The World Is Flat

The World Is Flat

by Thomas L. Friedman

Paperback(New Edition)

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This new edition of The World Is Flat is Thomas L. Friedman’s account of the great changes taking place in our time, as lightning-swift advances in technology and communications put people all over the globe in touch as never before-creating an explosion of wealth in India and China, and challenging the rest of us to run even faster just to stay in place.

This updated and expanded edition features more than a hundred pages of fresh reporting and commentary, drawn from Friedman’s travels around the world and across the American heartland--from anyplace where the flattening of the world is being felt.

In The World Is Flat, Friedman at once shows "how and why globalization has now shifted into warp drive" (Robert Wright, Slate) and brilliantly demystifies the new flat world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, he explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; how governments and societies can, and must, adapt; and why terrorists want to stand in the way.

More than ever, The World Is Flat is an essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781553651758
Publisher: Douglas and McIntyre Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2007
Edition description: New Edition

About the Author


Washington, D.C. area

Date of Birth:

July 20, 1953

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota


B.A. in Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University, 1975; M.A. in Modern Middle East Studies, Oxford University, 1978

Read an Excerpt

While I Was Sleeping

Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that anyone has gone.
-Entry from the journal of Christopher Columbus on his voyage of 1492

No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: "Aim at either Microsoft or IBM." I was standing on the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore, in southern India, when my playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green. The Goldman Sachs building wasn't done yet; otherwise he could have pointed that out as well and made it a threesome. HP and Texas Instruments had their offices on the back nine, along the tenth hole. That wasn't all. The tee markers were from Epson, the printer company, and one of our caddies was wearing a hat from 3M. Outside, some of the traffic signs were also sponsored by Texas Instruments, and the Pizza Hut billboard on the way over showed a steaming pizza, under the headline "Gigabites of Taste!"

No, this definitely wasn't Kansas. It didn't even seem like India. Was this the New World, the Old World, or the Next World?

I had come to Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, on my own Columbus-like journey of exploration. Columbus sailed with the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María in an effort to discover a shorter, more direct route to India by heading west, across the Atlantic, on what he presumed to be an open sea route to the East Indies-rather than going south and east around Africa, as Portuguese explorers of his day were trying to do. India and the magical Spice Islands of the East were famed at the time for their gold, pearls, gems, and silk-a source of untold riches. Finding this shortcut by sea to India, at a time when the Muslim powers of the day had blocked the overland routes from Europe, was a way for both Columbus and the Spanish monarchy to become wealthy and powerful. When Columbus set sail, he apparently assumed the Earth was round, which was why he was convinced that he could get to India by going west. He miscalculated the distance, though. He thought the Earth was a smaller sphere than it is. He also did not anticipate running into a landmass before he reached the East Indies. Nevertheless, he called the aboriginal peoples he encountered in the new world "Indians." Returning home, though, Columbus was able to tell his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, that although he never did find India, he could confirm that the world was indeed round.

I set out for India by going due east, via Frankfurt. I had Lufthansa business class. I knew exactly which direction I was going thanks to the GPS map displayed on the screen that popped out of the armrest of my airline seat. I landed safely and on schedule. I too encountered people called Indians. I too was searching for the source of India's riches. Columbus was searching for hardware-precious metals, silk, and spices-the source of wealth in his day. I was searching for software, brainpower, complex algorithms, knowledge workers, call centers, transmission protocols, breakthroughs in optical engineering-the sources of wealth in our day. Columbus was happy to make the Indians her met his slaves, a pool of free manual labor.

I just wanted to understand why the Indians I met were taking our work, why they had become such an important pool for the outsourcing of service and information technology work from America and other industrialized countries. Columbus had more than one hundred men on his three ships; I had a small crew from the Discovery Times channel that fit comfortably into two banged-up vans, with Indian drivers who drove barefoot. When I set sail, so to speak, I too assumed that the world was round, but what I encountered in the real India profoundly shook my faith in that notion. Columbus accidentally ran into America but thought he had discovered part of India. I actually found India and thought many of the people I met there were Americans. Some had actually taken American names, and others were doing great imitations of American accents at call centers and American business techniques at software labs.

Columbus reported to his king and queen that the world was round, and he went down in history as the man who first made this discovery. I returned home and shared my discovery only with my wife, and only in a whisper.

"Honey," I confided, "I think the world is flat."

