Saturday, August 06, 2005

Of Lexuses and Olive Trees...

I'd read Thomas Friedman's book a month or two ago. And had maintained a file "Logical Flaws in Friedman.txt" on my desktop. Just felt like releasing my learnings to the world.

Note: The second point below makes more sense now with the Mumbai rains being called a great leveler - after all, Amir Khan (and a Mck consultant I know of :) ) were also stranded, werent they?

So here I go...

1. "Democratization of finance, information and technology impels the need for the Golden Straightjacket."

What about areas that dont have the 3Ds yet? This statement is like saying the US economy should be ready for globalization, duh!

2. Towards the end of chapter 9, Friedman has this to say: "The one thing you can say in favour of globalization system is that it doesn't discriminate - it leaves both the weak and the powerful feeling a loss of control and under the thumb of unelected and at times uncontrollable forces". The anecdote he cites is pathetic. He talks about how Mexico's Fin Min felt powerless when its economy went for a toss. So all he's saying is that the Fin Min of Mexico and a taxi-driver in Mexico would have been equally helpless. That's not to accept or deny the fact that foreigners have the power.

Reminds me of a post Dilip D'Souza had written soon after the tsunami. Every once in a while, when there's a natural disaster the media loves to talk about how nature is a great leveler and the rich & poor have both been hit by the calamity irrespective of their status. Dilip made this rather insightful observation that if you visited the same area a few months after the calamity, you would find that the well-to-do have gone ahead with their lives in spite of the calamity. But its the poor who have their lives shattered on a larger scale and take much longer to bounce back. Like Friedman states, a disciplined country that has gone ahead in preparing itself for globalization will bounce back much easier from a recession than one that has not.

Globalization is so much like an earthquake or a volcano. Its beyond one's control, and the threat lurks forever. But if it hits you, you'll suffer hugely if you arent well prepared. So get your earthquake-resistant buildings in place well before it strikes.

3. Friedman does NOT answer the question as to why a country should globalize. Its more like you've got no choice but to globalize because everyone else is doing it. Of course, history helps him in killing the possibility of any other system working. Why?. Because so far, communism, socialism etc have failed and capitalism has worked. Am reminded of "Mr. Romeo, ippo Taj Mahal idinji poidichunnu vechukonga. Neengalellam kaathalikratha niruthiduvingala?" from Anbe Sivam. (Translation: Would the concept of love be deemed a failure if something that symbolized love were to be demolished?)

4. Friedman tries to give the impression that the Electronic Herd is a global force. But given that most, if not all, members of the EH reside in the developed world, the argument seems rather shaky. So in essence, what globalization does is to outsource a developing country's economic sovereignty to the whims and fancies of members of developed countries.

5. Friedman, like many other pro-globalisation junta, says that the governments have to shrink themselves etc. But in a country like India where food security and financial poverty are found on a large scale, the government has to play a crucial role - and reducing the size of government might affect it.

6. The number of anecdotes falls steeply as Friedman gets to the chapters on environ etc. Its more speculation, and reads like one long essay.

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