NY Times’ Friedman: American decline driven by erosion of “five basic pillars of growth”

And they are:

education, infrastructure, immigration of high-I.Q. innovators and entrepreneurs, rules to incentivize risk-taking and start-ups, and government-funded research to spur science and technology.

More:

We mistakenly treated the end of the cold war as a victory that allowed us to put our feet up — when it was actually the onset of one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced. We helped to unleash two billion people just like us — in China, India and Eastern Europe. For us to effectively compete and collaborate with them — to maintain the American dream — required studying harder, investing wiser, innovating faster, upgrading our infrastructure quicker and working smarter.

Instead of doing that at the scale we needed — that is, building muscle — we injected ourselves with massive amounts of credit steroids (just like our baseball players). This enabled millions of people to buy homes they could not afford and to fill jobs in construction and retail that did not require that much education. Our European friends went on a similar binge…

Our challenge now, therefore, is to deleverage the economy as fast as possible, while, at the same time, getting back to investing as much as possible in our real pillars of growth so our recovery is built on sustainable businesses and real jobs and not just on another round of credit injections.

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