The Public Interest

American competitiveness—do we really need to worry?

Richard B. McKenzie

Winter 1988

NO MATTER HOW it is measured, America’s balance of international trade has deteriorated dramatically during the 1980s. Few analysts think that it will improve in the near future; some predict that large (if not progressively larger) trade deficits will linger into the 1990s. Most Washington policy pundits worry that the country’s worsening trade balance signals a degeneration of the country’s “competitiveness,” the new Washington buzzword made so prominent by the Reagan administration that it is sometimes called the “C-word” in Washington policy circles.

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