by Martin Veitch

Book review: The World Is Curved

Jan 26, 2010
IT Leadership

The World Is Curved at Waterstones Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy By David M. Smick

From its very title, David M. Smick’s The World Is Curved riffs on Thomas L. Friedman’s influential The World Is Flat, a key text on the subject of globalisation which argued that a perfect storm of stimuli (or “flatteners”) were breaking down barriers for new countries and players to enter a globalising market and supply chain. Arriving with enthusiastic endorsements from the likes of mega-financier George Soros, ex-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and former Chancellor of the Exchequer (though now better known as Nigella’s Dad) Nigel Lawson, Smick’s book is equally hard hitting but darker. His suggestion is that the recent chaos in the financial system is down to globalisation. The outlook is bleak, he argues: China is a loose cannon, pension funds are shaky, and even the old spectres of protectionism and class war are returning. The world – or the financial world, at least, isn’t flat but curved; that is, characterised by surprising discontinuities. Smick is himself an insider, an economics adviser to governments and financial institutions, which makes his apocalyptic vision all the scarier. The US sub-prime mortgage bust that is widely viewed as the catalyst for the broader crisis is no one-off history lesson, he argues, but a symptom of a malaise that could become far worse. If this sounds like a book for economists, it is not. Instead, Smick peppers his 300-page book with anecdotes that provide a peephole into the venality of bankers, the tenuous nature of China’s boom, shrinking central banks and the shift away from wealth being focused in the US, Europe and Japan. The World Is Curved is a book that will appeal to anybody who is trying to make sense of a financial system that, as Smick writes, “one minute appears to be performing beautifully, and the next acts as if the world is coming to an end”.

The World Is Curved at Waterstones