Life is NOT a Zero Sum Game – Part II

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The following is from my draft book, The Next Golden Age of America – We Can Give our Grandchildren a Better World.

In The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria describes “The rise of the rest,” the increase of affluence in the third word countries.  The most dramatic is China, but they are not alone.  India, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia are all growing their economies faster than the U. S., primarily because they were so far behind.  In the 50’s & 60’s the U.S. (and Canada) were the only strong players.  The rest of the world was either rebuilding from WWII or just starting to join the 20th century.  Now they are catching up.  Key point – Zakaria doesn’t describe a world of doom and gloom.  Granted, he describes a world in which the U.S. is no longer so dominant that second place looks like first loser.  But Zakaria predicts that we will be Number One for some years to come, just not in all categories of business, and there will be strong numbers two, three, and four.  This may sound scary, but it shouldn’t.  If we think in terms of a zero sum game, then yes, other countries advancing would mean that we are falling behind.  But the world of business is not a zero sum game.  Other countries growing their economies creates a world of new opportunities.  Two examples: GM and Ford cut deals worth $1.8 billion for exports to China, and Proctor and Gamble sells $2.5 billion of products in China per year.

It seems to me we are often a “Them and Us” society. Today, many are worried that China is going to “beat us”.  In the 1980’s our focus was Japan, and in the Cold War of the 1950’s & 1960’s it was the Soviet Union. We need to worry less about China, Japan, or Russia and make the U.S. the best that it can be.  In sports terms, we need to play our game better by practicing harder today then executing better tomorrow.  To continue my golf theme: We are ready to tee off on the tenth hole, and we haven’t played the last few holes so well.  However, there is still half the course left.  In the real world there is always half the course left.  We can start this next hole with a good tee shot so our Grandchildren don’t have to hit out of the rough.  That tee shot is reinvigorating the conditions for innovation.  We need to refocus our schools on educating, make collage more affordable, and honor capability not celebrity.  Innovation grows the pie bigger for all.

The world of technology is growing at an ever faster pace.  And products we are not even thinking about today, will be mainstream in 20 years.  Where were cell phones and laptops 20 years ago?  The June, 2009 issue of Wired magazine included a section titled “The New Economyby Charles C. Mann. He proposes that newer, smaller, companies will be the wave of the future, because they are more agile.  The manufacturing process will be reinvented.  Major companies like GM will select and purchase more parts from specialty companies rather than design and fabricate them in-house.  He gives an example of Fallbrook Technologies’ new mini (inexpensive) automatic transmission that allows auto air conditioners and alternators to operate much more efficiently at low speed.   A second article by Steven Levy, “The Secrets of Googlenomics,” describes how Google has developed an auction-based pricing process that is completely different from any other major company.

The following is from the WSJ, July 2-3, 2011, “The Future Still Belongs to America,” by Walter Russell Mead.  “…the 21st [century] will  be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen….but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country.  Change is our home field.”  Why look wistfully back at “the good old days” when we can look excitedly forward to the “Next Golden Age”?

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