Is Competitiveness Worth Defending?

In the State of the Union address this year, President Obama called for a “competitiveness initiative.” He has his own Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and earlier this week the White House released the president’s “American Jobs Act” and suggested the plan would help America compete: “The president’s plan will put Americans back to work in key areas that are central to America’s future competitiveness.”

But many economists are skeptical that nations can be said to “compete” with one another. Individual companies can compete, but countries are not competitors. Paul Krugman famously said the notion that nations compete is “not only wrong but dangerous.”

But if so much of our policy is designed to increase competitiveness, we should try to define what it means to be competitive, and what optimal competitive policy is. To that end, AEI is hosting a conference next Thursday, “Is Competitiveness Worth Defending?” that will examine which of the nation’s policy priorities can be framed as issues of competitiveness. The conference will feature new research from experts on taxation, education, intellectual property, and health policy.

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