A brilliant investigation of globalization, the most significant socioeconomic trend in the world today, and how it is affecting everything we do-economically, politically, and culturally-abroad and at home.
As foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman crisscrosses the globe talking with the world's economic and political leaders, and reporting, as only he can, on what he sees. Now he has used his years of experience as a reporter and columnist to produce a pithy, trenchant, riveting look at the worldwide market forces that are driving today's economies and how they are playing out both internationally and locally.
Globalization is the technologically driven expression of free-market capitalism, and as such is essentially an American creation. It has irrevocably changed the way business is done and has raised living standards throughout the world. But powerful local forces-of religion, race, ethnicity, and cultural identity-are in competition with technology for the hearts and minds of their societies. Finding the proper balance between the Lexus and the olive tree is the great game of globalization-and the ultimate theme of Friedman's challenging, provocative book, essential reading for all who care about how the world really works.
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About the Author
Thomas l. Friedman's now-classic From Beirut to Jerusalem won the 1988 National Book Award and established him as America's leading interpreter of international affairs. Twice a Pulitzer Prize winner for his reportage, he lives in Washington, D.C.
Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist-the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books, among them From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World Is Flat.
He was born in Minneapolis in 1953, and grew up in the middle-class Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies, attended St. Antony's College, Oxford, on a Marshall Scholarship, and received an M.Phil. degree in modern Middle East studies from Oxford. After three years with United Press International, he joined The New York Times, where he has worked ever since as a reporter, correspondent, bureau chief, and columnist. At the Times, he has won three Pulitzer Prizes: in 1983 for international reporting (from Lebanon), in 1988 for international reporting (from Israel), and in 2002 for his columns after the September 11th attacks.
Friedman's first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, won the National Book Award in 1989. His second book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999), won the Overseas Press Club Award for best book on foreign policy in 2000. In 2002 FSG published a collection of his Pulitzer Prize-winning columns, along with a diary he kept after 9/11, as Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11. His fourth book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) became a #1 New York Times bestseller and received the inaugural Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in November 2005. A revised and expanded edition was published in hardcover in 2006 and in 2007. The World Is Flat has sold more than 4 million copies in thirty-seven languages.
In 2008 he brought out Hot, Flat, and Crowded, which was published in a revised edition a year later. His sixth book, That Used to Be Us: How American Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back, co-written with Michael Mandelbaum, was published in 2011.
Thomas L. Friedman lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his family.
Hometown:Washington, D.C. area
Date of Birth:July 20, 1953
Place of Birth:Minneapolis, Minnesota
Education:B.A. in Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University, 1975; M.A. in Modern Middle East Studies, Oxford University, 1978
Read an Excerpt
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
By Thomas L. Friedman
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2000 Thomas L. Friedman
All rights reserved.
The New System
What was it that Forrest Gump's mama liked to say? Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get inside. For me, an inveterate traveler and foreign correspondent, life is like room service — you never know what you're going to find outside your door.
Take for instance the evening of December 31, 1994, when I began my assignment as the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times. I started the column by writing from Tokyo, and when I arrived at the Okura Hotel after a long transpacific flight, I called room service with one simple request: "Could you please send me up four oranges." I am addicted to citrus and I needed a fix. It seemed to me a simple enough order when I telephoned it in, and the person on the other end seemed to understand. About twenty minutes later there was a knock at my door. A room service waiter was standing there in his perfectly creased uniform. In front of him was a cart covered by a starched white tablecloth. On the tablecloth were four tall glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice, each glass set regally in a small silver bowl of ice.
"No, no," I said to the waiter, "I want oranges, oranges — not orange juice." I then pretended to bite into something like an orange.
"Ahhhh," the waiter said, nodding his head. "O-ranges, o-ranges."
I retreated into my room and went back to work. Twenty minutes later there was another knock at my door. Same waiter. Same linen-covered room service trolley. But this time, on it were four plates and on each plate was an orange that had been peeled and diced into perfect little sections that were fanned out on a plate like sushi, as only the Japanese can do.
"No, no," I said, shaking my head again. "I want the whole orange." I made a ball shape with my hands. "I want to keep them in my room and eat them for snacks. I can't eat four oranges all cut up like that. I can't store them in my mini-bar. I want the whole orange."
Again, I did my best exaggerated imitation of someone eating an orange.
"Ahhhh," the waiter said, nodding his head. "O-range, o-range. You want whole orange."
