Book Review: How to Cure America "That Used to Be Us," Friedman and Mandelbaum

Next year’s election will spawn as many views as there are candidates as to how to cure all the ailments of the U.S. economy. Two authors, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, in their recent book “That Used to Be Us, How American Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back” provide some insightful and interesting observations on where we need to focus to bring the U.S. economy out of the slump it is in.

The authors identify four challenges to the United States: globalization, the information technology revolution, the deficit and debt (both at the state and federal level) and the pattern of U.S. energy consumption. How these four challenges are met will determine our future. What we need to do to meet the challenge is to rise beyond the level of “average.” Woody Allen’s quip that “Eighty percent of life is showing up” is no longer the norm in today’s competitive world. The authors argue that instead of “chasing” China, we should instead focus on the five (5) pillars which made America the world’s leading economy:

  • Education. Educating up to the level of technology of the times (in the time of the cotton gin, Americans were educated in technology to deal with the cotton gin). In today’s supercomputer environment, the U.S. education level should meet the technology of our times.
  • Immigration. Attract the most talented and energetic people from all over the world.
  • The Best Infrastructure. The U.S. should build its infrastructure (near and dear to the heart of contractors) to ensure its competitiveness in the future.
  • Capital Investment. Establish the best rules for capital investing and attracting capital.
  • Government-funded research.  The government should continue to fund research which will allow entrepreneurs to pluck the best of those research developments and push the boundaries of knowledge with that government-funded research

These five pillars of the American economy that existed at the time the country was founded, are still the five essential elements to bringing America back to the world that it invented according to Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book. The book is another worthwhile read from the authors of “The World is Flat.”

Scroll to Top