Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas L. Friedman, fully Thomas Lauren Friedman

American Journalist, Columnist and Multiple Pulitzer Prize Winning Author

"America is the greatest engine of innovation that has ever existed, and it can't be duplicated anytime soon, because it is the product of a multitude of factors: extreme freedom of thought, an emphasis on independent thinking, a steady immigration of new minds, a risk-taking culture with no stigma attached to trying and failing, a non-corrupt bureaucracy, and financial markets and a venture capital system that are unrivaled at taking new ideas and turning them into global products. "

"A vision without resources is an hallucination."

"Al Qaeda is nothing more than a mutant supply chain. They’re playing off the same platform as Wal-Mart and Dell. They’re just not restrained by it. What is al Qaeda? It’s an open source religious political movement that works off the global supply chain. That’s what we’re up against in Iraq. We’re up against a suicide supply chain."

"Always remember, there is a difference between skepticism and cynicism."

"At the end of the day, no amount of investing, no amount of clean electrons, no amount of energy efficiency will save the natural world if we are not paying attention to it - if we are not paying attention to all the things that nature give us for free: clean air, clean water, breathtaking vistas, mountains for skiing, rivers for fishing, oceans for sailing, sunsets for poets, and landscapes for painters. What good is it to have wind-powered lights to brighten the night if you can't see anything green during the day? Just because we can't sell shares in nature doesn't mean it has no value."

"But if NATO’s only strength is that it can bomb forever, then it has to get every ounce out of that. Let’s at least have a real air war. The idea that people are still holding rock concerts in Belgrade, or going out for Sunday merry-go-round rides, while their fellow Serbs are ”cleansing” Kosovo, is outrageous. It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted. Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too."

"Basically all the world’s computer parts come from the same supply chain that runs from Korea, down through coastal China, over to Taiwan, and down to Malaysia."

"But the Indias and Chinas are increasingly adding one more thing to low-cost labor and high-power technology: unfettered imagination–that is, high innovative and creative capabilities. They will focus first on solving their own problems with cheap labor, high technology, and high creativity–re-imagining their own futures… So, for the last time, you have been warned. This is not a test."

"Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us."

"Before, the weather was seen as an act of Mother Nature, and now suddenly the weather is potentially our fault? Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology, and physics. As human beings we have the ability to imagine. If we don't, we'll hit the wall, and there will be no seat belts or air bags, and we will end up being [a bug on the windshield or should we say] a bad biological experiment on the planet. If a species doesn't learn to fit in with Mother Nature... it gets kicked out of the planet. It's simple, every day when you wake up and look into your mirror... you're looking at Endangered Species."

"By ‘flat’ I did not mean that the world is getting equal. I said that more people in more places can now compete, connect and collaborate with equal power and equal tools than ever before. That’s why an Indian in Bangalore can take care of the office work of American doctors or read the X-rays of German hospitals."

"CQ + PQ > IQ"

"Community based software development is now a business, one that holds the potential for Microsoft as for every other company."

"Communism was a great system for making people equally poor - in fact, there was no better system in the world for that than communism. Capitalism made people unequally rich."

"Everything I’ve ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids."

"Fossil fuels are exhaustible, increasingly expensive, and politically, ecologically and climatically toxic."

"Every person now must, and can, ask: Where do I as an individual fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally?"

"From discord, find harmony."

"Friedman defines ten "flatteners" that he sees as leveling the global playing field: #1: Collapse of the Berlin Wall – 11/9/89: Friedman called the flattener, "When the walls came down, and the windows came up." The event not only symbolized the end of the Cold War, it allowed people from the other side of the wall to join the economic mainstream. "11/9/89" is a discussion about the Berlin Wall coming down, the "fall" of communism, and the impact that Windows powered PCs (personal computers) had on the ability of individuals to create their own content and connect to one another. At that point, the basic platform for the revolution to follow was created: IBM PC, Windows, a standardized graphical interface for word processing, dial-up modems, a standardized tool for communication, and a global phone network. #2: Netscape – 8/9/95: Netscape went public at the price of $28. Netscape and the Web broadened the audience for the Internet from its roots as a communications medium used primarily by "early adopters and geeks" to something that made the Internet accessible to everyone from five-year-olds to ninety-five-year-olds. The digitization that took place meant that everyday occurrences such as words, files, films, music, and pictures could be accessed and manipulated on a computer screen by all people across the world. #3: Workflow software: Friedman's catch-all for the standards and technologies that allowed work to flow. The ability of machines to talk to other machines with no humans involved, as stated by Friedman. Friedman believes these first three forces have become a "crude foundation of a whole new global platform for collaboration." There was an emergence of software protocols (SMTP – simple mail transfer protocol; HTML – the language that enabled anyone to design and publish documents that could be transmitted to and read on any computer anywhere) Standards on Standards. This is what Friedman called the "Genesis moment of the flat world." The net result "is that people can work with other people on more stuff than ever before." This created a global platform for multiple forms of collaboration. The next six flatteners sprung from this platform. #4: Uploading: Communities uploading and collaborating on online projects. Examples include open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. Friedman considers the phenomenon "the most disruptive force of all." #5: Outsourcing: Friedman argues that outsourcing has allowed companies to split service and manufacturing activities into components which can be subcontracted and performed in the most efficient, cost-effective way. This process became easier with the mass distribution of fiber optic cables during the introduction of the World Wide Web. #6: Offshoring: The internal relocation of a company's manufacturing or other processes to a foreign land to take advantage of less costly operations there. China's entrance in the WTO (World Trade Organization) allowed for greater competition in the playing field. Now countries such as Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil must compete against China and each other to have businesses offshore to them. #7: Supply-chaining: Friedman compares the modern retail supply chain to a river, and points to Wal-Mart as the best example of a company using technology to streamline item sales, distribution, and shipping. #8: Insourcing: Friedman uses UPS as a prime example for insourcing, in which the company's employees perform services – beyond shipping – for another company. For example, UPS repairs Toshiba computers on behalf of Toshiba. The work is done at the UPS hub, by UPS employees. #9: Informing: Google and other search engines are the prime example. "Never before in the history of the planet have so many people – on their own – had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people," writes Friedman. The growth of search engines is tremendous; for example take Google, in which Friedman states that it is "now processing roughly one billion searches per day, up from 150 million just three years ago." #10: "The Steroids": Wireless, Voice over Internet, and file sharing. Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Digital, Mobile, Personal and Virtual – all analog content and processes (from entertainment to photography to word processing) can be digitized and therefore shaped, manipulated and transmitted; virtual – these processes can be done at high speed with total ease; mobile – can be done anywhere, anytime by anyone; and personal – can be done by you."