Another twenty minutes went by. Again there was a knock on my door. Same waiter. Same trolley, only this time he had four bright oranges, each one on its own dinner plate, with a fork, knife and linen napkin next to it. That was progress.
"That's right," I said, signing the bill. "That's just what I wanted."
As he left the room, I looked down at the room service bill. The four oranges were $22. How am I going to explain that to my publisher?
But my citrus adventures were not over. Two weeks later I was in Hanoi, having dinner by myself in the dining room of the Metropole Hotel. It was the tangerine season in Vietnam, and vendors were selling pyramids of the most delicious, bright orange tangerines on every street corner. Each morning I had a few tangerines for breakfast. When the waiter came to get my dessert order I told him all I wanted was a tangerine.
He went away and came back a few minutes later.
"Sorry," he said, "no tangerines."
"But how can that be?" I asked in exasperation. "You have a table full of them at breakfast every morning! Surely there must be a tangerine somewhere back in the kitchen?"
"Sorry." He shook his head. "Maybe you like watermelon?"
"O.K.," I said, "bring me some watermelon."
Five minutes later the waiter returned with a plate bearing three peeled tangerines on it.
"I found the tangerines," he said. "No watermelon."
Had I known then what I know now I would have taken it all as a harbinger. For I too would find a lot of things on my plate and outside my door that I wasn't planning to find as I traveled the globe for the Times.
Being the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times is actually the best job in the world. I mean, someone has to have the best job, right? Well, I've got it. The reason it is such a great job is that I get to be a tourist with an attitude. I get to go anywhere, anytime, and have attitudes about what I see and hear. But the question for me as I embarked on this odyssey was: Which attitudes? What would be the lens, the perspective, the organizing system — the superstory — through which I would look at the world, make sense of events, prioritize them, opine upon them and help readers understand them?
In some ways my predecessors had it a little easier. They each had a very obvious superstory and international system in place when they were writing. I am the fifth foreign affairs columnist in the history of the Times. "Foreign Affairs" is actually the paper's oldest column. It was begun in 1937 by a remarkable woman, Anne O'Hare McCormick, and was originally called "In Europe," because in those days, "in Europe" was foreign affairs for most Americans, and it seemed perfectly natural that the paper's one overseas columnist would be located on the European continent. Mrs. McCormick's 1954 obituary in the Times said she got her start in foreign reporting "as the wife of Mr. McCormick, a Dayton engineer whom she accompanied on frequent buying trips to Europe." (New York Times obits have become considerably more politically correct since then.) The international system which she covered was the disintegration of balance-of-power Versailles Europe and the beginnings of World War II.
As America emerged from World War II, standing astride the world as the preeminent superpower, with global responsibilities and engaged in a global power struggle with the Soviet Union, the title of the column changed in 1954 to "Foreign Affairs." Suddenly the whole world was America's playing field and the whole world mattered, because every corner was being contested with the Soviet Union. The Cold War international system, with its competition for influence and supremacy between the capitalist West and the communist East, between Washington, Moscow and Beijing, became the superstory within which the next three foreign affairs columnists organized their opinions.
By the time I started the column at the beginning of 1995, though, the Cold War was over. The Berlin Wall had crumbled and the Soviet Union was history. I had the good fortune to witness, in the Kremlin, one of the last gasps of the Soviet Union. The day was December 16, 1991. Secretary of State James A. Baker III was visiting Moscow, just as Boris Yeltsin was easing Mikhail Gorbachev out of power. Whenever Baker had met Gorbachev previously, they had held their talks in the Kremlin's gold-gilded St. Catherine Hall. There was always a very orchestrated entry scene for the press. Mr. Baker and his entourage would wait behind two huge wooden double doors on one end of the long Kremlin hall, with Gorbachev and his team behind the doors on the other end. And then, by some signal, the doors would simultaneously open and each man would stride out and they would shake hands in front of the cameras in the middle of the room. Well, on this day Baker arrived for his meeting at the appointed hour, the doors swung open and Boris Yeltsin walked out, instead of Gorbachev. Guess who's coming to dinner! "Welcome to Russian soil and this Russian building," Yeltsin said to Baker. Baker did meet Gorbachev later in the day, but it was clear that power had shifted. We State Department reporters who were there to chronicle the event ended up spending that whole day in the Kremlin. It snowed heavily while we were inside, and when we finally walked out after sunset we found the Kremlin grounds covered in a white snow blanket. As we trudged to the Kremlin's Spassky Gate, our shoes crunching fresh tracks in the snow, I noticed that the red Soviet hammer and sickle was still flying atop the Kremlin flagpole, illuminated by a spotlight as it had been for some seventy years. I said to myself, "That is probably the last time I'll ever see that flag flying there." In a few weeks it was indeed gone, and with it went the Cold War system and superstory.
