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Rising above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5
of a nation’s individual citizens. Further, it is the tax revenues derived from the earnings of those individual citizens and the firms that employ them that make possible the benefits widely expected from government—including, but by no means limited to, healthcare, national security, physical infrastructure, education and unemployment assistance.
Substantial evidence continues to indicate that over the long term the great majority of newly created jobs are the indirect or direct result of advancements in science and technology, thus making these and related disciplines assume what might be described as disproportionate importance. A variety of economic studies over the years reveals that half or more of the growth in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in recent decades has been attributable to progress in technological innovation.1
Advancements in these fields have led not only to the creation of large numbers of quality jobs, they have also made it possible for hundreds of millions of people around the globe to compete with Americans for these same jobs. In particular, the advent of modern aircraft and modern information systems has made it feasible to move objects, including humans, around the world at nearly the speed of sound—and ideas at the speed of light, the latter with little regard for geopolitical borders. In describing the consequences of this development, writer Tom Friedman notes that “Globalization has accidentally made Beijing, Bangalore and Bethesda next-door neighbors.”
Whereas in the past, citizens of any one nation generally had to compete for jobs with their neighbors living in the same community, in the future they will increasingly be required to compete with individuals who live half-way around the world.
Software written in India is now shipped to the United States in milliseconds to be integrated into systems that same day. Flowers grown in Holland are flown overnight for sale in New York the next morning. Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI’s) of patients in United States hospitals are read moments later by radiologists in Australia. Pilots stationed in the United States guide unmanned aircraft to attack targets in Afghanistan. United States accounting firms prepare United States citizens income taxes using accountants located in Costa Rica and Switzerland. Water collected in France is sold in grocery stores in California. The receptionist in an office in Washington, DC lives in Pakistan. A physician in New York removes the gall bladder of a patient in France with the help of a remotely controlled robot. And so it goes in a world where, as described by Frances Cairncross writing in The Economist, “Distance is Dead.”
M. J. Boskin and L. J. Lau. Capital, Technology, and Economic Growth. In N. Rosenberg, R. Landau, and D. C. Mowery, eds. Technology and the Wealth of Nations. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.