"Hot, flat and crowded… global warming, the stunning rise of the middle classes all over the world and rapid population growth have converged in a way that could make our planet dangerously unstable."

"Humanity can be described as a bad biological experiment on earth."

"I am hoping, though, that many of them have kids, who, when they have a moment to take a break from their iPods, Internet, or Google, will explain to their parents running the country just how the world is being flattened."

"I once heard Jerry Yang, the cofounder of Yahoo!, quote a senior Chinese government official as saying, Where people have hope, you have a middle class. I think this is a very useful insight. The existence of large, stable middle classes around the world is crucial to geopolitical stability, but middle class is a state of mind, not a state of income. That's why a majority of Americans always describe themselves as middle class, even though by income statistics some of them wouldn't be considered as such. Middle class is another way of describing people who believe that they have a pathway out of poverty or lower-income status toward a higher standard of living and a better future for their kids."

"I firmly believe that the next great breakthrough in bioscience could come from a 15-year-old who downloads the human genome in Egypt."

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand."

"I think we're in the end-game now…. I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt, I think, the next congressional election — that's my own feeling — let alone the presidential one."

"I think [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about... We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble… And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand?"

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq."

"I think we have lost our groove as a country. One of the reasons was the attack on 9/11. We got knocked off our game. From a country that always exported hope we went into the business of exporting fear."

"I was in Bangalore, India, the Silicon Valley of India, when I realized that the world was flat."

"I was a critic of Rumsfeld before, but there’s one thing … that I do like about Rumsfeld. He’s just a little bit crazy, OK? He’s just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able to out-crazy us, and I’m glad we got some guy on our bench that our quarterback — who’s just a little bit crazy, not totally, but you never know what that guy’s going to do, and I say that’s my guy."

"I was speaking out in Minnesota — my hometown, in fact — and a guy stood up in the audience, said, "Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you’d oppose?" I said, "No, absolutely not." I said, "You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.""

"If you followed this economic crisis and you do not think that the world is getting flatter, you are not paying attention. We saw the entire global economy at one time acting totally in sync. The real truth is the world is even flatter than I thought. Our mortgage crisis is killing Deutsche Bank. You still don’t think the world is flat?"

"If you don't visit the bad neighborhoods, the bad neighborhoods are going to visit you."

"In a flat world, where value is increasingly created, and complex problems solve, by whom you connect with horizontally, having a high trust society is even more of an advantage."

"Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile."

"I'm actually not against drilling. What I'm against is making that the center of our focus because we are on the eve of a new revolution, the energy technology revolution. It would be, Tom, as if on the eve of the IT revolution, the revolution of PCs and the internet, someone was up there standing and demanding, "IBM Selectric typewriters, IBM Selectric typewriters." That's what "drill, drill, drill" is the equivalent of today."

"In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears-and that is our problem."

"In order to answer that question, HP created a public-private partnership with the national government of India and the local government in Andhra Pradesh. Then a group of HP technologists convened a series of dialogues in the farming village of Kuppam. It asked residents two things: What are you hopes for the next three to five years? and What changes would really make your lives better? To help the villagers (many of them illiterate) express themselves, HP used a concept called graphic facilitation, whereby when people voiced their dreams and aspiration, a visual artist whom HP brought over from the United States drew images of those aspiration on craft paper put up on the walls around the room."

"In the hyperconnected world, there is only good better and best,"

"Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future."

"In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity."

"Israel’s military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon — when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: “What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”… In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims. Now its focus, and the Obama team’s focus, should be on creating a clear choice for Hamas for the world to see: Are you about destroying Israel or building Gaza?"

"It created a global platform that allowed more people to plug and play, collaborate and compete, share knowledge and share work, than anything we have ever seen in the history of the world."

"It has always been my view that terrorism is not spawned by the poverty of money; it is spawned by the poverty of dignity. Humiliation is the most underestimated force in international relations and in human relations. It is when people or nations are humiliated that they really lash out and engage in extreme violence."

"Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won’t, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind."

"McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15."

"Men grant and withdraw their love according to their whims, but fear is a hand that rests on their shoulders in a way they can never shake."

"My bottom line is this: Open-source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have had to buy in order to use, and because open-source network associations – with their open borders and come-one-come-all approach"

"No matter what your profession – doctor, lawyer, architect, accountant – if you are an American, you better be good at the touchy-feely service stuff, because anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or the cheapest producer."