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Is the world flat or not? Thomas Friedman responds

In an excerpt from his new book, Connected: 24 Hours in the Global Economy, Daniel Altman writes that globalization is real, and it’s here to stay: [T]he global economy is like an enormous machine crammed with six billion interlocking cogs and wheels – one for every person inside. Unfreeze the action, and the cogs and ...

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In an excerpt from his new book, Connected: 24 Hours in the Global Economy, Daniel Altman writes that globalization is real, and it's here to stay:

[T]he global economy is like an enormous machine crammed with six billion interlocking cogs and wheels - one for every person inside. Unfreeze the action, and the cogs and wheels whirl away as the world's workers spring back into action... . Not everyone's wheel is the same size, but everyone's wheel matters."

Yet Harvard Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat argued exactly the opposite in the March/April 2007 issue of FP. Not only is the world not particularly connected, Ghemawat said, but this small level of integration could easily be reversed if national governments will it. In addition to pointing out that 90 percent of all phone calls, Web traffic, and investment is local, Ghemawat also presented data demonstrating that:

In an excerpt from his new book, Connected: 24 Hours in the Global Economy, Daniel Altman writes that globalization is real, and it’s here to stay:

[T]he global economy is like an enormous machine crammed with six billion interlocking cogs and wheels – one for every person inside. Unfreeze the action, and the cogs and wheels whirl away as the world’s workers spring back into action… . Not everyone’s wheel is the same size, but everyone’s wheel matters.”

Yet Harvard Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat argued exactly the opposite in the March/April 2007 issue of FP. Not only is the world not particularly connected, Ghemawat said, but this small level of integration could easily be reversed if national governments will it. In addition to pointing out that 90 percent of all phone calls, Web traffic, and investment is local, Ghemawat also presented data demonstrating that:

the levels of internationalization associated with cross-border migration, telephone calls, management research and education, private charitable giving, patenting, stock investment, and trade, as a fraction of gross domestic product (GDP), all stand much closer to 10 percent than 100 percent.”

Ghemawat was challenging Thomas Friedman’s enormously influential argument that The World is Flat by trying to show empirically that globalization still has a long way to go. Friedman responds in the latest issue of FP:

Obviously, the world is not yet flat. But … 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 …

You need only look at the front pages of the paper every day to see it. And anyone who thinks that some protectionist measures are going to put YouTube back in the bottle—not to mention the Web, bloggers, global cell-phone networks, work-flow software, and the logic of outsourcing—is blind to the dramatic changes that have already taken hold. This is not about a snapshot, a “10 percent presumption” of integration at a moment in time. This is about trend lines and a scale of change brought on by these new technologies …

So who’s right? Email Passport with your thoughts. 

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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