Parag Khanna: Welcome to the Global Roundtable. This series focuses on the Future of the Future of Economic Competition. I’m Parang Khanna, joined by a very distinguished panel including: Dambisa Moyo, Daniel Altman, and Anand Giridharadas. The topic right now is can America compete? The United States is actually the 2nd largest economy in the world being the European Union and we know that China has surpassed Japan to be the third largest economic entity in the world. But what really matters is, who is up and who is down in the different of the economy. America is trading jobs in some areas and losing jobs in others.
So what is it going to take for America to be the most competitive power?
Anand Giridharadas: A huge number of Americans are increasingly themselves not competitive within the country and within the world, and that is a much more serious issue than the question of, is American going to be kind of number one, two, or three in that… in that macro ranking.
Daniel Altman: One of our great benefits in the space race was we had the GI Bill. We took all of these people and gave them a lot more education than they had before. So when technological change affected the way the economy would grow, they’d be able to participate. We need a new GI Bill for people who are dislocated by globalization just as they were by the war.
Dambisa Moyo: Fundamentally, the world needs the United States to really focus on innovation and R&D because that is actually what the people around the world is willing to pay America for. We’re still happy to pay for innovation and science, still happy to pay for innovations in healthcare and medicine, cutting edge whether it is technological advancements. But the issue here is that’s still a very small proportion of the American economy.
Parag Khanna: We’ve been hearing though about worker retaining and the two America’s problem ever since John Edwards in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, here we are seven years later and we don’t have that GI Bill to retrain the masses for a new industry nor do we have a consensus on exactly what they should be retrained for. We’re really at the same place we’ve been for a decade. So really, how do we get out of it?
Daniel Altman: One of the ways we can do that is by letting the private sector solve the problem in a market-based approach. What we don’t have in this country and in most industries is a market for training. So there’s no reason for me to invest in a worker if I think that worker might leave my company and I’ll get no compensation for the training. If the new company had to pay me for that training, then we’d have a market and we’d invest a lot more in our workers and we’d give them a lot more job security as well.
Parag Khanna: Well, India is a country that is growing tremendously by investing in the skills of its people. However, that too is not jobless growth, but it certainly isn’t speaking to the masses of Indian society.
Anand Giridharadas: What’s happening in India is India’s learned the lesson of an older America, which is, if you get social mobility right… to your point, a lot of other things work without you having to do much. Even if you don’t build the roads you should, you don’t electrify the villages you should to the extent that you create a fire of people wanting to be mobile, believing in mobility and having some means to do it, it’s reasonably self-sustaining. This country is losing that assumption. Ordinary middle class, lower middle class people in this country are losing the assumption that any other fate for them is possible. And that is something which is not going to show up in any survey. But it’s a very slow burning death. And if that idea takes hold, you lose the game.
Parag Khanna: It’s very interesting that what we’ve agreed is that America does need some kind of comprehensive program to strengthen the capacity of its workers to compete and yet at the same time, the market is going to decide what it is that they’re going to be best at doing. So very interesting insights here on the Future of Competition in the Global Economy. More on that and other relevant topics at BigThink.com.