The Lexus and the Olive Tree, by Thomas Friedman ★
Initially, I was going to give this book a few more stars, until Tom grew a touch weary to me. For a journalist, Tommy boy remains a putative total expert on international economics, national economics, international relations, and is single-handedly more responsible for world peace than any other journalist alive. He alone understands. So, what’s so good about this book? Mr. Friedman is a great storyteller. He’s a journalist. It is delightful to learn that other countries behave in ways that are different than in Amerika, but, don’t worry, globalism will solve that. This book was moderately enjoyable to read since Friedman is excellent at generating thought while reading this book, I was constantly awash of comments to write. Only a few will make this Kritik. Maybe the best criticism is that I have another best seller of T. F., “The World is Flat” sitting next to me, which I don’t think I’ll waste my time reading… I have a reasonable feel as to Tom’s thinking and really don’t need any more of it. At first, you begin to feel that Tom is a right-wing Republican. He advocates government non-intervention in the markets and the absence of trade barriers or restrictions. He advocates for morality as the principle fuel that drives a market, and the absence of integrity as the prime extinguisher of globalization, thus, the term golden strait-jacket. So, you then learn that Friedman went through an evolution in learning to get to the truth, and this evolution came only through seeing such as the poor in Rwanda, which informed him that freshman Republicans had no clue at all about the world. Only Tom knows. Friedman fails to suggest whether he has reached an apogee of learning, or, perhaps, that he may have to unlearn certain things. Friedman need not travel in order to learn what his enlightened self now knows – the ride in Disneyland called “It’s a small small world” would have taught him everything he needed to know. His experience in Rwanda taught him the mistake of the second amendment ( right to bear arms) and the necessity of the government’s forced distribution of wealth. The only conservative notion, he doesn’t take shots at is abortion, which makes me quite surprised. Throughout the book, he makes quite asinine statements, such as the fact that Amerika has a huge bankruptcy rate is a good thing since it represents a system that tolerates mistakes (but no mention as to where that lost money came from?). He suggests that Europe, notably Germany and France are somewhat inferior to the US in market integrity (book written before the fall of Enron and bank failures of 2008, or the massive loss of value of the American dollar over the Euro). He supports market integrity without accepting that the individual integrity of a country’s citizens is perhaps the most valuable asset a country could ever have — personal integrity has no place in Friedman’s thesis. Globalism has it’s problems, and Friedman enumerates them but concludes that globalism alone will save the world, especially poor, renegade countries. They need to speed up and make a flying leap onto the express ICE train flying by them. They need to accept that an intangible but totally irrational market, deeply controlled by hunches and propaganda, will influence their well-being significantly. Oddly, part of the reason I enjoy visiting Europe is that things are slower, and people thus think better. There is no greater joy than taking a long stroll with Onkel Herbert to the Biergarten and then solving all the world’s problems. Sadly, things will slow down, but in a totally cataclysmic way, especially for the USA, which, like Friedman, lusts for maintaining Amerikan world hegemony, at least in terms of markets. Friedman views the past as simply sentimentality (what’s old is mold, what’s new is true). Rather, I challenge that the book of Revelation talks quite plainly about globalization since it has always existed in one form or another…
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!…
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” …
And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls….
The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
“What city was like the great city?”
And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,
“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste. (excerpts of Rev 18 ESV)
Nobody would have thought that the Galilean fisherman John would see the world so clearly as to predict global economic collapse, using Babylon as representative of world politics and commerce. So, we await the continued journey of Tommy Boy, and what new revelations will strike him in his visits to the ends of the earth. I’ll use others of lesser status, such as fishermen and tentmakers, to help define my Weltanschaaung.