, but there are more good ones than bad ones !
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on 17 January 2006
This book was great to read, quirky & entertaining throughout whilst driving home some serious comments about globalisation and its place in todays world.
However, Thomas Friedman blows America's trumpet throughout the book. Very American in his viewpoints and not impartial as one would expect .
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on 23 December 2003
I found this to be a compelling and insightful read. Yes, much of the discussion is based on anecdote and conversations that the author has had throughout his career but I found this to be the most valuable aspect. He shows Globalisation to be what it really is, the unstoppable movement of the global herd - basically comprised of a group of disparate people connected through one huge market.
The best part of the book though has to be the conclusions that the author draws - that there is no one group/organisation that can be held responsible for 'globalisation', that this is the best wealth creating system that we have come up with but that we must better seek to reduce the impact on the least enfranchised in society if we are to continue along this path. Very timely bearing in mind current, and continuing, world events.
I highly recommend you take a look.
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on 18 June 2008
Hello. My name is Gary Shane McGill and I read this book as part of my course work at Salisbury University in Maryland. This book is a look at globalization as a snapshot prior to 9/11, so obviously the sequel The World is Flat is a must read, but this is like an appetizer to warm things up.

I would highly recommend anything that Thomas L. Friedman writes because you can learn a lot from his writings. There is no one single book out there that is perfect about globalization, but when you consider when this was written, I would say that he did an excellent job.
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