Thomas Friedman’s Views in The World Is Flat
Outsourcing is an issue that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has defended in his book The World Is Flat - Thomas Friedman’s Views in The World Is Flat introduction. His view of a flattened world has been challenged by many economists, who think that while globalization has led to dramatic changes in the world economy, the world is “not flat”; it is getting even “not flat” (Stiglitz 24). In the era of globalization and free trade, thousands of Americans lose their jobs in their home country as corporations started to offshore these same jobs to Third-World countries like India where labor is cheap (Wolf 66).
As a result, workers have become vulnerable for this type of venture and have suffered retrenches as their jobs are being devoured by skilled workers in the developing world (Sirkin et. al. 13). Friedman treats globalization as the ultimate equalizer and a leveler of the playing field where everyone gets to compete. Addressing a worker like me (W) who is about to lose his job to an Indian worker thousands of miles away, Friedman (F) would think that from a global moral standpoint, this is a “good thing on balance,” and would defend his position, as thus: W: Mr. Friedman, flexibility of the U. S. labor market made it easy for my employer to decide to ship my job overseas. Now, I realize that the Flat World is simply bad for me as a worker. F: Job loss and workers’ displacement is a fact that every U. S. worker must face because of the “flattened” world. The harsh reality is: while the rest of the developing world upgraded their capabilities to beat us in terms of innovation, science and technology, the U. S. has fallen behind. Outsourcing has become a reality for the American worker because we have failed to keep up and adapt to the changes brought by the “flattened” world.
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There are over 150 million people developing their skills in the Third World that can replace their lesser qualified U. S. counterparts (Friedman, 225). As sad as it may seem, my friend: elsewhere in India, someone else better-qualified than you are can do your job at a cheaper price. SmithCo, like all capitalist ventures, “are largely indifferent to where their profits come from or even where the employment is created. ” They only want sustainable companies (211). ” You say that the Flat World is bad for you as a worker.
From the point of view of an American, that seems reasonable, but what about from the Indian’s point of view? To them, outsourcing is empowerment and an opportunity to exploit and profit from their hard-earned intellectual skills and talents. While many from the left may treat outsourcing as exploitation, I call it “collaboration”, or “empowering individuals in the developing world as never before” however euphemistic some would call it (206). To paraphrase my own words, in the flat world, your future unemployment is an Indian worker’s future liberation (211).
I: You talk about the ambition gap between American college students and those of other countries, but I can’t see why we should have high ambitions and aspirations if all our jobs are going to be shipped overseas. F: I never said that all hope is lost on the American population – on you, for instance. I would even say that you have a chance to survive in the flattened world. What my book emphasized is the need to address what professors observed as “poor motivation and minimal hireability” among U. S. orkers so that American corporations would opt not to outsource. Like I said, companies’ singular aim is sustainability. If they have equally motivated, equally qualified workers in their home countries, they would rather stay there. The only way to converge the interests of the two — the employer and its country of origin — is to have a really smart population that can not only claim its slice of the bigger global pie but invent its own new slices as well (211).
Surviving in a Flat World: Friedman’s Recommendations. Friedman’s treatise in The World Is Flat involves a recommendation on how Americans can cope individually with the flattened world. He also outlines several policies the government can do in order to help its constituents. Friedman explains that in a flat world, one must become “untouchable” to become employable. By untouchable, he means “people whose jobs cannot be outsourced” (236). Friedman has classified untouchables in four different categories: special, specialized, anchored and really adaptable.
This spells different prospects for me, my friends Karen and Ernie, on how our future would look like post our termination. Karen is in her mid 20s, creative and open to learning new things and ideas. Ernie is a blue-collar worker nearing his retirement. Friedman argues essentially that all Americans must upgrade their skills and capabilities in order to survive in the flat world. To him, a college degree is no longer an option, but a must.
Consequently, Friedman would think that among us three, I would have the biggest survival chance because I possess a college degree. Karen may also have a viable chance of surviving in the flat world because of her openness and flexibility to new things and ideas, something that Ernie would find difficult to do given his age. While Ernie’s job as a janitor is a localized job, his age and lack of adaptability may make it difficult for him to compete with younger, more active job applicants.
Friedman would advise Karen to pursue college as soon as possible, saying jobs today require a much higher level of skill prior to the 21st century and if she fails to get a diploma soon, she would still be vulnerable to outsourcing. In response to observations on the flat world, Friedman outlines an agenda of “compassionate flatism” for the American government to consider. This includes lifetime employability, not lifetime employment; portable social protection (401k savings, healthcare, life learning); wage insurance (294); mandatory for two years in college or vocational schools.