My economy is bigger than yours. So what?

I know this is probably very naive of me but when I was reading Sam Altman’s piece the other day about the battle for economic supremacy between China and the US, I couldn’t help thinking ‘does it really matter?’. I started wondering why we get so het up about the competitiveness of different countries.

I probably shouldn’t be saying this at the moment as I’m on a ‘trade mission’ as we speak — a trip organised by the UK government to promote social investment in the UK to New York investors. But I don’t think of that as a competitive thing. I’m certainly going to try and increase the links between us and organisations in the US but I’m doing that because I think it’s good for BGV and the ventures we support rather than because I want to ‘beat’ other countries at social investment.

The warlike language of economics between countries is everywhere. Most business or economics books tend to be from the perspective of one country or another (usually that of the author) or they create some sort of false league table of nations. I picked up Monocle on the way over here and it’s full of advice for Japan about how to compete on the global stage.

People moan about the rising power of companies but I think it might actually be the declining importance of countries. It was refreshing to meet a couple of publicly funded organisations (from Finland and the Netherlands) recently who were much more collaborative. That came from them realising that their countries were relatively small and they could have a great deal of positive impact outside their own patch. I think some of the bigger economies could learn a lot from that.

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