Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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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.
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