Is the world truly flat?

September 18, 2007

I have a love/hate relationship with Thomas Friedman‘s writing on globalization. I appreciate his thoughtful boldness in trying to communicate the impact of profound global changes. I find his writing to be accessible and provocative and I, unlike so many others, enjoy his metaphors. That said, I am instinctively suspicious of his conclusions because they appeal to my emotional tendency to want to simplify these profound changes into something that I can easily grasp, a tendency that experience has taught me doesn’t mesh well with global reality.

For those of you with a similar love/hate relationship, I would recommend Edward Leamer’s review “A Flat World, A Level Playing Field, a Small World After All, or None of the Above?” in the March 2007 Journal of Economic Literature (thanks to James Fallows’ blog for the link). While Leamer’s defense of the glorious field of economics is tedious at times, he successfully challenges Friedman’s “the world is flat” metaphor with statistics and insights borne from his quantitative approach to understanding globalization. If you have a few hours (no exageration), happy reading.

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