I cannot count on two hands the number of times people scoffed when they witnessed me reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, a true testament to a few themes in the book. The point of The World is Flat is basically that we are living in a world made smaller and flatter via technological innovation combined with globalization. Friedman emphasizes his point with a great deal of anecdotal evidence for which he drew on his own experiences and interviews as a journalist. Friedman travelled all over the world to get this story, particularly to where the epicenter of this world-flattening event is taking place; India, Bangalore, and China. The book begins with a description of the flat world as Friedman sees it, followed by an exploration of the short history (2000 to the present) that made the world so much smaller; from Netscape to Wal-Mart to UPS, Friedman explores the ideas, products, and businesses that have pounded flat the playing field. From this discussion, Friedman then explores how America is coping with these trends. It was American businesses that led the way toward globalization. So why would people, especially Americans, scoff and why would that prove some of Friedman's points? Well, quite simply because Friedman argues heavily that there is a "Quiet Crisis" happening by which Americans (and peoples of other nations) are beginning to let up and allow themselves to be beaten by the rest of the world in education (most notably math and science). Futhermore, rather than bump up funding in these areas, Americans have allowed themselves to be distracted by celebrites and the war on terror. Rather than accept globalization as an unstoppable force and roll with it, Americans have seemingly chosen the road of fear and blame.
The average American does not understand globalization, nor does he/she want to, and would rather pine about lost factory jobs than realize the wider opportunities that are opened by local factory closings. All the while, the peoples of developing nations are taking the reigns of the lower-paying factory and service jobs that Americans once dominated. Americans must adapt by surging forward and creating the next innovation in business. From here Friedman launches into a comparatively shorter (and arguably less compelling) section on how developing nations and corporations must deal with globalization. His basic arguments are that countries that haven't been involved in globalization need to step forward and get in the game while corporations must create new opportunities and innovations if they are to survive. In the end though, it is free trade that is the answer which will create worldwide prosperity and insulate countries from war (Friedman calls it the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention - much like his Golden Arches Theory from his previous book). Friedman is absolutely convinced that further flattening of the world will lead to much greater communication and therefore prosperity than it will war and conflict...a hopeful idea, given the state of the world today.