United States Still Has Vitality in Research and Innovation

Has the United States lost its vitality? No. Americans remain the hardest working people on the face of the earth and the most productive. As William W. Lewis, the founding director of the McKinsey Global Institute, wrote, ”The United States is the productivity leader in virtually every industry.” And productivity rates are surging faster now than they did even in the 1990’s.
Has the United States stopped investing in the future? No. The U.S. accounts for roughly 40 percent of the world’s R. & D. spending. More money was invested in research and development in this country than in the other G-7 nations combined.
Is the United States becoming a less important player in the world economy? Not yet. In 1971, the U.S. economy accounted for 30.52 percent of the world’s G.D.P. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of Japan, China, India and the Asian tigers. The U.S. now accounts for 30.74 percent of world G.D.P., a slightly higher figure.
What about the shortage of scientists and engineers? Vastly overblown. According to Duke School of Engineering researchers, the U.S. produces more engineers per capita than China or India. According to The Wall Street Journal, firms with engineering openings find themselves flooded with résumés. Unemployment rates for scientists and engineers are no lower than for other professions, and in some specialties, such as electrical engineering, they are notably higher.
Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation told The Wall Street Journal last November, ”No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage.” The G.A.O., the RAND Corporation and many other researchers have picked apart the quickie studies that warn of a science and engineering gap. ”We did not find evidence that such shortages have existed at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon,” the RAND report concluded.
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. . . , the American workplace is so competitive, companies are compelled to promote lifelong learning. A U.N. report this year ranked the U.S. third in the world in ease of doing business, after New Zealand and Singapore. The U.S. has the second most competitive economy on earth, after Finland, according the latest Global Competitiveness Report. As Michael Porter of Harvard told The National Journal, ”The U.S. is second to none in terms of innovation and an innovative environment.”

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID BROOKS. “The Nation of the Future.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 2, 2006): A23.

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