The World is Flat
By Thomas L. Friedman
By Richard E. Noble
I don’t know if this book is serious or it is some kind of tongue in cheek, cynical joke. Basically Mr. Friedman is informing the American reader that every job in America is subject to downsizing or off-shoring via the wonders of internet technology. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, accountants and down the line to the “voice” that takes orders at your local MacDonald’s may all be piped in from India, China or Asia. Although Tom tell us all about this in a tempered, fearful voice, his bottom line is this is all good, inevitable and the positive road of the future.
Globalism is nothing new it started as early as Christopher Columbus, as Thomas points out. But we can go back even further to Marco Polo if we choose to.
I agree with Mr. Friedman that this is the biggest turn of events the world has seen and I agree that the arguments pro and con are pretty much the same old same old.
But the big difference I see in this new state of Globalization is what I would term a violent twist in moral thinking. Friedman and others justify this no-holds-barred type of competition on an international type universal morality. In other words, poor hard working people around the world will be able to improve their status. Jobs will fly from America and other well-off Western countries via cable and new computer technology and the people in the once better-off countries will have to step up or get trampled. If they step up, get retrained and re-educate themselves they will be able to get the more prestigious, higher paying jobs while the “grunt” work is palmed off on the Indians and Asians overseas.
To me this book is an example of oblivious, classist thinking of the first degree. Mr. Friedman does admit that there are some people in America and elsewhere who will undoubtedly suffer … but, what can “we” do. It is so unfortunate that everyone (read working class) can’t be invited to the party.
The problem with this “new” globalism is that there is only one aspect of it that is new. It is the idea that businesses can trade with one another to the disadvantage of their home country and that this is all well and good and justifiable “in the long run.” As the famous economist John M. Keynes once said, “Unfortunately, in the long run we are all dead.”
Lee Iacocca said recently that when he was an ambitious, aspiring corporate executive, the competition was rugged and relentless but never did he or any of his executive friends think that the selling out of their home country was on the table. This is not the case in the “new” global economy.
In “Locked in the Cabinet” Robert Reich tells of a debate he had with economist and fellow Clinton Cabinet member Robert Rubin. The GDP was rising but all the increases were going to a small percentage of Americans at the top. Reich asked Rubin if policies were enacted that solely benefited the upper 2% of the society resulting in a growth in GDP would he considered this to be good, justifiable growth? Rubin answered in the affirmative while Reich disagreed. Today even Rubin has recanted his stand on this position. He was just on the TV screaming about the fiscal insanity of extending tax cuts for the top 2%. Inequality is growing to depression like proportions.
Today we see growth taking place at the top while the rest of us not only remain stagnant but deteriorate. This may be morally righteous from a third world perspective but it is morally disastrous for those of us stuck here in the so called “first world.”
This type of thinking has to be “repatriotized.”
None of us anti-globalist are Levellers or protectionist. Everyone believes in trade and on a global basis but we can’t keep trading away the livelihoods and the futures of the American middle class and the working class. We can’t trade away all our manufacturing and our industrial base. If MacDonald’s can’t afford to hire a neighborhood girl or boy to take orders through the drive-in window and must offshore this menial task to India or China because it saves them money, then we Americans can no longer afford to buy our burgers at MacDonald’s or Burger Kind or whoever. And the same goes for all of our industries.
We must have some reasonable rules. For example, possibly a rule stating that any corporation that sells its products to the United States must have a minimum of 20% of its production based here in the U.S. as I think they are already doing in China. We need smart trade, not free trade. The world is still round from where I sit. And I’m not about to move into a thatched or mud hut because it makes the top 2% of America wealthier. This type thinking must stop.