Tom Ross: Good news: The world is still flat

'Hot, Flat and Crowded' offers more than candidates have so far


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

After surviving the two grandiose pep rallies that comprised the national political conventions, my faith that the two campaigns and the TV networks can stage meaningful candidate debates has been shaken.

If I taught high school civics, and Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden were sitting in the back row, I'd assign a book report. For each debate, I'd assign several chapters of Thomas L. Friedman's new book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded."

If you were thinking "Hot, Flat and Crowded" is the name of that new ski area that just opened in suburban Houston, you've got it all wrong. The subtitle of Friedman's book is "Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How it Can Renew America."

Maybe you're reading this column and already saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm not green."

Give Friedman a little more credit than that. He's the Pulitzer Prize winner who in the spring of 2005 helped Americans gain a better understanding of our place in a new world in his book, "The World is Flat." The book describes how world markets have become ever more competitive by the nearly simultaneous rise of cheap telecommunications and the middle class in India and China, the world's two most populace nations.

In "The World is Flat," Friedman made the case that Americans and their economy will have to run faster and compete harder just to maintain their place.

Listening to the brash promises being made by the two presidential candidates the past two weeks made me wonder whether they read Friedman's best-seller.

Not for a split second do I think that I'm more worldly or sophisticated than any of the candidates. I'd just like to hear them bag the standard campaign promises and speak candidly about the challenges we, as Americans, face and the opportunities we can act on.

Perhaps because he isn't running for office, Friedman can be counted on to do just that. And I don't imagine the timing of the release of "Hot, Flat and Crowded" this week by publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux is coincidental.

I should probably confess that I haven't read the book. It was just released this week. But "The World is Flat" made such an impression on me that I feel confident in touting the new book.

In his previous book, Friedman described how developments in communication technology are "flattening" the world into one even plane where, increasingly, highly motivated workers in emerging economies have the ability to compete with workers in developed nations. Friedman argued there can be no turning back from this new world order.

If the new book is like the last book, Friedman can be counted on to use detailed reporting and hundreds of anecdotes and encounters with powerbrokers and ordinary people all over the globe to make his reporting come to life.

In "Hot, Flat and Crowded," Friedman promises to articulate a national strategy for seizing on the opportunities posed by the world energy crisis and global climate change to revitalize America's economy and make this a more prosperous country.

He'll discuss the history of the energy crisis, the reasons biodiversity are critical to the future of world economies, and the destabilizing impacts of energy poverty in the developing world.

With 56 days remaining until Election Day, you should have just enough time to read all 448 pages and write your own book report.

Whether you wake up happy on Nov. 5, you'll be better prepared to understand the challenges that lie ahead for America. I'm certain of it.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail


nikobesti 8 years, 7 months ago

"The World is Flat" is a brilliant book, and I will read "Hot, Flat and Crowded." However, I would argue one party has already studied up on Friedman's important points. Many of the speeches at the DNC were taken directly from the book. In fact, Mark Warner's speech was so close I wondered if Friedman could sue for copyright infringement.

A few excerpts:

"You know, America has never been afraid of the future, and we shouldn't start now. If we choose the right path, every one of these challenges is also an opportunity. Look at energy: if we actually got ourselves off foreign oil, we can make our country safer. We'll start to solve global warming, and with the right policies, within 24 months, we'll be building 100 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid vehicles right here, with American technology and with American workers.

Look at education: if we recruit an army of new teachers and actually give our schools the resources to meet our highest standards, not only will every child in America get a fair shot, the American economy will get a shot in the arm. Whether they want to be an engineer or an electrician, every kid will be trained for the jobs of the 21st century.

Lebanon is like many small towns in America. It has seen the industries that sustained it downsized, outsourced, or shut down. Now, some folks look at towns like Lebanon and say, 'Tough luck. In the global economy, you've lost.'

But we believed that we shouldn't-and couldn't-give up on our small towns and expect the rest of the state to prosper. And that's what brought me, towards the end of my term, to the high school gym in Lebanon to announce that we were going to bring over 300 high-tech jobs, jobs that paid twice the county average.

We can once again make America a beacon for science and technology and discovery:. Because the race for the future will be won when old partisanship gives way to new ideas, when we put solutions over stalemates, and when hope replaces fear."

Remember Friedman's line about "America should be exporting hope, not fear?" The Dems get it, or at least pay lip service. Who knows if they'll actually guide us there, but when one party clearly understands a flat world and the other doesn't have a clue, which one has the best chance of designing policies to move us ahead in the 21st century?


Steve Lewis 8 years, 7 months ago

Friedman was on Meet the Press Sunday talking about the book.

In a nutshell, Friedman feels the country that succeeds in leading the designs of renewable energy technology will be the next superpower. Where we just experienced the IT (information tech) boom, we are about to see an ET (energy tech) boom.

Good column Tom.


misterkindbuds 8 years, 7 months ago

Ain't that the truth, Ross.

If people keep falling for the same party-line b.s., the country will fall further behind.

This isn't our grandparent's generation (most kids today have no idea the meaning of the term "blue collar.")

Manufacturing (whether it be solar, wind, turbine or renewables) is essential if we want to keep any foothold on the world economy.

Here's an idea: Start by changing the emissions standards for all new cars sold in the U.S. All must have some sort of hybrid technology or they can't be sold.

If it weren't for oil industry lobbyists, we'd already be there. Greed is going to take the U.S. down, just as it built it up.

With 5 percent of the population controlling 95 percent of the money, and the tax loopholes that are being taken advantage of by the top 5 percent - the gap isn't closing anytime soon.

We have become a service-driven. web-based economy with few manufacturing jobs, and no offense to Eli Whitney, but it's time for another industrial revolution.

Let your freak flag fly


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