Table of Contents

How the World Became Flat
1While I Was Sleeping11
2The Ten Forces That Flattened the World89
Flattener #111/9/89
Flattener #28/9/95
Flattener #3Work Flow Software
Flattener #4Open-Sourcing
Flattener #5Outsourcing
Flattener #6Offshoring
Flattener #7Supply-Chaining
Flattener #8Insourcing
Flattener #9In-forming
Flattener #10The Steroids
3The Triple Convergence313
4The Great Sorting Out362
America and the Flat World
5America and Free Trade403
6The Untouchables424
7The Quiet Crisis446
8This Is NOt a Test493
Developing Countries and the Flat World
9The Virgin of Guadalupe549
Companies and the Flat World
10How Companies Cope601
Geopolitics and the Flat World
11The Unflat World655
12The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention732
Conclusion: Imagination
1311/9 Versus 9/11779

Reading Group Guide

About This Guide
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this vivid, thought-provoking tour of globalization.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman delivers a vivid account of the human element behind both the triumphs and the perils of globalization. This timely and essential report from the front lines of offshoring, outsourcing, and other "flattening" factors in our world makes sense of the often bewildering economic, political, and security issues currently at play in the international realm. Friedman examines hundreds of fascinating pieces in this puzzle-from the intricate systems that produce rich rewards for Wal-Mart to Y2K's role in rocketing the careers of computer scientists in India-and assembles them with refreshing clarity.

Whether in Bangalore or Beijing, Friedman asks brilliant questions of everyone he encounters. The truth he distills from their responses brings a new perspective to the ways in which CEOs and religious radicals, entrepreneurs and garden-variety consumers, all create ripples that stir the geopolitical tide. The World Is Flat shows how each of us has an undeniable stake in globalization.

Questions for Discussion
1. The first chapter in The World Is Flat recalls the voyage of Columbus, colonization, and industrialization. Are the motivations behind twenty-first-century globalization much different from the ones recorded throughout history?

2. Thomas L. Friedman discusses the many occupations that can now be outsourced or offshored, including his own job as a journalist. Could your job be done by someone in another country? Could you do your job better from home, as the JetBlue telephone agents do? Would you feel comfortable knowing that your taxes had been prepared by an overseas accountant, or your CAT scan read by an overseas radiologist? (Chapter One)

3. The second chapter outlines "Ten Forces That Flattened the World," ranging from the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, to the open-source software movement. In what way did politics influence entrepreneurship in the 1990s? What psychological impact did November 9 have on the world, particularly when paired with new means for global communication?

4. What is your opinion of the open-source movement? Should there be any limit to the amount of freedom, including "freedom" from the demand to make a profit, in the technology marketplace? (Chapter Two)

5. What qualities enabled India to take center stage when the looming Y2K scenario generated unprecedented demand for programmers? What can other nations learn from India's success in this realm? What are India's greatest vulnerabilities? (Chapter Two)

6. Discuss the ruthless efficiency demanded by supply-chaining. In the long run, does it benefit consumers? Do you believe it enhances or reduces production quality? (Chapter Two)

7. Were you familiar with the concept of "insourcing" prior to reading The World Is Flat? Does it matter to you whether your computer is repaired by an employee of Toshiba or of UPS? Should it matter? (Chapter Two)

8. Friedman calls the tenth flattener "steroids." Are these crucial to success, or are they luxuries? Will the globe's nonsteroidal citizens be able to compete without them? (Chapter Two)

9. In what ways has the Triple Convergence affected your day-to-day life? (Chapter Three)

10. Discuss the "Indiana versus India" anecdote, recounted in the second section of Chapter Four. Which approach benefits Americans more: offshoring state projects and cutting taxpayer expenditures, or paying higher wages to maintain job security at home?

11. Chapter Six, "The Untouchables," features the story of Friedman's childhood friend Bill Greer. What does his story indicate about flattening in the creative fields? Will illustrators lose out to Illustrator? What would it take for you to become an untouchable?

12. Chapter Seven, "The Quiet Crisis," outlines three dirty secrets regarding American dominance: fewer young Americans pursuing careers in math and science, and the demise of both ambition and brainpower among American youth. What accounts for this? What would it take to restore academic rigor and the enthusiasm enjoyed during the "man on the moon" days?

13. Which of the proposals in Chapter Eight, "This Is Not a Test," would you be able to implement?

14. In Chapter Nine's third section, "I Can Only Get It for You Retail," Friedman offers a vivid portrait of the "neighborhoods" comprising various parts of the globe today. How will those neighborhoods look one hundred years from now? Will America still be a gated community, and Asia "the other side of the tracks"?

