Flat Note from the Pied Piper of Globalization

Flat Note from the Pied Piper of Globalization

Thomas L. Friedman’s The World Is Flat

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, 488 pp., $27.50



Thomas L. Friedman’s new book is one of those works that reveals more than the author seems to intend—or perhaps understands. For the past year or so, a new tone has seeped into the writings of Friedman and the other pundits who have promoted the protection system for transnational investors that we call globalization and the rest of the world calls “neoliberalism.” In the past they have assured us that, whatever we call this process, it is a “win-win” for everyone, apparently the only exception to the dictum of another Friedman (Milton, no relation) that there is no free lunch.

But as the economic casualties—lost jobs, lower wages, the proliferation of sweatshops—have mounted, the tune is now slightly less upbeat. There is, after all, a bit of a bill to be paid, and Americans, of all people, will have to pay it.

As one would expect, Friedman’s new book is a paean to the entrepreneurs who are “flattening” the world; in other words, taking advantage of the new technologies that allow businesspeople to enter the global market from anywhere.

In his trademark style, Friedman gives us pithy snippets of his conversations with people around the world who are getting rich on this phenomenon and, not surprisingly, think it is a great thing.


Jeff Faux was the founding president and is now Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute. His new book, The Global Class War, will be published by Wiley in January.