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Comments from Alypios

Page history last edited by Steven Marx 11 years, 5 months ago

Comments on Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded”

From: Alypios

 

•    Interesting personal interviews with many influential people.

•    Interesting writing style for his reporting although repetitive in several sections.

•    Just as with Mc Kibben when all the information from Friedman comes in, it does not add up to what is needed.  And both have unrealistic assertions about the impact of their recommendations.

 

Specifically for Friedman

 

There is a conflict between the concepts of sustainability and full speed uncontrolled economic growth.  Although Friedman seems to debate some of the aspects of this conflict his conclusion appears to be that we just need to fix the “expression” mechanism of the market forces and that there is nothing wrong with the system which encourages economic growth and consumerism at the levels we have seen over the past fifty years.  The progress in quality of life (for Friedman) seems to still be overlapping with new iPods and economic indicators.  This story with energy and the environment is just a temporary side anomaly that we can fix.  Although he mentions the importance of the natural environmental beauty, he does not dwell on this topic as a source of human satisfaction but more as a necessary source of biodiversity for humans to survive on earth.  And continue to have fun with iTunes and new toasters wirelessly connected to our iPhones to know the exact temperature inside our sandwich at all times.

As a reality check he tries to tie the direct consumer “economics” to energy/sustainability and assume that everybody would do it because it will be financially better for them.  On the system feasibility side: this is wishful thinking at best given the way regulations and the individuals/markets are operating at this point.   On the human side it is even weaker as a statement.

 

He specifically quotes as the summary question of this book: if the U.S.  can lead (on energy/sustainability) and China can follow.   And he hints towards a positive answer to both sides of this question throughout the book.  While he blasts relatively current (Bush) and past administrations, he does not recommend a change in the system but “smarter” decisions.  It is not clear how this will consistently happen (smarter decisions) now and in the future.  I personally would answer no to both sides of the question above.   The U.S. at this point does not seem to have the burning desire to lead in this area.  Maybe because it has been in that position for a long time or it has other priorities.  And China now wants leadership (on everything) more.  As Christina Onassis said (before committing suicide at 50) “when you have everything, you do not know what matters.”  The industrialized (western) societies seem to suffer from this syndrome.  The recent financial crisis revealed more the size of this problem, but Friedman did not have this information when he wrote the book.

One final comment on Friedman’s assertion:  the U.S. has “engaged citizens.”  While volunteerism, group hobbies and help for the poor are noteworthy, participation in elections and knowledge about the issues and “commons” at the national and international levels are very low for the average person.  This is another case of wishful thinking and a very weak point in the book.

 

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