But what wasn't clear to me as I embarked upon my column assignment a few years later was what had replaced the Cold War system as the dominant organizing framework for international affairs. So I actually began my column as a tourist without an attitude — just an open mind. For several years, I, like everyone else, just referred to "the post–Cold War world." We knew some new system was aborning that constituted a different framework for international relations, but we couldn't define what it was, so we defined it by what it wasn't. It wasn't the Cold War. So we called it the post–Cold War world.
The more I traveled, though, the more it became apparent to me that we were not just in some messy, incoherent, indefinable post–Cold War world. Rather, we were in a new international system. This new system had its own unique logic, rules, pressures and incentives and it deserved its own name: "globalization." Globalization is not just some economic fad, and it is not just a passing trend. It is an international system — the dominant international system that replaced the Cold War system after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We need to understand it as such. If there can be a statute of limitations on crimes, then surely there must be a statute of limitations on foreign policy clichés. With that in mind, the "post–Cold War world" should be declared over. We are now in the new international system of globalization.
* * *
When I say that globalization has replaced the Cold War as the defining international system, what exactly do I mean?
I mean that, as an international system, the Cold War had its own structure of power: the balance between the United States and the U.S.S.R. The Cold War had its own rules: in foreign affairs, neither superpower would encroach on the other's sphere of influence; in economics, less developed countries would focus on nurturing their own national industries, developing countries on export-led growth, communist countries on autarky and Western economies on regulated trade. The Cold War had its own dominant ideas: the clash between communism and capitalism, as well as detente, nonalignment and perestroika. The Cold War had its own demographic trends: the movement of people from east to west was largely frozen by the Iron Curtain, but the movement from south to north was a more steady flow. The Cold War had its own perspective on the globe: the world was a space divided into the communist camp, the Western camp, and the neutral camp, and everyone's country was in one of them. The Cold War had its own defining technologies: nuclear weapons and the second Industrial Revolution were dominant, but for many people in developing countries the hammer and sickle were still relevant tools. The Cold War had its own defining measurement: the throw weight of nuclear missiles. And lastly, the Cold War had its own defining anxiety: nuclear annihilation. When taken all together the elements of this Cold War system influenced the domestic politics, commerce and foreign relations of virtually every country in the world. The Cold War system didn't shape everything, but it shaped many things.
Today's era of globalization is a similar international system, with its own unique attributes, which contrast sharply with those of the Cold War. To begin with the Cold War system was characterized by one overarching feature — division. The world was a divided-up, chopped-up place and both your threats and opportunities in the Cold War system tended to grow out of who you were divided from. Appropriately, this Cold War system was symbolized by a single word: the wall — the Berlin Wall. One of my favorite descriptions of that world was provided by Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men. Nicholson plays a Marine colonel who is the commander of the U.S. base in Cuba, at Guantánamo Bay. In the climactic scene of the movie, Nicholson is pressed by Tom Cruise to explain how a certain weak soldier under Nicholson's command, Santiago, was beaten to death by his own fellow Marines: "You want answers?" shouts Nicholson. "You want answers?" I want the truth, retorts Cruise. "You can't handle the truth," says Nicholson. "Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know — that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall."
The globalization system is a bit different. It also has one overarching feature — integration. The world has become an increasingly interwoven place, and today, whether you are a company or a country, your threats and opportunities increasingly derive from who you are connected to. This globalization system is also characterized by a single word: the Web. So in the broadest sense we have gone from a system built around division and walls to a system increasingly built around integration and webs. In the Cold War we reached for the "hotline," which was a symbol that we were all divided but at least two people were in charge — the United States and the Soviet Union — and in the globalization system we reach for the Internet, which is a symbol that we are all increasingly connected and nobody is quite in charge.
This leads to many other differences between the globalization system and the Cold War system. The globalization system, unlike the Cold War system, is not frozen, but a dynamic ongoing process. That's why I define globalization this way: it is the inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before — in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before, and in a way that is enabling the world to reach into individuals, corporations and nation-states farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before. This process of globalization is also producing a powerful backlash from those brutalized or left behind by this new system.
