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Globalization 101
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Gregg Easterbrook
Sonic Boom:  Globalization at Mach Speed (NY:  Random House, 2009.  243p.)

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The is a fact-filled book that reads not like a compendium of information, but like an expose of the realties of current life.  Easterbrook provides a practical portrait of the process of Globalization.

I still hear some complaints or rants against globalization.  But this book makes clear Globalization is not an option.  It is not a trend we can or should stem.  It has already happened.  The statement of denial that still tries simplistically to pit the US against the world ignores the realities that have been developing for a century.

Laying It Out
The author explains how the phenomenon developed and lays out key components to enable the reader to understand what has happened, what is now going on and what to expect.  You will learn a lot of details about our current world and the problem facing us and our technology.  Or the problems presented to us by our technology.

This is a thorough and thoroughly readable explication of a complex topic.  I appreciated that Easterbrook does not try to over-simplify Globalization.  He just easily deals with a multiple dimensions of the phenomenon in an competent and understandable manner.  Forbes magazine has described Gregg Easterbrook as "the best writer on complex topics in the United States."  You will likely agree after you finish this intriguing volume

Easterbrook's smooth and clear writing style lays out the portrait of the current economic-political mesh of international networks that are deeply established.  There is no going back.  The brush strokes are wide and fast here, and the book moves quickly, at Mach Speed like the title's characterization of the process of Globalization.

China Changes
Easterbrook starts with an analysis of the huge changes that have occurred in China over the last generation.  He looks at the trends of capitalization, opening up of the economy and the heavy industrialization, and the implications that has for the rest of China's world partners in the closely-knit global network.

He looks at the move of factories and plants form other countries to China, and related shifts in the segments of manufacture and distribution across the world.  He finds that Caterpillar and John Deere have had recent record years selling heavy equipment to China, Indonesia and India.

World Sectors
Related to the world shift, the author described the closing of car factories in the northern US states like Pennsylvania and Illinois, and the opening up of new factories in Texas and Kentucky.  The shifting configuration of manufacture and distribution that we see in the US is an expression of the same trend worldwide.

While some with blinkered vision complain about "jobs being exported" (an odd concept to me), in actuality, China now has a deep vested interest in keeping America's economy strong.  This positive aspect of Globalization balances the negative local effects sometimes prominent when economic shifts occur.

Here are some other gems of insight and analysis Easterbrook provides:
- Since WWII US farm yield has grown faster than population growth
- Steelmaking polluted the Great Lakes, leading to a ban on the commercial fishing industry that had thrived in the Lakes
- Protectionist legislation accelerated the decline it was meant to stop
- Unions were one reason American industrial production lost ground
- China buys 40% of GE's locomotives
- In 2008, Virginia's government refused permission for a coal gasification plant that would have reduced greenhouse gases by 90% over conventional electricity production
- 1/3 of electricity is lost in transmission
- Incandescent light bulbs are only 5% efficient!  They waste 95% of the power they draw
- Corn-based ethanol is a net energy loser
- Today's ethanol has about 2/3 the energy value of petroleum fuel
- The Federal Government is primarily an impediment to alternative energy research
- India's service sector accounts for 53% of the country's GDP; China 41%; US 78%; Denmark 72%; Germany 70%; Brazil/Portugal 66%; Czech Republic 60%
- Health care costs have risen ahead of wages by about 2% per year for a decades.  Co-pay has risen 78% since 2001
- The US has the smartest and best-educated armed forces in the world
- Practical economics is missing from American schools; similarly for cultural studies, at a time when the whole world is living in our communities!

Bare Facts
A helpful paradigm Easterbrook references is the distinction between facts or information on the one hand and wisdom or knowledge on the other.  He points out that Information can drive out Knowledge.  The current news is often full of facts, but no coherent picture emerges.

This is often the case, it seems to me, with sweeping conclusions drawn from a set of particular statistics disconnected from their context, then used as political sticks with which to beat the economic opposition.  Stacks of facts are shifted into various configuration in the guise of something substantial.

Perhaps the picture will become clearer after you read Easterbrook's book.  At least there will be some meaty analysis to think about.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Diffusion Theory: A Definitive Introduction
[review] Dealing with Worldview in Business
[review] Migration, Ethnicity and Economics
[review] The Thrilling Challenge of Business and Merger
[reviews] Toward a Realistic and Moral Capitalism

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Reviewed on Amazon and Thoughts and Resources 2 May 2010
Last edited 30 January 2012

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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