25 January 2011

Competition: The Consolation Prize That Offers so Little Consolation

Obama's going to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, out-building rest of world. His new theme is competitiveness.  Apparently he's found Dubya's old prescription med, the one that causes leaders to spout nonsense so familiar that hardly anyone notices that it is nonsense.

Competition is at odds with creativity. Competition reinforces rather than changes the status quo. If you are happy with the status quo, it's a good idea to work harder within the current system to do even better. If the system isn't giving you what you want, though, it might be time to step back to reconsider what system you want to create, what system you want to be a part of.

Obama says that he won't accept 2nd place. Well, we're only 10th by measures of happiness, 11th by measures of per person GDP, and 33rd by educational rankings. It seems to me that Obama should gladly accept a rise to 2nd place.

Obama has yet to do the hard work of defining what comes next, what world he's trying to create. Or, rather, the theme of being most competitive suggests that he hasn't. Obama has a chance to transcend platitudes this evening. If his focus is on competitiveness, that simply won't happen.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

If the answer is "competitiveness," that also implies that there in only one pie and it is only so big, so the only option is to get a bigger piece of that pie for ourselves- which means somebody else will necessarily have a smaller piece.

To borrow a phrase from his predecessor, maybe we should grow the pie higher- or better yet, make a different kind of pie.