The driving idea behind globalization is free-market capitalism — the more you let market forces rule and the more you open your economy to free trade and competition, the more efficient and flourishing your economy will be. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world. Therefore, globalization also has its own set of economic rules — rules that revolve around opening, deregulating and privatizing your economy, in order to make it more competitive and attractive to foreign investment. In 1975, at the height of the Cold War, only 8 percent of countries worldwide had liberal, free-market capital regimes, and foreign direct investment at the time totaled only $23 billion, according to the World Bank. By 1997, the number of countries with liberal economic regimes constituted 28 percent, and foreign investment totaled $644 billion.
Unlike the Cold War system, globalization has its own dominant culture, which is why it tends to be homogenizing to a certain degree. In previous eras this sort of cultural homogenization happened on a regional scale — the Romanization of Western Europe and the Mediterranean world, the Islamification of Central Asia, North Africa, Europe and the Middle East by the Arabs and later the Ottomans, or the Russification of Eastern and Central Europe and parts of Eurasia under the Soviets. Culturally speaking, globalization has tended to involve the spread (for better and for worse) of Americanization — from Big Macs to iMacs to Mickey Mouse.
Globalization has its own defining technologies: computerization, miniaturization, digitization, satellite communications, fiber optics and the Internet, which reinforce its defining perspective of integration. Once a country makes the leap into the system of globalization, its elites begin to internalize this perspective of integration, and always try to locate themselves in a global context. I was visiting Amman, Jordan, in the summer of 1998 and having coffee at the Inter-Continental Hotel with my friend Rami Khouri, the leading political columnist in Jordan. We sat down and I asked him what was new. The first thing he said to me was: "Jordan was just added to CNN's worldwide weather highlights." What Rami was saying was that it is important for Jordan to know that those institutions which think globally believe it is now worth knowing what the weather is like in Amman. It makes Jordanians feel more important and holds out the hope that they will be enriched by having more tourists or global investors visiting. The day after seeing Rami I happened to go to Israel and meet with Jacob Frenkel, governor of Israel's Central Bank and a University of Chicago–trained economist. Frenkel remarked that he too was going through a perspective change: "Before, when we talked about macroeconomics, we started by looking at the local markets, local financial systems and the interrelationship between them, and then, as an afterthought, we looked at the international economy. There was a feeling that what we do is primarily our own business and then there are some outlets where we will sell abroad. Now we reverse the perspective. Let's not ask what markets we should export to, after having decided what to produce; rather let's first study the global framework within which we operate and then decide what to produce. It changes your whole perspective."
Excerpted from The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman. Copyright © 2000 Thomas L. Friedman. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword to the 2000 Edition,
Opening Scene: The World Is Ten Years Old,
Part One: Seeing the System,
1. The New System,
2. Information Arbitrage,
3. The Lexus and the Olive Tree,
4. ... And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,
5. Microchip Immune Deficiency,
6. The Golden Straitjacket,
7. The Electronic Herd,
Part Two: Plugging into the System,
8. DOScapital 6.0,
10. Shapers, Adapters and Other New Ways of Thinking About Power,
11. Buy Taiwan, Hold Italy, Sell France,
12. The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention,
13. Demolition Man,
14. Winners Take All,
Part Three: The Backlash Against the System,
15. The Backlash,
16. The Groundswell,
Part Four: America and the System,
17. Rational Exuberance,
18. Revolution Is U.S.,
19. If You Want to Speak to a Human Being, Press 1,
20. There Is a Way Forward,
Also by Thomas L. Friedman,
Additional Praise for The Lexus and the Olive Tree,
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
How do you move forward and build a worldwide operating system that respects people's homes and still empowers individuals, countries, and organizations? The book doesn't give all the answers, but it brings up the issues (Patricia Pomerleau is President and CEO, CEOExpress.com).
On Wednesday, June 2nd, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Thomas L. Friedman to discuss THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE.
Moderator: Welcome, Thomas Friedman! Congratulations on the success of THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE. How are you this evening?
Thomas L. Friedman: I'm great!
Jerome from Santa Fe, NM: Why did you choose the Lexus and the olive tree as the key symbols in this book?
