Given the tumult of the current economic landscape in the United States (and the world for that matter), I highly recommend reading That Used To Be Us. Friedman and Mandelbaum explain, very cleanly and in no uncertain terms, some of the most foundational aspects of American economic dominance, how they’re under attack for the wrong reasons, and how we might be able to reinforce them for a new century where they may be more important than ever. It is an essential read for our times.
Briefly, the authors identify education, infrastructure, immigration, research and development, and regulations as some of the most fundamental aspects of our country’s success. However, four challenges are straining the old paradigms within which these factors thrived and must be dealt with if they are to continue being of use to us going forward: globalization, the IT revolution, rising national debt, and energy & climate change.
On a solely personal note, I appreciate the authors’ candor admitting the Iraq war was a terrible mistake and that they were wrong to support it. I don’t think the full extent of the single biggest foreign policy blunder in modern history will be felt for some time, but it’s already clear it has maligned our ability to have cogent debate – and resources necessary – to deal with the very real challenges highlighted in this book and beyond.