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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The World Is Flat / T. Friedman

Picked up a hardcover, cheap-binding copy of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat at Goodwill today for $2.99 and in the first chapter he quotes a prominent Indian businessman on the world of accounting under globalization:

"The accountant who wants to stay in business in America will be the one who focuses on designing creative complex strategies, like tax avoidance or tax sheltering, managing customer relationships."

Tax "avoidance," otherwise known as tax evasion, is of course illegal, something the eminent Mr. Friedman sees no need to comment on, in his raptures about technological progress. [June 28, 2019: I have since learned that tax avoidance, as opposed to tax evasion, is legal. But it doesn't have a good smell, in my quiet opinion.]  Tax evasion is no small problem.  The Netflix documentary Let's Make Money ends with the statement that the governments of the world are deprived of an estimated $250 billion a year, which could be used for poverty and hunger eradication programs, healthcare, medical research, etc., by unscrupulous and depraved individuals hiding or under-reporting their incomes on a worldwide basis, much of this wrongdoing facilitated by the unjustifiable secrecy of the Swiss banking industry, of which the Swiss are so proud, along with fellow bankers around the world.

God save us from bankers.

Friedman is widely regarded as a near-genius journalist but as Naomi Klein has pointed out--where? well somewhere!--he was an arch-hawk when it came to the invasion of Iraq, one of the biggest blunders in U.S. military history; when a writer makes an incontestable mistake of judgment on an issue of that magnitude, one needs to regard him skeptically.

February 5, 2014--Remarkable, a masterpiece of feverish boosterism.  Friedman is a gung-ho capitalist who believes computer-spawned globalization is God's gift to humanity, with no ifs, ands or buts.  He's a true believer.  I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this.

February 23, 2015--I've finished it and have got to say it is the most profoundly informative book I've ever read on the fundamental changes wrought in the world of business by computers and fiber-optic cables--highly recommended, though I am wary of its loving embrace of capitalism.

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