Note: This article was written and published in 2009. It’s fun looking back

Remember when… 

If you’re in, or as some would say ‘into’, business, you’ve probably looked at the statistics for Gross Domestic Product per capita in some almanac or world factoid book. With pride and amusement we would always see the United States far ahead of every other country in the world. Far ahead.

For further amusement, you probably looked at countries like China and India and noticed the huge difference in GDP between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

When the U.S. had a GDP per capita of around $22,000, I remember China being at some absurdly low figure like $200.

Second place always went to some tiny little country that had a pile of money and no people. Lichtenstein comes to mind. 12 people and they each owned a bank. But still in second place.

Guess what? The U.S. is now 17th in the world. Canada is less than $100 behind the once economically mighty United States. Canada!?

Norway is 4th. Norway. Did they find oil? Gold? What the hell is going on in Norway that pushed their GDP per capita to more than DOUBLE that of the U.S.? A country of fishermen is out-producing the U.S. 2:1 per person.

Ireland is 5th. The U.S. is 17th!?

Just ahead of us are Australia and Belgium at 15th and 16th place respectively.

Lichtenstein? The funny country that used to be number 2? They are now number 1 with a GDP per capita nearly 3 times that of the United States.

We’re slipping fast too.

The new debt we piled on this past year will weigh us down beyond the ability to ever regain that number one spot. In fact, I predict a radical erosion in the standard of living in the U.S. over the next 10 years.

Recovery? The recovery, when it happens, will be like a person recovering from a serious automobile crash. Face isn’t quite the same. Back hurts all the time. Frequent headaches. Never really regained strength. Can’t lift that arm any higher than this…

That is the fate of the U.S. economy. We aren’t coming back to full strength. Never.

OK, I can hear the ‘conservatives’ screaming “we’re the best and always will be”. Wrong. Having a powerful military in a bankrupt country will not return us to economic prosperity. And it’s those same conservatives that brought down this house of cards in the first place. Screw politics, go read somebody else’s blog if you want politics. I’m sick of politics.

So, OK, we’re sunk. What to do?

If we stop letting greed motivate every business decision we might stem the losses. Start re-building our own industrial base. Make things here. Stop honoring companies that have sent everything off-shore and then blame rising health care costs for their every failure. We have piss poor management in this country. We have idiots with MBAs who cannot think. Stop all this nonsense and get back to producing what people buy. It isn’t that hard.

And if we accept the fact that we will never regain that number one spot and work for a spot in the top 10, we might actually get there. If we let fools lead into wars that cannot be won, recoveries that cost more than we will ever produce and into causes at which we will never succeed, we will crumble sooner than later.

We must:
Re-Think Education. Our people are, for the most part, stupid.

Change the way we do business. Think domestic. Does my business help my country?

Change the way we use our military. We are not going to win any more wars. Iraq and Afghanistan are failures which might lead to a major nuclear event. Pakistan has the bomb. Iran is building the bomb. Israel has the bomb. India has the bomb. China has the bomb. North Korea is building a bomb. Let’s stop wasting money on war. We can’t afford to kill people.

We’re broke.

That’s enough. Because 90% of the adult population hasn’t read a book since college or high school, I’m probably just wasting my time.

Chris Reich has been a professional business consultant for over 20 years. He writes the widely read “TeachU Business Talk Blog” and has won awards for website design. Chris is also a superb business speaker an is available to speak at your company’s events.

Update. As of 2012, the US is now 9th. We have GREATLY increased our productivity while real earnings languish.

1  Qatar 102,800 2012 est.
2  Liechtenstein 89,400 2009 est.
3  Luxembourg 80,700 2012 est.
4  Macau 74,900 2011 est.
5  Singapore 60,900 2012 est.
6  Norway 55,300 2012 est.
7  Hong Kong 50,700 2012 est.
8  Brunei 50,500 2012 est.
9  United States 49,800 2012 est.
10  United Arab Emirates 49,000 2012 est.
11  Switzerland 45,300 2012 est.
12  Kuwait 43,800 2012 est.
13  Austria 42,500 2012 est.
14  Australia 42,400 2012 est.
15  Netherlands 42,300 2012 est.
16  Sweden 41,700 2012 est.
17  Ireland 41,700 2012 est.
18  Canada 41,500 2012 est.
19  Iceland 39,400 2012 est.
20  Germany 39,100 2012 est.

I’m pleased to note that China’s economy is about 1/2 the U.S. GDP in spite of nearly 5X the population.

Chris Reich,