Seemingly everywhere you look, one or another pundit is predicting the imminent decline of the United States and the end of the American Century. Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us paints a picture of an economically emergent China that is catching up to us on every front where it hasn’t already surpassed us. For others, the competitive threat comes from the collective rise of the BRIC emerging market powerhouses – Brazil, Russia, and India as well as China – which are growing rapidly and together make up a substantial share of the world economy. Fareed Zakaria’s view that the U.S. will likely remain the world’s dominant power but in the context of what he calls the “rise of the rest” seems more on point.
A new study released today [PDF] by myself and my colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute subjects propositions regarding American declinism and the rise of the rest to an empirical test. It provides a wealth of data to measure the relative standing of 82 nations on technology, innovation, human capital and other measures of economic competitiveness. I'll be summarizing its main findings all week, and today we start with technology and innovation.