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Winning the future?

Posted by: Annie Voy | February 16, 2011 | 15 Comments |

An interesting response to Obama’s State of the Union by Greg Mankiw. Agree?

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Responses -

“But is this really a good way to frame the economic challenges we face?” I do not think President Obama is talking solely about the economy when he called on Americans to ‘win the future’. In the education world, we hear about the “Race to the Top” and attempts to more adequately prepare students for the future (and take back higher rankings in math and science exams from Singapore as well as other European and Asian countries).

As for the race for “international economic dominance,” I think the race starts back with how the government and businesses invest (so we can see how our investments right now influences our future). “Achieving economic prosperity is not like winning a game, and guiding an economy is not like managing a sports team.” Actually, achieving economic prosperity is (to me) similar to a game of chess—the start of the game (or economy) easily influences the result (either one player wins and the other loses, or the two players draw—no winners and no losers).

“And as they do so, they create opportunities for Americans — from the professors who teach the classes to the grounds crews who maintain the campuses.” Something does not seem right—wouldn’t American students provide the same opportunities for professors and grounds crews? (So the benefit is marginal at best?)

This article ties in well with my paper topic of “Brain Drain,” and like concerns over Chinese manufacturing, I think our worries are ungrounded. Not only have we benefited from the world’s best students studying in America, and often staying, but this has come at the expense of many poorer nations. I would agree with Mankiw that it is in our best interest when many students return to their home countries as “ambassadors” of the United States, and allow for increased economic development and health there.

I feel the phrase “winning the future” is intentionally broad as the speech is geared towards a general american audience. This is not unique to Obama, as most presidents talk mainly in hype and generalities, especially in widely viewed situations such as the State of the Union. However, the idea of winning the future in economic terms is somewhat misleading as it contributes to a misconception that economic growth is a zero sum game. Instead, it’s entirely feasible to mutually benefit from the growth of the rest of the world. It is not necessary that the United States be #1 in everything (which it isn’t) in order for us to be sufficiently successful. If given the choice between having my own country being an economic leader and the world stricken with imbalanced poverty versus living in a country that is sufficiently getting by (but not leading) and the rest of the world being more evenly developed, I would chose the second. Essentially, we should care about the wellbeing of people worldwide, not just the ones geographically close to us and politically tied to us. Nonetheless, an optimist should interpret “winning the future” simply as encouragement to fix current and foreseeable problems, rather than a focus on ensuring the rest of the world remain behind us.

So while I agree with a lot that has been said, especially the part about Presidents and officials being vague, I also agree with the the President when he mentions the trouble that is presented with educating people and having them leave. Though I can appreciate the benefits in having American values represented all over the world, I do not think the benefits are greater than those we could get out of having more educated people here. There are a number of people in this country that could use a college education and the multitudes of international students often discourage American students from getting in. I I do agree that the idea of “winning the future” is misleading because economic prosperity isn’t necessarily a one horse race, and just because China or India picks up the pace doesn’t mean we can’t do so also. Although I personally would love to be part of a country that is the number one economy even if it means less global development. But lets face it there are a lot of uneducated people in this country and I think that with more opportunities for entry, the individuals on the border might be more able to get in and if we had more educated people in this country the long run benefits would be way better than having some international students casually mention in conversation that they had fun while in America. So my suggestion….boost the economy by cutting back on international students and educating more Americans.

The issue at hand does not relate to economic growth as a zero sum game. When Obama says, “win the future” he is referring to revamping American competitiveness. How can we remain the most dominant economic power and center of innovation if our education system does not produce adequate amounts of computer programmers, engineers etc? The same principle applies to infrastructure and other areas neglected areas key to a robust and sustainable economy. We have spent the capital accumulated resulting from WWII and now must re-invest.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that we must “win the future,” I do believe that a competitive spirit is necessary in order to foster innovation. What would drive people to perform better if there was no competition? In America, we should concern ourselves with what is going on in other countries and try to better what we are doing, sort of like benchmarking. If we stopped competing, we could risk forward progress and technology development.

I also think that development and better education in other countries will be great for us too because as new developments are made elsewhere, they will benefit us at some point because the world is so interconnected. So even though people are worried about China becoming a world leader, if that were to happen, we would also benefit from new developments there.

It is neat how the article talks about consumer and producer surplus and how each gains in compared to a sports team where there is always a winner and a loser. President Obama’s speech, in my opinion, seems biased towards benefiting and focusing solely on the United States. This is completely understandable and acceptable for our President to focus his attention on, however, it is not a bad thing that we as a country are educating students then sending them back to their countries of origin. We are benefiting the world by doing so. I love this article’s opinion that we should not view everything as winning and losing. Globalization has opened a million doors of opportunity from the business world to the medical world to many more. It is part of our future and we would be better off as a country to embrace it rather than shun it.

