Yeah, I know, I'm about 7 years behind the power curve. But better late than never, right? Anyway, my main desire in finally reading this book was that I wanted to better understand the phenomenon we call "globalization." Personally, I have always liked the idea that the world is becoming more interconnected than ever, but my impression from conversations with others is that some Americans don't like globalization because they perceive it as a threat to their jobs and the environment, while others don't like it because they perceive it as a threat to American values and sovereignty.
On this second point, I don't think Americans need fear. Globalization, as Friedman explains it, is largely the export of American values (represented by the Lexus) to the rest of the world in ways that sometimes undermine the cultural sovereignty or values of other peoples (represented by the olive tree). On the first point, Friedman argues that 1) nations that seek to protect their jobs by erecting barriers against free trade will inevitably fall behind, and 2) globalization actually empowers environmentalists and other activists (including those who feel their cultures threatened by globalization) in ways that never existed before and which have already begun to make a positive difference across the globe.
Since globalization is here to stay, Friedman argues that critics are better off "plugging in" to the system and finding ways to use it to their advantage rather than resisting it. His arguments, as always, are both persuasive and ultimately positive. The world that is emerging under the new international system we call "globalization" is not without its threats and challenges, and even potential setbacks (particularly in the form of "angry super-empowered individuals" like Osama bin Laden), but ultimately it is one of enormous promise and potential. I encourage others to read this book and its follow-up "The World is Flat," which I hope to tackle soon!