Monthly Archives: December 2005

The World is Flat

I am in the midst of reading Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat.  I should have read it months ago when it first came out.  It’s the rare book that I can go for long stretches reading, but this is one.  I was up until 5 AM last night and into this morning read it.

I have never felt so optimistic about where the world is going.  There is unprecedented development in East Asia where literally another 1.5 billion people are coming onto the free market playing field the west has been enjoying for decades.  Furthermore, they’re joining at a point where there are a whole new host of tools that Friedman so aptly details–not the least of which is the Internet, workflow and supply chain innovation, new devices and skyrocketing computing power and storage capability.  This isn’t just new technology; it’s a shift where people are no longer constrained by the nation/state they happen to be born in (or at least less and less so).  Individuals drive economic development with their own ideas and innovations.

That is really the great story behind this, and also one of the disappointments of Friedman’s book.  He makes all these great observations, and then almost completely ignores them in his next chapter “America and the Flat World” where he gives policy advice for the United States.  In one breath he’s saying you have all these new tools and opportunities and then in the next he’s saying George Bush needs to champion energy independence.  Well to some extent he already has, but regardless: don’t wait for him to do it!  Anyone who wants to make a difference and enjoy wealth has to make their own choice to get in the game, engage and add value.  Waiting for congress or the president to act is a waste of time.  If anything, their focus should be on getting out of the way.

Anyway, Friedman is redeeming himself in my mind now, because in the next chapter he talks about how simply advocating capitalism wholesale isn’t enough, as a country you have to create the stability and environment where people can succeed.  If it takes 6 months to start a business in your country and 2 weeks in China, guess who’s going to win.  If it takes 2 years to recoup losses from a breach of contract in your country and 3 months in America, guess who’s going to be more competitive.  This is so dead on, and why it’s more than just lip service to free markets that is needed.  Ironically, I took a break from reading to see an interview with Milton Friedman on Charlie Rose from last night, and he was saying the very same thing: that for all of America’s problems, this is still a great place to do business because of the stability of an investment here.

Frank Lloyd Wright autobiography

I just finished reading Frank Lloyd Wright’s autobiography.  This was an awesome book, and I kept having moments along there way where I would cheer one of his brilliant statements.  Some of my favorite quotes…

“But whom are you goign to build homes for?  If you go against their wishes and try to give them what you think right and not what they thing they want?”

“That’s just where a wise creator comes in, Cecil.  I won’t need but one man in ten thousand to work for–even one man in a hundred thousand would keep me more than busy all my life, because that man will need me as much as I need him and he will be looking for me.”

Nine pounds where three are sufficient is obesity.  But to eliminate expressive words in speaking or writing–words that intensify or vivify meaning is not simplicity.  Nor is similar eliminations in architecture simplicity.  It may be, or usually is, stupidity.

Only where culture is based upon the building of character by freedom-of-choice will we ever have a culture of true democracy.

First came the philosophy of the thing in the little story repeated to the trustees.  All artistic creation has its own.  The first condition of creation.  However, some would smile and say, ‘the restulf of it.’

Second there was the general purpose of the whole to consider in each part: a matter of reasoned arrangement.  This arrangement must be made iwth a sense of the yet-unborn-whoel in the mind, to be blocked out as appropriate to concrete masses case in wooden boxes.  Holding all this diversity together in a preconceived direction is really no light matter but is the condition of creation.  Imagination conceives here the PLAN suitable to the material and the purpose–seeing the probable–possible form.

Imagination reigns supreme, when now the form the whole will naturally take, must be seen.