The second in a series of conferences looking at various aspects of international competitiveness brought scholars to AEI on Wednesday to examine competitiveness in three spheres: international markets, trade and health care. Phillip Swagel of AEI kicked off the conference with a presentation on international competitiveness, which framed the discussion of the day. He reviewed the general indicators of competitiveness, such as real exchange rates, and concluded that the word "competitiveness," though often misused, has several useful meanings. AEI's Claude Barfield and Matthew Jensen followed with their presentation on global value chains. First, they explored how this new type of trade fits into the standard framework of trade theory that has existed since David Ricardo's work in the early 19th century and how it undermines arguments for industrial policy. In the second part of their presentation, they focused on statistical evidence of the fragmentation of the production process, especially in East Asia and the United States. To conclude the conference, AEI's Benjamin Zycher discussed U.S. competitiveness in the health care market. He analyzed the efficiency of the health care industry, focusing specifically on whether the United States spends more on health care while getting less. He concluded that, contrary to conventional wisdom, once data are adjusted, the United States arguably delivers more while spending less. Overall, the event continued to reframe the policy debate and explore new research topics in the area of competitiveness.
Politicians often call for actions to enhance U.S. competitiveness and chide their political rivals for pursuing policies contrary to that purpose. Meanwhile, segments of the academic community have largely written off national competitiveness as meaningless. Economist Paul Krugman went so far as to say that "the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous, skewing domestic policies and threatening the international system." In light of the academic challenge to the notion of competitiveness, AEI has gathered experts to research the value of the concept of competitiveness in different spheres. How do we define competitiveness, and is it worth pursuing as a policy goal? In what way do countries compete in various areas, including international trade and health care?
This AEI conference will be the second of a three-part series in which scholars will present new research on competitiveness. Each paper will be presented by its author(s), followed by comments from an expert and questions from the audience.
If you cannot attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page.
Full video is usually posted within 24 hours after the event.
Listen to audio from Panel 1 here. Audio from Panels 2 & 3 can be found under Event Materials at the bottom of the page.