The Societal Foundations of National Competitiveness
Sunday, March 26, 2:30 pm via Zoom


Nations rise and fall, succeed or fail in rivalries, and enjoy stability or descend into chaos because of a complex web of factors that affect competitive advantage. One critical component is the package of essential social characteristics of a nation. The ultimate story of the Cold War is that the United States was simply a more competitive society than the Soviet Union: more energetic, more vibrant, more innovative, more productive, more legitimate.

The RAND Corporation undertook a 15-month study, supported by the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon, to search for shared qualities of nations which enjoyed success in the international system. Through analysis of comparative studies of historical eras and trends, historical case studies, and the findings of issue-specific empirical research historical case studies, the resulting report explores how seven characteristics of a society determine its competitive standing and distinguish dynamic and competitively successful nations.

If the history surveyed in this report provides an accurate guide to the future, fate of the United States in today’s rivalries will not be determined solely, or even in significant degree, by the numbers of its weapons or amounts of defense spending or how many proxy wars it wins but by the basic characteristics of its society.

Dr. Michael Mazarr, Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation, applies the seven leading characteristics that affect national standing to the United States to create a snapshot of where the country stands. That application provides some reason for optimism. The United States continues to reflect many of these characteristics, and the overall synergistic engine, more than any other large country in the world. However, multiple trends are working to weaken traditional U.S. advantages. Several, such as the corruption of the national information space, pose acute risks to the long-term dynamism and competitiveness of the nation, raising the worrying prospect that the United States has begun to display classic patterns of a major power on the far side of its dynamic and vital curve.

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Theodore Talks take place on Zoom on the fourth Sunday of each month at 2:30 pm, Central time. A list of future Theodore Talks can be found on the national Events Calendar. For more information or questions, contact Brad Lucht: [email protected].