Fwd: Something

Sun, 18 Apr 1999 11:29:16 EDT

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Okay. :-)


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Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 08:21:12 -0700
From: Gregory Alan Bolcer <gbolcer@endeavors.org>
Organization: Endeavors Technology Incorporated
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To: Grlygrl201@aol.com
Subject: Re: Something
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Why don't you fork these things?

Grlygrl201@aol.com wrote:
> Nort, I'm sure you could write a book like this without much effort. Imagine
> what you could do if you really applied yourself during those 8 hours you
> waste every night sleeping.
> Gigi
> By Jacob Weisberg
> The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
> By Thomas L. Friedman
> Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 320 pages; $27.50
> Writers have long sought metaphors to capture the conflict of new and
> old worlds. Henry Adams posited an antithesis between the Dynamo and
> the Virgin--the mysterious electrical generators he saw at the Great
> Exhibition of 1900 and the religious devotion that built Chartres
> Cathedral. Adams saw the new technological forces of a century ago
> as awe-inspiring, destructive, and almost beyond comprehension. His
> opposition has been revised many times since. Recently, for
> instance, the political scientist Benjamin Barber described the
> contest as "Jihad vs. McWorld." (I think I saw this on the cover of an
> Atlantic, Nort - a long while ago) As one may gather from his terms,
> Barber is hardly enamored of either globalism or tribalism, the
> modernizing principle or the medievalizing one. Both, in his view,
> undermine the viability of participatory democracy.
> The newest entrant in this contest of symbols is Thomas L. Friedman,
> the foreign affairs columnist of the New York Times, who offers a
> somewhat sunnier pair in his new book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
> The Lexus, a luxury car made mostly by robots in a state-of-the-art
> Japanese factory, stands for progress--"all the anonymous,
> transnational, homogenizing, standardizing market forces and
> technologies that make up today's globalizing economic system," as
> he puts it. The olive tree, which grows in the Middle East, where
> Friedman was stationed for several years as a correspondent for the
> Times, stands for nationalism, religion, tribe, community--gnarled,
> rooted things that cling to the soil. Friedman believes that the
> clash between these two principles defines the post-Cold War era in
> international relations. "The Lexus and olive tree [are] wrestling
> with each other in the new system of globalization," as he puts it,
> energetically compounding his metaphor.
> Friedman is a Lexus man himself--he lets it be known that he drives
> one of these sublime sedans around the Washington suburb where he
> lives, when he's not trading Internet stocks on the Internet,
> communicating with CEOs by cell phone, or eating a Big Mac in some
> far-flung capital. He avers that he respects olive trees and aspires
> to preserve as many as possible but that there's no stopping, or
> even slowing, technological advancement, market integration, or
> American cultural hegemony.
> His point of view is that of the Treasury Department, the Economist,
> and the Davos World Economic Forum. Capital now moves swiftly and
> freely around the globe--a phenomenon Friedman calls, in one of his
> catchier coinages, an "electronic herd." Because this herd can
> stampede at will, if not at whim, developing nations, now known as
> "emerging markets," no longer have much discretion about which
> economic policies to pursue. If your country lacks a
> capitalist-friendly financial structure with a convertible currency,
> "transparency" of information, and protections for private property,
> First World investment money will simply go elsewhere. As the leader
> of a country, you can choose to conform to international economic
> norms or you can choose to be poor. Friedman makes this point
> various ways, saying it, quoting others saying it, and quoting
> himself saying it to others. He calls this dilemma "the golden
> straightjacket."
> But rather than consider whether we should be altogether pleased that
> the entire world seems to be converging upon the same economic
> model, Friedman simply declares it a nonissue. The integrated world
> market is coming, no one can do anything about it, so the question
> of how we like it is irrelevant. You might call Friedman's foreign
> policy market realism. Capitalism, not liberal democracy, emerged
> triumphant from the Cold War. And though a free economy tends to
> open up a society over time, growth and democracy aren't necessarily
> connected in the short term. To Friedman's way of thinking, the
> question of whether a government has elected leaders or respects
