NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 2, 2006

People everywhere believe China and India are going to blow by the United States in the coming decades. They've got the hunger. They've got the people. They've got the future. We're a tired old power, destined to fade back to the second tier of nations, like Britain did in the 20th century. This sentiment is everywhere -- except in the evidence. The facts and figures tell a different story, says David Brooks of the New York Times.


  • Americans remain the hardest working people on the face of the earth and the most productive. As William W. Lewis, the founding director of the McKinsey Global Institute, wrote, "The United States is the productivity leader in virtually every industry." And productivity rates are surging faster now than they did even in the 1990s.
  • The United States accounts for roughly 40 percent of the world's research and development spending. More money was invested in R&D in this country than in the other G-7 nations combined.
  • In 1971, the U.S. economy accounted for 30.52 percent of the world's gross domestic product. Since then, we've seen the rise of Japan, China, India and the Asian tigers. The United States now accounts for 30.74 percent of world G.D.P., a slightly higher figure.

Recent polling suggests that people in Afghanistan and Iraq are more optimistic about their nations' futures than people in the United States. That's just crazy, says Brooks, even given our problems with health care, growing inequality and such. America's problem over the next 50 years will not be wrestling with decline. It will be helping the frustrated individuals and nations left so far behind.

Source: David Brooks, "The Nation of the Future," New York Times, February 2, 2006.

For text (subscription required):


Browse more articles on Economic Issues