Do You Really Want to Compete?


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Competitiveness is a hot topic these days. In an election year that is characterized by sluggish economic growth, both in the U.S. and globally, there is no shortage of politicians and pundits these days who offer sure-fire solutions that will restore jobs and ensure future prosperity. We have all heard numerous promises to “level the playing field” or “reform the tax code” or “cut the deficit” or “eliminate regulations” or “fight for the middle class.” Yet while we have heard these promises over and over during the past generation, the clear trend in the data is that the competitiveness of the U.S. is getting worse, not better.

From where I sit the problem is that we have let the politicians assume far too much responsibility for our nation’s competitiveness. And all they are really competing for is a vote. So we should stop asking the politicians to make us more competitive, and we should not listen when they promise to do so. That is because in a free market system it is our job to decide who is competitive. That’s right, it up to us. The American consumer sector is the most powerful market force on the planet. And U.S. consumers need to start demanding and then consuming competitiveness with every single dollar they spend. In every choice we make during every day of our lives we should choose to improve our competitiveness. Not in the ballot box every four years, but in the marketplace and in our communities every single day.

The most competitive goods and services are not necessarily the ones with the lowest price. Competitive products are made the right way, using the right materials, and they are the best at filling a real need. Cost is not the main factor that drives demand for competitive products, value is. Now you can be sure that value is much more difficult to assess than cost is, so there is much more to be said on this topic. I am making it my goal to advance the dialogue, but for now I will close with this thought: If we wish to prosper, (as a family, as a community, as a nation, as a culture) then we must become more competitive. And if we wish to become more competitive, then we must do so not only in our businesses and our universities, but also in our households and in our everyday lives. It will not be easy, but it will be easier than accepting the alternative. And it will be a whole lot more fun.