Thomas L. Friedman: I visited the Lexus factory in Japan in 1992, and at that time, it was the most cutting-edge car factory in the world. They built the Lexus with 66 human beings and 310 robots. I was blown away. At the end of the day, I went to the train station to take the bullet train back to Tokyo, and I bought my sushi dinner, and a copy of that day's International Herald Tribune. There was a story in the Herald Tribune about a big argument the Arabs and Israeli's were having over some 1948 UN resolution, and the thought occurred to me, which was the origin of this book, that the people whose factory I had just visited, whose sushi I was eating, were building the greatest luxury car in the world with robots, and the people in the Herald Tribune whom I knew so well, whom I had lived with so long, were still fighting over who owns which olive tree, and ain't that the post-cold war world? Half of us are struggling to build a better Lexus, and half of us are fighting over who owns which olive tree.
Orlando Goveia from Chatham, Ontario.: Do you think that many large global corporations now have more economic clout than most of the member states of the United Nations? If this is true, what do you think the implications of that are for international politics? How do you see it affecting the standard of living of the developed "Western" democracies?
Thomas L. Friedman: There's no question that a company like Microsoft or Intel has more weight and more income than a lot of countries in the world. I call them in my book the Super Markets, which today are like Super Powers, and we who live in democracies have to make sure that these Super Markets remain under the discipline and authority of governments, and don't become some kind of extra-territorial force that can affect our lives but we can't affect them.
Francis Mahoney from Westchester, NY: It seems that America is a country with a whole lot of Lexus, but do we have an olive tree? In a sense, it seems like the Lexus has become our olive tree, meaning we often identify ourselves through what we produce and sell. What do you think of this?
Thomas L. Friedman: It's a very thoughtful question, but I do think we do have our olive trees. I grew up in Minnesota, I feel very close to Minnesota -- it's my community, it's the place I call home. And I don't identify myself as Tom Friedman from The New York Times -- I identify myself as Tom Friedman from Minnesota. So I think olive trees are still important. They are what root us and anchor us in the world, and a tree without roots will never be stable. But a tree that's only roots will never grow into the world, bear fruit, and provide shade. The trick is to keep your Lexus and olive tree in balance.
John from East Village, NYC: Are you at all concerned with the potential effects of the Y2K crisis? What do you envision the potential aftermath for the global economy if the Y2K bug does its deed?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, I think you have to distinguish between what's likely to happen in America, and what's likely to happen in some developing countries. In America, I expect there will be some disruption, but it will be over in a month. As for other countries, I don't intend to be on a Russian Aeroflot plane that takes off from New York on December 31, 1999, and lands in Russia on Y2K day. That is, it's clear that a lot of countries still don't have the resources, the wherewithal, and the technical skills to really confront this problem, and for them I'm deeply concerned. I do deal with this issue to some extent in the book.
Oren from Houston, TX: You say in your book that the end of the cold war gave rise to globalization. How quickly did this happen? Was the urge for globalization part of why the cold war ended? Do you think globalization would have come about if there never was a cold war?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, those are all good questions. I believe that globalization is driven at root by a very old and deep human desire for economic betterment and for more choices. It begins there. At the same time, though, so much of what we think about as globalization is really driven by technologies. The fact that we all can be communicating right now across billions of miles, probably seven different continents for the cost of a phone call from barnesandnoble.com in New York to me in Washington, D.C., is pretty amazing, and that's also something that is driving globalization, that is only present today and wasn't available just a decade ago.
Alicia from Austin, TX: Do you foresee an emerging Asian (I suppose Pacific is a bit more PC?) technological alliance, especially when considering the current economic/political positions of Japan, Korea, China, and India?
Thomas L. Friedman: I don't really think so. I think that you've got technology now that is available for companies to work around the clock. You can start an email project in Washington and bounce it to your West Coast operation and designers work on it there, and they bounce it to Tokyo, and the new team in Tokyo works on it and then bounces it to Bangalore, India, and they bounce it up to Paris and over to Washington. They call it "Java Around the Clock." So why would anyone want to confine themselves just to the Pacific when you can now dribble around the whole world and have access to the best minds on seven continents all in 24 hours?
Jon from Memphis, TN: Can you recommend any further reading for us on the subject of globalization?
Thomas L. Friedman: As long as you promise me you've bought my book, I'd recommend you read a book called COMMANDING HEIGHTS by Daniel Yergin. I'd read ONE WORLD, READY OR NOT by Bill Greider. And for a more academic twist on this, I'd look at the work of Danny Rodrick.