15. Friedman contemplates the cultural traits (such as motivated, educated workers and leaders who don't squander the nation's treasure) that drive a nation's success. He uses this to illustrate why Mexico, despite NAFTA, has become the tortoise while China has become the hare. Does America fit Friedman's cultural profile as a nation poised for prosperity? (Chapter Nine)

16. Do you work for a company that is implementing any of Friedman's coping strategies? Which of them would be the most controversial in your industry? (Chapter Ten)

17. What do you make of the approach taken by Bill Gates's foundation to combat disease? In your opinion, what are the roots of the public-health crisis in the Third World? (Chapter Eleven)

18. How did the book's images of India compare to your previous perceptions of it, from the country-club atmosphere described on the first page to the tragedy of the untouchables? (Chapters One and Eleven)

19. Compare The World Is Flat and Longitudes and Attitudes to Friedman's pre-9/11 books, The Lexus and the Olive Tree and From Beirut to Jerusalem. Has the author's approach to current affairs changed much since 9/11? Has al-Qaeda achieved any of its political goals in the fifteen-year span represented by all four books?

20. Do you have faith in Michael Dell's theory of conflict prevention? What can we do to ensure that the strategic optimists win? And when they do, what dreams do you have for the world they will create? (Chapter Twelve)

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The World Is Flat 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
Bush_Man More than 1 year ago
The book The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman, is non-fiction, insightful book mainly about the author¿s personal experiences with the leveling of the world¿s communication and information transfer. Friedman explains to the reader through his experiences, a brief history of the 21st Century. He outlines the world¿s flattening into three eras of globalization, ¿Globalization 1.0 was countries globalizing and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was companies globalizing, the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 ¿ the thing that gives it its unique character ¿ is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally (10).¿ He explains the shifting of the world, from being isolated geographically, to a more integrated world that is dependant on the resources and information that countries around the world supply. "It unlocked half the planet and made citizens there our potential partners and competitors (441).¿ The book helps the reader to understand the transition from the age of industry to the age of technology.
To better understand the man behind the book it is important to know about him. He is a very accomplished writer that won the three Pulitzer Prize for commentary for the New York Times, and has written: From Beirut to Jerusalem in 1989, The Lexus and the Olive Tree in 2000, Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism in 2002, and Israel: A Photo biography. Most of which have won awards for best non-fiction or foreign policy. Most of Friedman¿s writings are based off the ideals of globalization, especially The World is Flat.
Thomas Friedman explains, in The World is Flat, how the world has shifted economically as far as the workforce because of the increasing need for math, science and technology as tools for progress, and the ability through technology for the United States to compete globally. Through capitalism companies want to maximize their profits by hiring the most qualified people for the job with the least amount of money. This is the whole concept of outsourcing and why American jobs are leaving the country. In his book he says, ¿This is what I mean when I say the world has been flattened. It is the contemporary convergence of the ten flatteners, creating this new global playing field for multiple forms of collaboration (177).¿
I feel that this is one hundred percent true and that the author did an excellent job of providing many examples and in depth analysis. There are many options that a business owner looks at and the clear choice in every scenario is to hire the smartest people to offer the highest quality product with the lowest labor cost possible. This is shown throughout history that business owners always make the cheapest choice possible, even when it isn¿t morally right. The whole concept of slavery or child labor is to maximize profit, even though we all know it is morally wrong. Outsourcing isn¿t necessarily wrong. It¿s just a smart business decision based on keeping labor costs down and today¿s technology allows companies to employ people across the world as though they were in the same building. Proving my point Friedman explains, ¿Wages and rents in Bangalore are less than one fifth of what they are in those Western capitals (18).¿
Over all, I thought it was a very informative book that gives the reader a different perspective of how the different technologies that we take for granted now, like computers and internet are shaping the world. Ma
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I entered my freshman year of college I was nervous, excited and I was ready to start fresh. My first day my Buiness Professor was talking about the cirrculum and mentioned that we should all take a look at this book. For some reason I took his advice and read this book that is some 600 plus pages'I never read prior to this unless force'.I did it not cause I was forced to but I wanted to learn and that is what Friedman tries getting across IQ,PQ,CQ Chapters. I am only 19 years old but I currently work in a hotel that caters to Multi Million dollar buisness such as EMC Corp and Waters Corp and I got to witness first hand that globalziation indeed is no joke and something we should not take lightly. I often interacted with many people from China,Japan,and India and I often found myself asking them how they felt about Globlization. All of them embraced it because it is a chance for these people to take what they learn bring it home and build on it. Globalization is nothing we should fear it something we should embrace.I also work with three India interns all of them have a work ethic like no other and they have that drive to be better. They could not understand why us americans throw away all the oppurtinutes we have,he told me to ask a child parents what it means to be an engineer or doctor and you will understand why we work everyday to get better. I am now going into my sophmore year of College and you best believe I am going to work study and network more than ever.If I dont I know that someone in China or India is this should be a serious reality check to all young adults. I am not saying stay in and study your life away cause this is where I think these international students lose their edge is with their shyness. Work as Hard as you play is my best advice to all young adults like myself. Great Book Next One is Tipping Point
