The Lexus And The Olive Tree

The Lexus and the Olive Tree is a thoughtful book about how the world was transformed from a Cold War separated world into an integrated globalized world.

We’ve moved from a world where the closed think they can survive better than the open to a world where the open thrive far, far more than the closed.

Thomas Friedman elaborated on some interesting insights within his book:
1) No two countries that both had McDonald’s restaurants had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.
2) The NBA business models our American society:

The rich are getting richer, there are a lot of (relatively) poor people around and the middle class appears in danger of disappearing. ‘Last year (1996-97) about a third of the league-110 out of 348 players-were making the league minimum.’ NBA player agent Don Cronson said. ‘The way things look, this year that number should go up to about 150. Between the restrictions of the salary cap and the incredible money paid to superstars, there’s practically no money left over for the $1 to $2 million guys, who are usually the fourth-to-seventh-best players on the roster.

3) Five gas stations theory:

I believe you can reduce the world’s economies today to basically five different gas stations. First, there is the Japanese gas station. Gas is $5 a gallon. Four men in uniforms and white glove, with lifetime employment contracts, wait on you. They pump your gas. They change your oil. They wash your windows, and they wave at you with a friendly smile as you drive away in peace. Second is the American gas station. Gas costs only $1 a gallon, but you pump it yourself. You wash your own windows. You fill your own tires. And when you drive around the corner four homeless people try to steal your hubcaps. Third is the Western European gas station. Gas there also costs $5 a gallon. There is only one man on duty. He grudgingly pumps your gas and smilingly changes your oil, reminding you all the time that his union contact says he only has to pump gas and change oil. He doesn’t do windows. He works only thirty-five hours a week, with ninety minutes off each day for lunch, during which time the gas station is closed. He also has six weeks’ vacation every summer in the south of France. Across the street, his two brothers and uncle, who have not worked in ten years because their state unemployment insurance pays more than their last job, are playing boccie ball. Fourth is the developing-country gas station. Fifteen people work there and they are all cousins. When you drive in, no one pays any attention to you because they are all too busy talking to each other. Gas is only 35 cents a gallon because it is subsidized by the government, but only one of the six gas pumps actually works. The others are broken and they are waiting for the replacement parts to be flown in from Europe The gas station is rather run-down because the absentee owner lives in Zurich and takes all the profits out of the country. The owner doesn’t know that half his employees actually sleep in the repair shop at night and use the car wash equipment to shower. Most of the customers at the developing-country gas station either drive the latest model Mercedes or a motor scooter-nothing in between. The place is always busy, though, because so many people stop in to use the air pump to fill their bicycle tires. Lastly, there is the communist gas station. Gas there is only 50 cents a gallon-but there is none, because the four guys working there have sold it all on the black market for $5 a gallon. Just one of the four guys who is employed at the communist gas station is actually there. The other three are working at second jobs in the underground economy and only come around once a week to collect their paychecks.

4) Everything is integrated:

A warhead exploding 300 miles above Omaha would instantly zap the United States from coast to coast with a tidal wave of charged electrons. Every electronic system, every radio transmission, every computer bank in the country would experience something like a lightning strike magnified a million fold. An intense surge of up to 50,000 volts per meter would flow through the circuitry that wires the entire nation.

The book was interesting overall but became rather redundant at points and the last 1/3rd was rather dull and preachy. I found Friedman’s call for the repeal of the American right to self-defense and lawful gun ownership by citizens utterly preposterous. However, if you are interested in globalization and it effects on the world I recommend you read this book.