Books: That used to be us

An appeal to the American public. That is how this book can be summed as. Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum collaborates to pen this non-fiction which takes a look at the present challenges faced by USA. The authors analyze how American ended up in this precarious situation in the first place and put forward their solutions based on their personal conviction and ideologies.

According to the authors, America faces four challenges - globalization, IT revolution, budget deficits and energy dependency resulting in climatic changes. When embarking on finding the root cause, it starts with Thomas Friedman's favorite game changer; collapse of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall signified the Cold War and when it went down, the Americans relaxed thinking the fight for global supremacy is over. On the contrary, when the Berlin Wall went down, it created something which again Thomas Friedman had popularized earlier, the flat world. As nobody anticipated this, everyone was taken by surprise when China and other third world countries quickly caught up with highly-skilled, highly educated, lowly-paid workers.

Thomas and Michael blames the polarization of the country based on two-party policy for lack of political capital to take a hard stand on issues. One party wants to raise the taxes while the other wants to tax-cuts. If you want to secure your future, then money should be spent on the right things while money should be cut back from the wrong things. The policies of these two parties are in direct contradiction with the policies adopted by their political leaders of the past who are often quoted as example. Those leaders adopted a middle-of-the-road policy because there always a third party candidate who carried the middle-of-the-road agenda. This is what is missing in America right now.

The authors are patriots in the American sense. So, there are a lot of instances in the book which highlights the American spirit and it's past glory sounding almost like a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Since the authors intend to jolt the reader from their dispassionate and unattached stance, they shout at the top of their voice about the impending doom. This turns off the reader after a while. By the time, the reader reaches the last section where the next steps and fine examples of American spirit are described, hope has been extinguished.

Like I said, it is an appeal. But is anyone listening... or reading? Your guess is as good as mine.


  1. I haven't read this book, but I think it could be quite true for Indians as well. Our so called economic growth has made us quite complacent and there is a lesson in this for us all.

  2. @Sudhagee - :) There is a lesson in this for every country. The book details the challenges the difficulties that are facing or may face any nation at a time like this. But on the flip side, the discourse becomes too preachy at times.

  3. The US situation can be best summed up in a recent tidbit doing the rounds of FB.... "10 years ago we had Steve Jobs,Bob Hope and Johny Cash..Now we have no Hope.. and no Cash..!!

  4. @Vaz - That was a really funny line. I have seen the line before on twitter and fb.

  5. Interesting review...liked how it ended.


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