Friedman:’The world is flat’

By Gus Bode

Author visits Shrylock to discuss his latest book

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman claims that contrary to popular belief, the world is flat.

Though Friedman doesn’t believe the world is physically flat, he made his point clear Monday night to a crowded Shryock Auditorium that the global economic playing field is leveling and the United States is quickly losing ground.

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In addition to being a New York Times’ bestselling author, Friedman has also won the Pulitzer Prize three times throughout his career. His latest book, “The World Is Flat” outlines his theory that other countries are quickly matching the economic success of the United States.

After the attacks of 2001, Friedman dedicated his time to covering the post-9/11 world. But in January 2004 during a trip to India, he came upon the realization that the world is flat and that he had slept through its transformation.

Everywhere he went in the country, he said people were offering to do such things as prepare his taxes, read his X-rays and do other things that he could receive at home from India. He said he realized India was beginning to figure out how to use technology to its advantage and advance on the United States in the global market.

It was then he realized he needed to take a leave of absence from the New York Times to educate himself about the change and then to write a book about his findings.

“The global economic playing field is being leveled, and Americans are not ready,” Friedman said. “This era of globalization is not going to be dominated by a bunch of white westerners. This era of globalization is going to be dominated by people of every color of the rainbow.”

Friedman credited the changing of the tide that is bringing economies in countries like India and China closer to that of the United States to the creation of the Internet. He said when Netscape launched in 1995, it gave these countries free access to resources in the United States.

Friedman compared the invention of the Internet to the railroad. While the railroad connected the country together, the Internet connected the world.

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“The result was what made Calcutta, Bangalore and Carbondale next-door neighbors,” Friedman said. “Suddenly more people could work together and share knowledge than ever before.”

Friedman’s book outlines his theory and explains what Americans can do to keep up. He said people need to teach the youth of the country about this revolution in an effort to motivate them. He said if the younger generation is not warned, it will be losing jobs in the future.

Matt Baughman, associate director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said having someone as recognized as Freidman come to SIUC is a great opportunity for students and the surrounding community.

“The ability for the University community to have someone of this caliber on campus is invaluable in terms of the educational experience of the students,” Baughman said. “It also is a rare opportunity for people off campus as well to come visit our campus and experience one of the nation’s leading experts on international affairs.”

Like most speakers that come to the University, Friedman’s appearance was paid for by a private source, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Baughman said because these speakers are paid for in this manner, the institute doesn’t have to charge admission to see them. He said this is unique because, in most venues, people would have to pay to see someone like Friedman.

“Many universities and other groups that are able to secure his appearance at different locations actually sell tickets and charge to see him,” Baughman said. “In our institute, we have never done that, and hopefully we’ll never have to, thanks to generous donors.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at

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