Courtesy Reuters

Proving My Point

My article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs has obviously upset many people. Some of my critics claim that I misrepresented their position, that despite their insistent use of the word "competitiveness" they have never believed that the major industrial nations are engaged in a competitive economic struggle. Others claim that I have gotten the economics wrong: that countries are engaged in a competitive struggle. Indeed, some of them make both claims in the same response.


Lester C. Thurow vigorously denies ever asserting that international competition is a central issue for the U.S. economy. In particular, he cites page counts from his 1985 book, The Zero-Sum Solution, to demonstrate that domestic factors are his principal concern. But Thurow's most recent book is Head to Head, which follows its provocative title with the subtitle, The Coming Battle Among Japan, Europe and America. The book jacket asserts that the "decisive war of the century has begun." The text asserts over and over that the major economic powers are now engaged in "win-lose" competition for world markets, a competition that has taken the place of the military competition between East and West. Thurow now says that international strategic competition is no more than seven percent of the problem; did the typical reader of Head to Head get this message?

Similarly, Stephen S. Cohen denies that he, or indeed anyone else with whom I should "deign to take difference," has ever said the things I claim competitiveness advocates believe. But in 1987 Cohen, together with John Zysman, published Manufacturing Matters, a book that seemed to say two (untrue) things: the long-term downward trend in the share of manufacturing in U.S. employment is largely due to foreign competition, and this declining share is a major economic problem.

After their initial denial, both Cohen and Thurow proceed to argue that international competition is of crucial importance after all. In this they are joined by Clyde V. Prestowitz, Jr., who at least makes no

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