Book Reviews & Citations
(05/25/2005) Clyde Prestowitz and 3 Billion New Capitalists quoted in the New York Times
New York Times (NY)
Copyright (c) 2005 The New York Times. All rights reserved.
May 25, 2005
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
After six weeks of being a foreign correspondent traveling around
America, the biggest question I have come home with is not "What's the
matter with Kansas?" but rather, "What's the matter with big business?"
America faces a huge set of challenges if it is going to retain its
competitive edge. As a nation, we have a mounting education deficit,
energy deficit, budget deficit, health care deficit and ambition
deficit. The administration is in denial on this, and Congress is off
on Mars. And yet, when I look around for the group that has both the
power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and
competitive -- America's business leaders -- they seem to be missing in
action. I am not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives.
I am worried about the disappearance of an internationalist,
pro-American business elite.
Is there any company in America that should be more involved in
lobbying for some form of national health coverage than General Motors,
which is being strangled by its health care costs? Is there any group
of companies that should have been picketing the White House more than
our high-tech firms, after the Bush team cut the National Science
Foundation budget by $100 million in 2005 and in 2006 has proposed
shrinking the Department of Energy science programs and basic and
applied research in the Department of Defense -- key sources of
Is there any constituency that should be clamoring for a sane energy
policy more than U.S. industry? Is there any group that should be
mobilizing voters to lobby Congress to pass the Caribbean Free Trade
Agreement and complete the Doha round more than U.S. multinationals?
Should anyone be more concerned about the fiscally reckless deficits we
are leaving our children than Wall Street?
Yet, with a few admirable exceptions, American business has not gotten
out front on these issues. In part, this is because boardrooms tend to
be culturally Republican -- both uncomfortable and a little afraid to
challenge this administration. In part, this is because of the
post-Enron keep-your-head-down effect. And in part, this is because in
today's flatter world, many key U.S. companies now make most of their
profits abroad and can increasingly recruit the best talent in the
world today without ever hiring another American.
So with business with its head in the clouds, labor with its head in
the sand, the administration focused on terrorism and Congress catering
to people who think "intelligent design" is something done by God and
not by Intel, it's not surprising that "we don't have a strategy for
making America competitive in the 21st century -- a century of three
billion new capitalists," as Clyde Prestowitz put it. He is the author
of a smart new book about the rise of China and India, called,
appropriately, "Three Billion New Capitalists."
If we don't get our act together, this will affect not just our
economy, but also our power. America has just completed the most
sweeping transformation of its national security establishment since
1947. "Unfortunately, the entire restructuring has been oriented toward
combating one threat -- terrorism," said David Rothkopf, a Carnegie
Endowment scholar who has just published a timely and important new
book, "Running the World," about the U.S. National Security Council.
"This is dramatically different from what was done in the wake of World
War II, when, in addition to creating the N.S.C., Department of
Defense, Air Force and C.I.A., we also created the U.N., I.M.F., World
Bank, conducted the Marshall Plan, rebuilt Japan and recognized that
domestic growth was the most important wellspring of our national
That domestic strength made us both feared and attractive. Remember:
America won the cold war not just with containment, but, even more
important, with attraction -- attraction for the society we were
"Undercutting that attraction with fiscal irresponsibility,
inattentiveness to the engines of competitiveness on which future jobs
will depend, cavalier treatment of the values that make the American
way of life more appealing, closing our borders to the world -- and
thus both losing our edge and our understanding of that world -- or
focusing exclusively on enemies or the failings of the international
community," added Mr. Rothkopf, "is both self-defeating and runs
counter to every lesson of how we won the cold war."
But who will tell the people? If not the situation room, it better be
the boardroom -- otherwise the costs to our country will exceed
anything that can measured on a balance sheet.