tanu_jain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was in true sense for me. I had been so unaware of the Web2.0 (most of it) technologies, that after reading 'World is Flat' it felt I was walking into a new world. The book was a good stepping stone for me to try the Web 2.0 tools (like this social book site)
bblum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Listening to this book was like a great NPR show. I get it.
wdwilson3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This review pertains to the abridged audio CD version of the book.Some books have a finite shelf life, and this work, I¿m afraid, has passed its. Perhaps it isn¿t so much that the facts have changed, but they¿ve become well acknowledged. Anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to the news media for the past few years is aware of the elements of ¿flattening¿ that Friedman wrote about ¿ outsourcing, offshoring, the Internet, and the other socio-economic factors. I found few new insights here, and the anecdotal information, while interesting, wasn¿t riveting. The ¿dirty secrets¿ segments (generally about how the US is going about things all wrong) are right on, but, again, not very fresh. Just depressing.A major flaw in the audiobook version is the choice of narrator, who has an irritating, juvenile ¿gee whiz¿ inflection to his voice and makes rather half-hearted attempts at dialect when reading quotes from foreigners. Someone with much more gravitas would have been more suitable.
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Significant book -- it will need updating every six months! You learn a lot from this book, but Friedman may be a little overly sanguine about globalization.
bibliomonstra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
ugh. i couldn't get through the first CD of this billion-CD audiobook. the writing is tedious, the observations lackluster, the faux-indian accent used by the narrator crummy, and the whole thing has more than a whiff of orientalism about it. friedman's comparison of himself with columbus seems apt in more ways than one.
pandalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a fascinating book! I've read about outsourcing, the rise of the Indian and Chinese economies, and the effect the Internet and technology is having on our everyday lives. But, until I read (listened to) this book, I didn't understand the how all these factors are interrelated and the effect it could have on our future. It's definitely a book that I'll need to read again to absorb all the information (and I just heard that a revised, revised edition was published this past July). Mr. Friedman also references a number of books that I'd like to add to my "need to read" list. Although I generally don't read a lot of nonfiction, this topic is fascinating to me given the current state of our nation and the world.
stevetempo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent! An incredible perspective on a changing world that any one can appreciate regardless of background. I found his view points honest and useful. I can't help but walk away excited (a little cautious too) about the future. I hope our candidates for public office have had a chance to read.
cransell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this for my Public Library Seminar class and I found it very interesting and informative. The author argues persuasively that globalization has been a good thing, which was thought-provoking even if I'm not totally sure I agree with the argument.
dr.rentfro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The size of this book my be intimidating to some, but it's well worth plowing through the almost 500 pages. Don't give up with the slow start. When Friedman explains the historical events and periods that have impacted globization, you'll be enlightened and glad that you kept reading. The World really is being flattened by technological advances and communication.
bridgetmarkwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent reality check for the present and an interesting perspective on the future. All educators should read this book, to better serve your students.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything and everyone IS connected. The world is opening up faster than the minds can follow. I hope we all catch up and start acting wisely and for everyone's benefit some time soon, to reduce some of the unnecessary harm happening all around us. Positive action is all it takes, however small. We do live in a very small world, after all.
jamet123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Firstly a health warning - it's a REALLY long book. Even skimming some sections it took me a long while to read it. Overall it is a good if somewhat long winded read. As someone working in technology I found it a little patronizing in places but that could just be a function of its target audience not working day to day with some of the technologies he's discussing.The book lays out a series of trends and technologies that have, in his phrase, flattened the world by making it more interconnected than ever before. He goes on to discuss how this fits with globalization, how companies are reinventing themselves in the face of these changes, some of the problems and risks and what kinds of political and public policy impacts it might all have.If you are a patient reader this is a good introduction and discussion of the issues facing business and government in the Internet era. If you are not, you might want to find something shorter.
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not finish this book. First, I could not deal with the conversational style, with its endless repetitions. Second, I could not imagine that an author could be so blind as to believe that economics alone drives the future fate of the world. I do believe that the world has become ¿flat,¿ as Friedman defines it, and overall, I think that this is a very good thing. Some of the best things about the new flatness are right here: LibraryThing is a shining example.