> human rights has far less effect on its immediate prosperity than
> the question of whether it listens to the International Monetary
> Fund. Russia and India, which have something resembling free
> elections, are stagnating because they refuse to liberalize their
> economies. China, which has a thriving capitalist economy but
> doesn't have free elections, survived the Asian economic crisis
> largely unscathed.
> The problem with Friedman's book is not that he's wrong about
> economics or international relations. I think he's largely right,
> though as I'll argue in a minute, he overstates the ease with which
> the Lexus and the olive tree can happily coexist. The problem is
> that he has distilled the conventional wisdom of the enlightened
> financier circa 1999 without adding much thinking of his own.
> Financial metaphors running away with him, Friedman describes his
> journalistic method as "information arbitrage." He sees himself
> acquiring knowledge at wholesale from the top diplomats, hedge fund
> managers, and central bankers to whom his Times column grants him
> access, and selling at retail to general readers. Reporting on
> things seen and heard while globe-trotting, with a bit of opinion
> thrown in, works well in Friedman's biweekly Times column, but a
> book needs to do more than endorse the wisdom of others--especially
> if the wisdom is as familiar and widely accepted as that of Robert
> Hormats of Goldman Sachs and Lawrence Summers of the Treasury
> Department. The fact that Friedman agrees with these guys is no
> excuse for neglecting challenges from such skeptics as George Soros,
> Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Krugman, or the aforementioned Barber, none of
> whose views he considers.
> A subsidiary fault is rhetorical hyperventilation. The less Frieidman
> has to say of his own, the more he relies on slogans and strained
> neologisms. Countries, he tells us, have economic operating systems
> of different degrees of sophistication, which he dubs DOScaptial
> 1.0, 2.0, etc. "Globalution" is the way the "electronic herd"
> creates pressure for democracy. "Glocalism" is a culture's ability
> to profit from what's good about other cultures without soaking up
> what's bad. Backward countries and companies suffer from "Microchip
> Immune Deficiency" or MIDS. At times, Friedman manages to sound like
> Jesse Jackson at a rally. "The United States can destroy you by
> dropping bombs and the Supermarkets can destroy you by downgrading
> your bonds," he writes.
> This penchant for Toffleresque gimmickry finally gets the better of
> him in the chapter titled "The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict
> Prevention." Friedman's "insight," as he calls it, is that "no two
> countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each
> other since each got its McDonald's." A variation on the theory that
> democracies don't go to war with each other, the golden arches
> hypothesis was proved false even before his book's publication date
> by the war between NATO and Serbia (where the Belgrade McDonald's
> franchises were promptly vandalized). An ethnic and territorial
> conflict that doesn't have much to do with globalization at all, the
> war in Kosovo defies Friedman's notion that international relations
> is now an extension of international economics.
> As an evangelist for globalization, Friedman is intent on
> demonstrating that it's compatible with a respect for identity and
> tradition, that olive trees can grow next to Lexi. His Clintonian
> instincts tell him that any difficult choice must be a false choice.
> His happy-go-yuppie sensibility tells him that we can have our cake
> and eat it too, that technology can uphold tradition instead of
> undermining it. Thus Friedman spills over with hopeful
> juxtapositions garnered on his travels. He describes Muslims on a
> flight from Bahrain using the plane's global positioning system to
> pray toward Mecca, Kuwaiti feminists in veils and on the Internet,
> Kayapo Indians in a hut in the Brazilian rain forest watching soccer
> and monitoring the value of their gold-extraction rights on a
> satellite TV. This last example Friedman describes as "Lexus and
> olive tree in healthy balance."
> Friedman is almost certainly correct in his belief that globalization
> is likely to make life better for people in remote places. But it
> won't do it while preserving their local cultures. It will do it by
> partially or completely obliterating them. That's what market
> capitalism does. It uproots and homogenizes as it enriches--like a
> Ronco appliance, as Friedman might say. I don't know anything about
> the Kayapos, but I'd wager that if they keep watching that satellite
> TV, they won't be in loin cloths and huts the next time the foreign
> affairs columnist of the New York Times helicopters in for a visit.
> _______________________________________________________