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Paul Krugman writes: "Mr. Obama himself may do all right: his approval rating is up, the economy is showing signs of life, and his chances of re-election look pretty good. But the ideology that brought economic disaster in 2008 is back on top - and seems likely to stay there until it brings disaster again."

Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)
Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)

The Competition Myth

By Paul Krugman, The New York Times

24 January 11

Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, President Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his Saturday radio address, the president declared that "We can out-compete any other nation on Earth."

This may be smart politics. Arguably, Mr. Obama has enlisted an old cliché on behalf of a good cause, as a way to sell a much-needed increase in public investment to a public thoroughly indoctrinated in the view that government spending is a bad thing.

But let's not kid ourselves: talking about "competitiveness" as a goal is fundamentally misleading. At best, it's a misdiagnosis of our problems. At worst, it could lead to policies based on the false idea that what's good for corporations is good for America.

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+14 # Hart 2011-01-24 11:40
Until we stop governing by buzzword we will have no real solutions. "Competitivenes s" (how about simply using the word competition) is one of the worst of them. It's just code for "don't interfere with business as usual or we won't be competitive". Thanks, Paul!
-18 # Gofastgo 2011-01-24 12:32
Did you read what you just wrote? Competition is a 'bad' word? You must have been brought up where they didn't keep score at sports competitions, and where 'everyone' got a medal, win, lose or tie, everybody's happy. The problem with that is that it takes away the competitive edge you get from winning and losing. What are you people thinking?
+4 # Carbonman1950 2011-01-24 15:32
Gofastgo - Are you really this dense? When you go to the supermarket can you not tell zucchini squash from acorn squash? After all they're all squash. You know perfectly well that the word "competitivenes s" was used in one and only one context... business competition and your attempt to confuse the issue by confusing the context is either dishonest or imbecilic. You choose which one.
+2 # Gofastgo 2011-01-25 09:51
If we don't compete, we become obsolete. Just what does acorn and zucchini squash have to do with it? I don't understand your analogy.

Do you people notice when a conservative makes a comment you all as a group note negative comment, my two comments have -16 and -17, while all you 'birds of a feather' praise one another for your liberal slant to everything in our world. BTW, are you implying that business or any other competition is bad? That's what it sounds like to me.
+2 # Gringaryan 2011-01-25 08:28
Competitiveness OR competition are both way too dominant in the US culture. We could use a lot more co-operation, compassion, co-ordination, conciliation ...
-18 # Gofastgo 2011-01-24 12:30
Just who does the 'left' think makes the world go around? Public employment?, government? Entitlements? If not for private enterprise, 'corporations' making and creating wealth and paying taxes, all of your 'programs' and 'public employment' would be gone, they all run via the tax dollar from corporations and working individuals.
+16 # SFOtter 2011-01-24 13:28
One of the chief components of a competitive economy is investment in education. Why then are our nation's schools and universities so poorly funded and college fees increasing by 20-30%? Are you not aware that some of the most remarkable technologies of this age (GPS and internet backbone) were developed by the U.S. govt? Unless you're a 'lefty' don't try to speak for us. I believe in a mixed economy which incorporates private and public organizations. The problem with 'competitivenes s' as pointed out by this author is that it means off shoring jobs to cheaper and less regulated shores. Not so good for U.S. jobs. Have you or your father ever been out of a job? Ever been forced to change careers or relocate for work?
+10 # AML 2011-01-24 14:25
Corporations like GE? I believe they got a REFUND this year for $150 million or so.
+8 # Carla 2011-01-24 21:01
"Just who does the 'left' think makes the world go around?"

Well, probably not you.

And what on earth makes you think corporations pay taxes? Maybe lowly mom-and-pop operations pay taxes, but not the big boys. GE and Koch Industries? They don't pay taxes, buddy. Who do you think you're kidding?
+1 # mrgaribaldi2263 2011-01-26 07:37
For one thing, corporations exist at the pleasure of the state, the will of the people. All power is inherent in the people - not corporations. I don't know if you have noticed the confluence of trends: rising power of corporations seems to correspond well with the decline of the middle class.
+1 # bernhard pfennigschm 2011-01-24 13:57
You got it wrong.... To compete means finally spending too much time trying to defeat the opponent. You are getting distracted from the original goal to produce a product by working on defense or attack. Do what you want to do with the best effort and you might win.
+7 # Jorge 2011-01-24 14:39
We should keep in mind that when Obama says "we" he means Wall Street banksters (his golfing buddies), giant international corporations, the MIC.....not Main Street, not working folks or unions, and not those pesky Progressives. As an entrepreneur, I have created many more jobs than the large corporations I worked for in my career. Many large corporations take over other companies and then get rid of employees (RIFs or send jobs overseas) and sell off assets, with the CEOs and Board members pocketing the huge profits. Obama is now part of that group of non-compassiona te capitalists (if he wasn't already previously). How is this different from Bush/Cheney?
+4 # Carla 2011-01-24 20:56
"How is this different from Bush/Cheney?"

It's not.
+2 # robhood 2011-01-24 17:40
JD Rockefeller once called "competition" a sin!! That's the mindset of our power elite.
+7 # Lee Black 2011-01-24 18:15
I think one of the major points in the article centers on regulation. If the competitiveness being proposed is to decrease regulation that could bring about more of the same problems. Regulations bring us an overall advantage: a level playing field; cleaner air and water; less toxic dumping. In other words, benefits for all rather than benefits for the companies.
+6 # Marty Lee 2011-01-24 19:09
The Germans have another thing we lack in the U.S. - Solidarity. A word seldom (make that never) heard in the States.
+1 # Mouna 2011-01-25 15:19
Check the dictionary definition of "compete". The definition as I read it is "striving together toward a common goal." It's not about "winning." It's about being the best we can be TOGETHER
so that we can BE THE BEST WE CAN BE. One who competes endeavors to ATTAIN what another seeks. There is no scarcity of attainment. Being the best we can be is the only goal. Striving together is the challenge and the reward. It could make a big difference in how we relate to one another in all areas.
+1 # mrgaribaldi2263 2011-01-26 06:33
Thanks for clearing that up, Mouna. I'm glad to hear that "compete" doesn't mean to "beat" the competition in order to create a private monopoly.

I think it is worth pointing out that in countries where there is real competition, the quality of services goes up and the prices are stable or go down to the cost of production plus a reasonable profit.

Take Japan with Internet access. They seem to have agreed that they wanted to have the best internet access system in the world. So the government worked with NTT to build it. The government financed it, and NTT built it. But NTT must resell access to competitors at wholesale. They set aside competition for national pride in having one of the best networks in the world.

We don't see that very often in America.
+1 # rm 2011-01-26 07:45
What "competition" means to the world's ruling capitalists is transferring wealth from the workers of the world to a few mega-banks. Here's how they are discussing it in Davos at the World Economic Forum -- "World needs $100 trillion more credit, says World Economic Forum." To keep businesses competitive, the people of the world need to give banks $100 trillion so they can lend it to corporations. All of this competitive stupid-talk is just about the looting of the wealth of the world by the rich capitalists. This is robber baronage gone insane. .

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