Jen from Jersey City, NJ: During the cold war, the world was easily definable, because everyone knew who their "enemy" was. Who do you think the enemy is today?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, I don't think for the moment, if you are talking about the United States, that we have a single overarching mortal threat to our existence as we did with the Soviet Union. There are some rogues out there like Iraq or Serbia, but they don't threaten our way of life. I think the enemy is our own inability to address the social problems that could divide our own country and hold us back. It's the enemy of inner cities and underfunded schools, and that's the enemy I'd like to fight right now.
Phyllis from New York, NY: Just as things are moving ahead so much more quickly in the global economy, do you also think this means things could universally collapse much more quickly?
Thomas L. Friedman: Another good question, and absolutely. It's the Y2K problem. One thing about today's system is we're all connected, and nobody's in charge. It reminds me of ancient Rome. All roads led to Rome. And they were great roads, and when the barbarians wanted to sack Rome, they came right up the roads.
J. A. Randolph from Boston, MA: Do you think a world market such as the one that is evolving today will help countries to keep peace with one another? Or do you think it will intensify the urge for some to keep their own identity and create a more fertile ground for conflict?
Thomas L. Friedman: Both will happen at the same time. That's why the book is called THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE. Globalization won't end geopolitics. Countries will still want to go to war with each other at times. But this new system will increase the costs of such adventures. That's why I have my McDonald's theory in which I pointed out that -- the current exception of Yugoslavia aside -- no two countries that both have McDonald's have ever gone to war against each other since they each got their McDonald's. I call it the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.
Garland from York, PA: Where do you get your news from? What do you like to read to keep you informed?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, I like to get my news as tartar as possible. I like my news tartar. I like it raw. So I either get it by calling people directly or by reading the wire services every day, AP and Reuters all day, to get sort of the raw wire news. And I travel an enormous amount. But I try to read every day The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. I never miss The Economist, and every night before I go to bed, I read the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the online version. It's kind of neat -- I can read it in my home in Washington before it hits the streets in Tel-Aviv. That's pretty tartar.
Liam Ahearn from Newark, NJ: How long have you been thinking about this book? How long did it take you to write it? Did any other books inspire you to write this?
Thomas L. Friedman: I've been thinking about the book for three years, basically, and have been working on it steadily for two years. And I can't say anything else really inspired me. This book really grew out of my own travels around the world and my own attempt to kind of connect the dots across seven continents.
Tom Algier from Oregon: I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the e-commerce and how it relates to globalization. For example, what do you think of the medium through which you're talking to us right now?
Thomas L. Friedman: I believe that the Internet is going to change everything. It's going to change how we shop, how we work, how we communicate, and how we learn. I own one Internet stock, a bank stock, and I believe it is a fundamentally transforming medium and that e-commerce is going to be the wave of the future. There are basically going to be two kinds of businesses: Internet businesses and anti-Internet businesses. Internet businesses will either be those which you conduct fully over the internet, like online brokerage, or those that will be fundamentally enhanced by the Internet, like management consulting. Anti-Internet businesses will also fall into two categories: those that you can't possibly do over the Internet, like giving a haircut, and those which the more you're home alone -- like we all are right now, in our basements, with our Internets -- the more we're going to want to get out and touch something, smell something, feel something, rub something. The more we're going to want to pick up a book at Barnes and Noble on Union Square and curl up with a latte from Starbucks. There will be a big future for anti-Internet businesses.
Alicia from Austin, TX: Are you arguing for capitalism as a global "solution"? One may argue that American business influences in other countries are simply "whitewashing" the problems. What do you see as the future of capitalism in such realms as health care?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, I think capitalism is the worst, most brutal, and probably unfair system for generating income and raising living standards -- except for all the rest. So while I'm not arguing it's a somehow perfect system, it's the best we've got, it works a heck of a lot better than communism and socialism, and we have to learn how to get the most out of it while cushioning the worst.
Ned from Richmond, VA: What has been the most surprising thing you have learned in your travels as a foreign correspondent?
Thomas L. Friedman: I guess I went to northeastern China last year to monitor village elections, and I secretly went because I wanted to get outside the frontiers of globalizations, get to some remote place; I wanted to get outside the bubble of "The Truman Show," and I discovered you couldn't get outside the bubble. All politics is now global. Even some guy running for village chief in northeastern China is now affected by this system and feels its effects on him.
