Monday, July 10, 2006

Too bad they couldn't get this down to the reading level of My Pet Goat

President Bush is an avid reader.

Every once in a while there is a book that I read that I think every person who has the ability to read should pick up and consider regardless of political ideology, education, career etc. I recently finished the updated and expanded edition of The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman, and this book is not only well-written but has some fabulous ideas related to globalization, the economy and the future viability of America's competitiveness abroad. I tend to be quite stubborn about my viewpoints, but reading this book completely changed how I thought about globalization.

The conventional wisdom about globalization is that it's generally a bad thing. After all, we lose jobs every day to developing countries where companies can make their athletic shoes by paying a 6 year-old 5 cents an hour to work 80 hours a week in poor conditions. While Friedman doesn't take the opposite viewpoint, since he does acknowledge many of the negative aspects of globalization, he does take the viewpoint that globalization is here, and it's in our best interest to figure out how to work within it, rather than opposing it and falling further behind competitively.

I am not writing a book report here, so if you want to know more about the book, take your curious ass on over to Amazon and order a copy or visit your local public library. This website is not a replacement for actual reading.

The main point that I wish people would understand and could get if they took the time to read Friedman's book is how critical education is to our economic competitiveness. India and China are kicking our asses right now in science and engineering. This should scare the shit out of us, but the public outcry has been pretty limited. Our complacency about education is going to put us massively behind other countries in terms of innovation, so that essentially if we continue to fall behind, we're going to be someone's bitch economically speaking. Our dependence on other countries for oil is already hosing us economically, and our lack of concern for the declining quality of education is only going to stifle economic progress in the long run.

The other fantastic point that Friedman makes as a positive aspect of globalization is that countries that are linked together economically, primarily through global supply chains, are highly unlikely to start wars against each other because of the vested economic interest each country has in the other. If you look at the countries that we tend to fight, they're not our economic partners. Globalization increases those linkages between countries, and will decrease military conflict in the future as more countries get a piece of the pie.

It's one of those times when I wish the President would read something other than the Bible and children's books, because I think he could take some ideas an really make improvements in his economic policy. Unfortunately, it looks like we've still got a few more years of "run and gun" left before we see the end of this era.


CowboyLaw said...

Two items, more in rebuttal to the book than to Mr. Midget.

1. While the intertwining of commercial interests CAN have the effect of decreasing wars, it can also have the opposite effect. Case in point: Iraq war version 1.0. We were dragging into that war for two reasons, both related to commercial interests intertwining: (1) the Kuwaities were our commercial partners, thus we had to come to their aid; and (2) American has a huge dependence on Middle Eastern oil, thus we had to ensure a uninterrupted supply. The spice must flow!

2. Globalization is not a foregone conclusion. One fairly easy and substantial step American could take: drop out of NAFTA and start levying import dues on all those cars GM and Ford are manufacturing in Mexico. GM and Ford made the choice to move factories to Mexico because it made financial sense: (A) Low to no pesky environmental laws to worry about; and (B) people will work for food. Once you reverse the financial incentive, you reverse the job migration.

Now, anytime you start to talk about import dues and fees, people start wailing about the Great Depression and asserting (because their fifth grade teacher said so) that the great global depression was caused by an import tax war. As with every other time a single, simple answer is suggested regarding a global economic issue, that answer is dead wrong.

Furthermore, there currently exist a plethora (and I do know what a plethora is) of import dues exacted by a cornucopia of countries, including most EU countries and Japan. The focus of many of these import taxes is an attempt to level the playing field between rich and poor countries. Thus, France places import dues on agricultural products imported from countries with low labor rates. If France didn't, all French farms (except vineyards) would be bankrupt in about a year, because the farmers in Chile don't have unions, pensions, or a 35-hour workweek. Why can't we do the same?

In truth, globalization benefits only the upper class, and it does so in two ways. First, they're the ones who own the businesses that can outsource jobs to Angola and thereby increase the profits going into their withered, grasping hands. Second, they're the ones who own most of the stock in publicly-traded companys, therefore when these publicly-traded companies outsource jobs to Laos and increase profits, those increased profits are paid as increased dividends to these same vampiric bastards. Now, since I'm the closest thing this Blog has to an upper-class wage earner, perhaps I should just shut up and smile. But, in the words of Charles Kane, if I don't look out for the interests of the common man, who will?

Miles said...

I play games. I don't read.

Lord Bling said...

Miles plays all kinds of games. Paper Rock Scissors is a good one. Oh, and so is 'Hide the Priest's Salami.'