Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why the world is not flat

As you may recall, Thomas Freedman informed us that The World is Flat. Finally, somebody has bothered to explain why the world is not flat. Edward Leamer, a prof at UCLA, writes:
Physically, culturally, and economically the world is not flat. Never has been, never will be. There may be vast flat plains inhabited by indistinguishable hoi polloi doing mundane tasks, but there will also be hills and mountains from which the favored will look down on the masses. Our most important gifts to our offspring are firm footholds on those hills and mountains, far from the flat part of the competitive landscape. Living in the United States helps a lot, and will continue to. But those footholds will increasingly require natural talent. As a byproduct of our search for personal pleasure, we provide our children highly loaded dice to roll at the genetic craps table. Beyond the all-important luck of the genetic draw, it takes the kind of education that releases rather than constrains their natural talent…*
* “A Flat World, A Level Playing Field, a Small World After All, or None of the Above?” from the March, 2007 edition of Journal of Economic Literature (via a short review by Fallows). Abstract here, & text here.