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International Competitiveness: Who Competes Against Whom and for What?

Eric Toder

Published: September 19, 2012
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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.