One of my favorite websites is the Globalist, which runs excerpts from new books. Earlier this month, they ran a piece from Kent Hughes' new book The Past and Future of U.S. Competitiveness. Kent is an old colleague and co-sponsor (in his position at the Woodrow Wilson Center) of our policy forum on the Intangible Economy. The book is both a history of the competitiveness debates of the 1980's and a policy prescription for the future:
What should the United States do to remain the leading economic power in the 21st century?
The answer lies in the not too distant past when the United States responded to an earlier period of economic difficulties at home and rising international competition abroad.
As the United States entered the 1980s, it faced stagnant productivity growth, surging inflation and rising international competition. By the middle of the decade, Japan was scaling the heights of high-tech industry that the United States thought defined its own economic future.
The United States rose to the challenge. The private sector, political leaders and students of policy all responded. Private industry adopted and adapted lean production to meet and often beat the price, quality and pace of innovation set by Japanese companies.
. . .
the strategy that worked so well in the 1990s created a framework for policy that can - and must - be adapted to the new economic and geopolitical challenges of the 21st century.
I couldn't agree more. For my own take on today's competitiveness challenge, see "Info Age: Recast Issues Demand New Solutions"