Building the Next American Century: The Past and Future of American Economic Competitiveness

In This Review

Building the Next American Century: The Past and Future of American Economic Competitiveness

By Kent H. Hughes
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005
528 pp. $55.00
Purchase

This book provides an extensive review of three decades of on-again, off-again efforts by Congress and successive U.S. administrations to improve the "competitiveness" of American products in world markets. Perhaps reflecting the author's early experience as a congressional staff member, it identifies roads that were not taken as well as those that were and captures nicely the interplay among academic ideas, business interests, and congressional activism. (Indeed, the book will interest readers as much for its treatment of the dynamics of Washington policymaking as for its approach to the main topic at hand.) Hughes also discusses the impact on American thinking of strong performance in Japan and Germany, both as prods and as potential models. The book draws on a wide range of reports, but it contains too few numbers on the scale of the activities and the effects of the policies that were undertaken. Hughes, a relative activist, concludes by suggesting a program for the future.