International Competitiveness: Who Competes Against Whom and for What?

Research Report

International Competitiveness: Who Competes Against Whom and for What?

September 19, 2012

Abstract

Political leaders and commentators frequently claim that the policies they favor will make the United States more competitive, without defining what competiveness between countries means. This paper defines competitiveness as a contest between nations for scarce and mobile resources and explores how different tax policies may help or hinder efforts to attract high-skilled labor, capital investment, and headquarters of multinational corporations. While these inputs contribute to living standards, elevating competition for them into a final goal of policy instead of a consideration that must be weighed against costs of tax policies that attract them could lead to seriously flawed policies.

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