The world is entering a new era of globalization, which is leveling the international economic playing field, Thomas Friedman said Wednesday in a lecture at the Yale Law School.
Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and author of the recent best seller “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century,” gave the lecture to about 100 students in Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh’s “Transnational Law” class and professor Amy Chua’s “International Business Transactions” class. In his talk, Friedman said there have been three “great eras of globalization which have shrunk the world” — the first driven by countries, the second by companies and the third and current period by individuals. This “human talent age,” which is shrinking the world from “small to tiny” and empowers individuals to globalize, was spurred by the popularization of digital technology, Friedman said.
“The PC allowed individuals to become authors of their own content in digital form, and the Internet allowed them to distribute their message to the entire world,” he said.
Advancements in technology have fostered communication and collaboration between individuals across the globe, Friedman said.
“The most important day of our lifetimes was when Netscape went public,” he said. “This triggered the dot-com boom, which triggered the investment of $1 trillion of fiber optic cable in five years, which made New Delhi and New Haven next-door neighbors.”
Dean Koh, who met Friedman in 1977 when they were Marshall Scholars studying in England, said he was thrilled to have Friedman give a lecture to his class.
“Tom is perhaps our leading commentator on globalization,” Koh said. “As we try today to teach Yale Law students about the value of studying emerging transnational law, it makes sense for them to hear from a leading journalistic figure with an exciting vision of the emerging landscape of globalization.”
Bob Hemm LAW ’08 agreed that Friedman’s speech was relevant to law students.
“Friedman’s writing shows the importance of law in fostering entrepreneurialism in the developing world, where people have to deal with bureaucracies which can create an uneven playing field,” Hemm said.
Chua said she admires Friedman’s ability to identify and describe unifying trends in world affairs.
“He takes highly complex phenomena, synthesizes it, and makes it not only accessible, but also a page-turner,” Chua said.
Some students said that while they thought Friedman gave a good speech with interesting insights, they wished he would have offered more suggestions on how to deal with the challenges presented by globalization.
“He’s descriptive more than anything, and he’s good at being descriptive,” Rosa Pizzi LAW ’07 said. “But Yale’s a normative place, so it would have been nice to hear some normative prescriptions.”
Friedman did offer two suggestions to Yalies trying to get by in an increasingly globalized world. He said Americans should spend time in other countries to understand the way the world works and the way it perceives them. He also stressed the importance of education.
“Just as my mother told me to finish my dinner because people in China were starving,” Friedman said, “I tell my daughters, ‘Finish your homework because people in China are starving for your jobs.’ “