- THE MAGAZINE
- INFO CENTER
In this issue we examine America competitive advantages amongst global manufacturers ("Things American Still Makes Best", page 24). Readers WORLD TRADE MAGAZINE understand better than most that as the integrated global supply chain extends further afield, industrial sourcing is in a 'race to the bottom' to find the cheapest labor. At the same time, as author Clay Risen reports, the United States possesses consequential advantages over our industrial rivals in terms of access to capital, productivity, market depth and intellectual property protection.
That's the good news. Nobody innovates like the United States.
The bad news is that we can no longer take for granted the conditions that make innovation possible.
You've heard about this before but it's worth repeating: the U.S. needs to ensure a world-class education system capable of producing a highly skilled work force able to exploit our competitive advantages.
How are we doing? Consider this: the United States currently graduates under 7% of the world's engineering bachelor degrees (China, the European Union, Russia and India all graduate more). Moreover, over half of the U.S. PhDs awarded in math or engineering go to foreign students. America students fall behind their European and Asian counterparts in science and math by the time they are thirteen years old (U.S. 8th graders rank 19th in math and 18th in science out of 38 nations).
What do U.S. kids do well? They lead the industrialized nations in watching television: 31% of our 15 year olds watch more than four hours of television during an average weekday. The only place where children watch more is eastern Europe.
If entrepreneurial capitalism is going to continue producing economic growth of the order we've come to expect in the United States, we must accelerate investment in our people's ability to compete.
How? There's places to start: additional support for the Energy Department; returning the Defense Department to the field of basic research (which was cut back with the end of the Cold War); more funding for the National Science Foundation; creation of a new 'National Competitive Education Act' to finance higher education in the sciences.
Future breakthroughs, say the experts, are coming in such areas as bioinformatics, hydrogen fuel cells, broadband infrastructure and the like. Interdisciplinary combinations of biology, chemistry, and computational science are going to yield the next generation of products that determine global cash flows.
Today the United States has a head start in commercializing such breakthroughs but the question the Bush administration must answer is 'for how long'?