Moderator: If the Y2K bug wreaks its havoc, what three books would you like to read in your bunker by the light of you power generator?
Thomas L. Friedman: The Old Testament, a book of jokes -- because if you can't take a joke you shouldn't have come -- and a copy of FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM, because if the world goes down, I want to make sure I still have a copy.
Janeane from Seattle, WA: It seems that so much of what is going on in the evolving international system is not concrete. How did you ever find a way to write about it, or even formulate solid ideas about it, without being totally abstract?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, that's a really good, thoughtful question. And really my answer is, one is that I'm good at arbitrage; I'm good at connecting seemingly unconnected events and manifestations, basically. And then I try to encapsulate them, even though they're often very complex, and this encapsulation wasn't perfect, in catchy terms and stories that can convey the complexity but without being dense. This book is "Globalization for Dummies," with me as the Chief Dummy. I wrote this book to explain to myself what I was seeing out there and then to explain it to my 80-year-old mother living in Minneapolis in a way that she could understand -- and would even be fun. The biggest thrill I get is not when corporate executives tell me they're reading it, although I'm very happy they are, but when the tie guy at a department store in San Francisco tells me he's reading it. Because I'm really trying to explain this system to people who want to understand it, but no one has ever explained it to them in a language they can understand. Some reviewers have criticized me for using too many anecdotes and metaphors. I can only laugh at such criticism, because no normal reader of the book has ever complained about either. There is a sense out there that if you're not boring you're not serious. Well, I'm not boring, and I think I'm serious.
Moderator: What is your ideal summer vacation?
Thomas L. Friedman: Playing golf from morning until dusk.
Colin Havers from home: What can we expect from you next, Thomas Friedman? Any ideas what your next book will be about?
Thomas L. Friedman: Well, ten years ago, after BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM came out, my publisher asked me what my next book would be, and I told them I wanted to do a book about golf, to which he said, the Persian Gulf? I said, No, golf golf. Well, instead I ended up doing this book about gardening and auto mechanics, but seriously, I would like to do something totally different again. This book is totally different from my first book, although it's written in the same style, and whatever I do next will be totally different from this. I like stretching myself and immersing myself in things I don't know anything about.
Mark Moller from Minneapolis: Greetings, Mr. Friedman, from your old home town. Three questions for you:
Q1: You mention the desire for all things "American" in many of the countries you visited (particularly the desire for fast food establishments), yet we are bombarded with images and messages about people's negative feelings about America (we're a bully, arrogant, etc.). How do you explain this dichotomy, and where do you see globalization either helping or hurting world perceptions of the US?
Q2: What do you think of Mr. Barak in Israel, and do you see any real opportunities for movement in regard to Syria and the Golan?
Q3: Don't you find the notion of a Los Angeles "Laker" simply preposterous? No Angelino would know a Nokomis, Calhoun, Harriet, et al.!
Thomas L. Friedman: Q1: Well, the world has a love/hate relationship with us. The world has roughly the same relationship with us that the rest of the NBA had with Michael Jordan. They want to be like us, and they want to beat us. They think the referees always cut us slack, and they resent us. But they don't want us to go away, because otherwise, there's no league.
Q2: I think Barak is a serious and honest statesman, and I think there are going to be real opportunities for progress, but I think they will be slow.
Q3: Yeah, it would be like calling the Minnesota basketball team the Minnesota Beaches, or the Minnesota Freeways. I'm sure there are ten people in Los Angeles that know the name Lakers comes from the land of 10,000 lakes.
Moderator: Thanks for joining us this evening, Thomas Friedman. THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE has given us a lot to chew on, and it was a great experience to chat with you about it. Would you like to share some final remarks with the online audience?
Thomas L. Friedman: Just to say that, as someone who writes about foreign policy, it gives me real pleasure to see so many serious and thoughtful questions from all over the country. God bless barnesandnoble.com and the Internet!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The most thought-provoking reading that I have encountered in my life. The historical background he provides lays the foundation of our global system today. Every economy, every political system, every individual is involved in this interconnectedness of money, information, technology, and corruption. Everybody and nobody is safe. Nobody can escape the system. Friedman's perfect use of metaphors and his many global experiences gives much clarity and understanding in a world riddled with complexities and the unknown. Everyone must read, whether you are interested in economics or not, because the decisions of one country will somehow affect everyone else and we must know how to avoid the harm that some will cause as best as possible. You will not regret reading such a masterpiece.