Personally, I enjoyed Mankiw’s point of how influential American universities are to foreign students. For me, I have personally experienced this first hand within the apartments I live in. I live next to a large group of Saudi Arabian’s and I’ve had discussions with them pertaining their opinions on going to school in America. They have expressed, although they do not like Spokane, that the opportunities that Gonzaga gives its students is immeasurable to any educational value they would be receiving back home. So yes, I do agree with Mankiw when he states that we need to invest in our future and not view it as a game of winners and losers.

I totally agree David. I think a lot of people see a problem with exporting our knowledge to other countries. I think it is something that greatly benefits global society, an American education does not just teach you Finance, Accounting, or biology, it teaches ethics and value as well. So while we may be exporting some of our knowledge we are also exporting our views of democracy and American values/ethics.

Chris brought up a good point about the export of American values and ethics in addition to knowledge, and I feel that those are going to (hopefully) benefit the global economy. While a part of me is against the idea of foreign students coming here to get an education and then bring back everything they learned to their home country, I also think that, as Mankiw points out, there are positive aspects. We should be focused more on trade and specialization, and not quite as worried about which countries will gain a global competitive advantage because of where and what they learned at school. If our global economy runs smoother, and it assists in countries developing to their full potential, then that is something with which the whole world will benefit, and it may ultimately start with foreign students getting and education in America.

Similar to what David talked about, I play tennis for Gonzaga and on our team of only ten players, four are from outside the states. Each player has his own opinions about the US, some being positive, but most being negative.

I remember once getting into an argument with my teammate from Slovakia about how he felt that US citizens can be so ignorant to international matters and that all Americans think the US is so much better than every other county in the world. He basically ranted about how much he hates living in the states, and after he was done, I simply responded, “so why are you here? Why don’t you go to school back in Slovakia?” The argument pretty much ended there and I remember really liking the thought that US was better than his country, particularly in an educational sense.

Like Mankiw explained, Americans love being competitive and Americans love winning – my argument with my teammate was a perfect example of that. However, I agree that when it comes to international matters, we need not to view it as a competition, because if we can work together, we can all benefit and prosper from one another. There doesn’t always have to be a winner and a loser.

Generally, Americans are very competitively driven: winning sports matches, obtaining that job promotion, competing for attendance at a University. Therefore it makes sense that Obama would use this phrase to entice Americans to the economic issue. However, Gregory Mankiw makes an excellent point when he states that global economics is not a competition. Think back to when you were a little kid and you were walking somewhere. There was always one kid who would run off and claim that he was beating everyone. There was obviously no competition going on. I always thought that kid was kind of annoying. Do we want our fellow nations to think of us like that? Economic policy should be treated more like a partnership. One common misconception about global economics is that when other countries prosper, it must be coming from someone else’s prosperity. Instead of constricting other economies in fear, we should be open to the idea of more trade which would make our own economy healthier.

I appreciate this article because it’s a good check on the way we think about the economy. I would assume that President Obama doesn’t want to be first in the economy at the expense of other countries, however, that is what his “win the future” sounds like. The rhetoric about American students falling behind students in other countries makes it seem like American students need to “beat” students around the world. If a person really understands economics, they would easily see past this fallacy, but you’re average American who knows little about economics wouldn’t know any better and could be pretty anti-other countries. This is dangerous because I think we should help other people and not worry that by being fair, and even helpful, we would hurt our own economy.

For starters, I feel that when Obama used the phrase “winning the future” it was based in political acceptance as all Americans are afraid of becoming less than they are. By doing this he is rallying the American spirit behind his future causes.
Secondly, I feel that it is very important for our education system to have the many different cultures and people from around the world because that is what makes it a place of greater diversity and better learning. The international students bring with them new ideas, personal experiences with other cultures, and for the most part better work ethics than the typical American student.
Lastly, it may be a radical idea, but someone in class mentioned giving the students who graduated with their degree or graduate and doctoral students the right to become US citizens. By doing this it would bring the brightest of minds from around the world to learn and become part of the American Dream. It could also help with illegal immigration because it would be a legitimate way to become a citizen without the long tedious process it currently is, all at the same time diversifying and educating our workforce.

I think Obama’s phrase “winning the future” was simply propoganda aimed at a sympathetic audience. Our culture is very competitive, in sports, jobs, even drinking games! It was Obama’s attempt to connect with the people. Hopefully, he doesn’t really think that we can “win” in a global economy. The days of imperialism should be over. Also, just based on the future population explosion in China and India, USA will not be winning in the future.