Arnold Kling  

Where Can America Compete?

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Employment Forecasting, contin... Against Budget Surpluses...

Netscape founder Marc Andreessen has some suggestions, including:


* Innovation and entrepreneurialism -- anything new we tend to be really good at
* Software design
* Advanced chip design (CPUs, 3D accelerators, etc.)
* Networking systems design
...
* Law
* Education
* Agriculture (!!! -- we are an exporter)
* Advanced manufacturing (technologically sophisticated manufacturing -- US manufacturing output is up 40% in the last 10 years because we are so good at this)

Again, thanks to Alex Tabarrok for the pointer.

For Discussion. Are any of the fields listed by Andreessen (note--I have quoted only a few of them above) fields where the U.S. does not have a comparative advantage, even if we might have an absolute advantage?


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CATEGORIES: International Trade



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Eric Krieg writes:

In certain areas of agriculture we have no absolute advantage, much less comparative advantage. You could probably make a case that without subsidies that there are many areas of agriculture where we have no comparative or absolute advantage. I am thinking of Brazil's continuing strenght in soybeans in particular.

SomeCallMeTim writes:

It might be helpful to break the list out a bit - much of the list seems to relate primarily to an advantage in risky ventures. Entrepenuership and leading edge anything appears to be characterized by a relatively high risk of failure.

I'm not sure we have any comparative advantage, for example, in trivial feats in software design or education - aren't we off-shoring software jobs because other countries have relatively good software designers as a result of their relatively good educational systems? (And its not as if our public high schools are reknown for their excellence). Similarly, I believe that some paralegal jobs are also being off-shored. It isn't clear why bottom-level attorney jobs (large-scale document review, drafting research memos, writing briefs) couldn't also be off-shored.

Rob Sperry writes:


In the original thread on the article that preceded this

http://jrobb.mindplex.org/2004/03/22.html#a4466

An article was posted claiming to disprove the law of comparative advantages for a certain case.

http://tinyurl.com/yvg86

Seems scetchy to me, but i havnt worked through the math yet.

Eric Krieg writes:

>>It isn't clear why bottom-level attorney jobs (large-scale document review, drafting research memos, writing briefs) couldn't also be off-shored.

State licensure laws would preclude offshoring of any attorney jobs. And lawyers aren't as common in other countries as they are here.

Damn, the only profession that we WANT to offshore, and we can't do it.

Eric Krieg writes:

>>It isn't clear why bottom-level attorney jobs (large-scale document review, drafting research memos, writing briefs) couldn't also be off-shored.

State licensure laws would preclude offshoring of any attorney jobs. And lawyers aren't as common in other countries as they are here.

Damn, the only profession that we WANT to offshore, and we can't do it.

dsquared writes:

How do you "compete" in law?

I bought me some of that fancy Japanese law once. Worked all right in the shop, but I got it home and dang me if the enforceability hadn't gone out of it!

John Thacker writes:

dsquared-- Delaware does a pretty good job competing in corporation law, I think.

Actually, by far the largest proportion of the outsourced tech jobs are the low paying jobs, including and especially phone tech support. That's not inconsistent with the US having some comparative advantage, at least at the high productivity end.

Scott M. Harris writes:

Brazil will be able to outproduce us in agricultural per se, however, they will do it based on argicultural technology (and human capital) developed in the United States. Many sons of farmers have come to the conclusion that owning a ten thousand acre farm in Brazil is more attractive than waiting around to take over the six hundred acre family farm.

Think of lawyers specializing in contract law as part of the R&D process of developing better means of trade. Eventually better means of trade become part of commercial custom. In this respect, lawyers specializing in contract law are like investment bankers, who constantly have to invent new products to replace products that have become commoditized. In a progressing free market economy, laws and customs, particularly those touching on property rights, are constantly evolving. As distasteful as this may seem, having lots of lawyers may be the cost of being on the leading edge of the ever-evolving process of discovering, testing, and implementing knowledge useful in living good lives.

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