This book to awhile to read due to the fact that I had the large print edition so looking at it was daunting but it was worth it in the end. I enjoyed the various examples that were provided to explain The Golden Straitjacket, the Electronic Hers, Microchip Immune Deficiency and all the other terminology that he created. While the examples were interesting, they had less of an impact than they would've had a decade ago when the book was published. Even with a decade since its publication, the theories behind the book are sound and can still be seen today.
Friedman does take the "big picture" of globalization and brings it down to the small conclaves of Africa and other lower levels of the economic system. Perhaps this is most interesting as a book for periodic rereading to trace how globalization is proceeding and Friedman admits it is not standing still. Writing the month of the World Cup in South Africa it is instructive to check out his personal experience in India when a former shoe shine boy in 1998 has 27 channels from 6 different countries illegally accessed at his house (where his wife is learning English from the TV). Friedman, himself a part of the information business, focuses on the democratization of information, not just the spread of goods and capital. In the last 12 years how information exchange has exploded with more to come.
This man loves his metaphors a little too much.
"Globalization" might be the mother of all buzzwords, a catch-all explanation for anything that's happened in the last thirty or so years that's grown nearly meaningless from overuse. In "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," Thomas Freidman does a pretty good job of framing this pheonomenon in a social, historical, and economic context that the average reader can relate to. Freidman obviously thinks of himself as something of a Rennaisance man, a polymath of the old school, and in a sense, this is where the strengths of his book lie. His generalist approach and strong grasp of Cold War-era politics serve him very well when he explains why globalization is the inevitable result of a post-Soviet, unipolar world. He also deserves some credit for mentioning, if not fully exploring, the various downsides to a globalized world. He acknowledges that globalization has its victims and that some people's misgivings about it are probably well-founded. He's still a booster, of course, and, perhaps because he's a newspaper columnist, can't help but try to make a case every time he sets pen to paper, but he's more aware of his argument's weaknesses than many free-traders out there. My objections to "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" are due, perhaps, to the tempremental differences between myself and Mr. Freidman. Freidman, a midwesterner, seems to be a born optimist, something my Yankee constitution just can't abide. As a lefty, I'm much more likely to see unbridled capitalism's downsides than its promieses, and while Freidman moved me to reconsider some of my positions, I don't know if he's convinced me. His enthusiasm for technology hasn't aged well, either, considering that "Lexus" was written ten years ago and the internet has since been done to death in about a trillion uninspired trend pieces. The Friedman of the late nineties would doubtless be disappointed to know that these days it's used mostly as a conduit for pictures of cute cats and scads of hardcore pornography. Friedman's America-centric, which I can forgive, and an inveterate name-dropper, which is somewhat less forgivable. What really worries me, though, is that even though Friedman's a tolerable writer with a clear, friendly tone, he's awful at coining phrases and drawing visual comparisons in his arguments, even though it's clear that he very much enjoys doing both of these things. George Orwell would argue that this is a sign of a disordered mind or a lousy argument. I am betting that Freidman's just a writer whose arguments are better than his metaphors. "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" is, despite its faults, recommended to those who want to know what to say the next time the G-word comes up in conversation.
A generalist's take on globalization. The books starts off with some interesting anecdotes and discussions. But it goes and on rambling about the same thing. Another downside is that Friedman assume s the reader to be so dumb that some of his descriptions sounds too childish. A big minus of the book is that, apart from being US-centric the book is like a piece of propagandist pamphlet. It shies away from many issues raised by the opponents of Globalization. For example there is almost no discussion on asymmetries in trade.
Combined with The World is Flat, this is a must read for understanding globalization.
Written by a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist, the author explores how globalization is changing the world.
All the is good about globalism and its inevitability is praised by Fredman. A good read even if you don't agree entirely with his outlook.
Friedman's analysis of cultural trends and events enlightens readers and explores how we can hone globalization to better mankind. He's unique terminology and concepts set him apart from the rest. A piece of intellectual bliss that captivates readers.
With simple terms and a lot of economic terminology, Mr. Friedman made a connection between the day to day decisions and the global growth and decline of nations. When I took a serious look over my budget, at the circumstances that provoked and hindered my purchases, and at the development of my understanding in connection to these purchases, I saw how this book not only makes sense, but is a source for investment success. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read along with a major self reflection. Five stars.