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(unabridged audiobook read by Oliver Wyman): This book, while a reasonably interesting discussion of globalization, is way too long and repetitive. I can summarize it in a few bullet points:* Outsourcing grunt work saves money and frees up Americans to be innovative and specialized. It also improves the standard of living in the countries receiving the new jobs.* The internet = teh awesome.* Collaboration benefits everyone.* OMG they have computers in Asia!* Americans need to buckle down in science and math education or they will be left behind.* Change is difficult but inevitable.* Knowledge-based work is like an ice cream sundae.* Sometimes companies in one country have employees in other countries, or they work with companies in other countries.* Terrorists have access to the same technologies we do.* The world is flat. The world is flat. The world is flat.Okay, so maybe I'm being a tad flip. This was probably far more groundbreaking when it came out in 2004 and the off-shoring/outsourcing panic really started picking up speed. Though I didn't come away with any major new insights, I did enjoy a lot of the little nuggets of information, like the Indian school for untouchables and JetBlue's housewives in Utah. And there was certainly no shortage of anecdotes.Basically, if you're new to the globalization game and want a general overview with lots of specific examples, this is a good book for you. However, if you're already reasonably familiar with just how multinational your average multinational corporation is, you might want to look for something more in depth.One final note: the narrator was okay, but it was a little strange how he gave everyone he quoted a subtle Indian accent.
metzart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thomas Friedman addresses some pertinent issues about globalization and what he terms "the triple convergence" in this book. From the flattening of the world's effect on education to its effect on terrorism and business, this book is an interesting read.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really thoughtful examination of how the Internet and other technologies have leveled the playing field and made the USA less of an economic superpower.
Miro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has a hurried feel to it as though Friedman has mashed together a pile of notebooks. It's over long and the breathless style gets tiresome (I had to force myself to finish it) but he's interviewed a great selection of people, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Paul Romer etc. etc. and produced a useful book about the outsourcing of products and services.10 years ago I wasn't playing around with ADSL, Google, Skype or instant messaging but they're here now and he explains the explosion of "third world" development based on fibre optics and the internet world information platform.The book was written in 2005 and the situation has partly changed now due to the credit / oil / food price crisis. India and China are struggling with 11% inflation which I suppose they have to pass on to American and European retailers. He did anticipate that Asian demand would drive up the price of oil.
postergaard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book from the start but et looses momemtum halfway and just goes on repeating itself.
heina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book was rather on the tedious side on the whole, and its views on globalization and its impact on the US job market is much too rosy to be realistic. Friedman assumes that everyone has the resources and education to forge a career that would not be impacted by globalization, which just proves that he lacks in perspective beyond the executives he knows and interviews.
yarnspinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book about the future of our world, the global market, how it will affect countries like Australia, USA and Europe. It gives the reader an insight into the changes in education system, world economy and work ethic. The world is flat and getting flatter every day. We can fight it or accept it but we can not stop it.
dvf1976 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While listening to this audiobook, I found out that it's considered "Required Reading" at my job for managers... Although I'm not a manager (or plan to be) at least I'm ahead of the syllabus if I ever become one.I liked this book alright. Friedman is definitely pro-globalization. Sometimes to the point of being an apologist. To his credit, he does seem to say where globalization will hurt the most.His theory that no two countries with a McDonald's ever go to war is an interesting one. (He amended this theory to be 'No Two Countries in Dell's supply chain will ever go to war)
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is an omnibus on globalization by a globalization enthusiast. He sees globalization, which he calls `flattening of the world¿, as not only inevitable, but essentially a good thing for the world and mankind. He goes as far as to say that it may be the ultimate example of what Marx had in mind when he described an ideal world. He doesn¿t say we are there yet, but shows that we are striding in this direction in pretty big steps.At the same time it is a very American book full of advice and warnings of what the United States needs to do to stay competitive in the new world. He rebukes the sense of entitlement Americans have, and warns that big reforms are needed if the States want to stay at the helm of the world.He doesn¿t stop at the States. He examines different parts of the world and different countries regarding their openness to reform, gives global advice, and predicts which countries will get ahead in the global competition.He makes many really good points and has some surprising and ingenious insights, one of which is calling Al-Queida members Islamo-Leninists with a genuinely interesting justification for that name.I did not enjoy the style, which was much too `evangelical¿ for me (or was it the way it was read out?), and I definitely did not enjoy the constant repetitions. I think that one fourth to one third of the content was repeated at least twice. Some of his insights are quite amazing though.
kawgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An important topic, however, I think Friedman is a little bit reactionist in his views.