Sunday, April 29, 2007

The World is Argumentative

If there were a national security version of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch, I’d like to nominate these two:

Thomas Friedman


Pankaj Ghemawat

[Note: Ghemawat wrote an article for the Mar/Apr 07 Foreign Policy called “Why the World Isn’t Flat." And you all should know about Tom Friedman’s book by now.]

Friedman begins:

“Pankaj Ghemawat says the world is not flat (“Why the World Isn’t Flat,” March/April 2007). No kidding. In arguing that globalization and economic integration are still far from a reality, Ghemawat fails to take into account the bigger picture of what is actually taking place in the business world. His narrow focus on the “10 percent” of internationalization across certain industries obscures my basic argument about the future of globalization. Obviously, the world is not yet flat. But my larger point is that the “flattening” technologies and processes of globalization now under way are the most important developments not just in economics but also in government, politics, war, finance, journalism, innovation, and society in general. Flattening technologies are empowering individuals, in previously unheard of ways, to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before. Big institutions, from newspapers and television networks to software firms and Texas power companies, are being fundamentally transformed or challenged by these superempowered individuals. Two tiny environmental groups just held up the biggest leveraged buyout in history—the deal for TXU, the Texas electrical utility—until it was reshaped to their liking. Tell them the world is not flat.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)

Ghemawat responds:

“Thomas Friedman seems not to have read beyond the title of my article. If he had, he would have realized that the 10 percent presumption isn’t based on a narrow focus on “certain industries.” My measure of the internationalization of investment, for example, aggregate across all industries. But such a relation probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, since Friedman has very little use for data. The 450-plus pages of his World is Flat do not contain a single table, chart, or footnote. Instead, we get a jumble of stories held together with hyperbole.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)


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