Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Head to Head

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Head to Head

Article excerpt

"What has competition ever done for us?" French president Nicolas Sarkozy asked recently. It was a rhetorical question designed to make a narrowly economic point, since Sarkozy knows all about the competitive rigors of French society, but it's still worth taking seriously. In the United States, competition has gone from being a characteristic trait of our national life a few decades ago to one of its defining features today, and perhaps the country's most widely celebrated virtue. Americans as never before are throwing themselves into the fray and showering rewards and adulation on its winners. More competition is our prescription for everything that ails us, from bumps in our career paths to bad schools. I am reminded of the magnitude of this change every time I encounter a friend of mine who, sometime during that hazy period around the end of the 1960s and the early '70s, lived the mellow life in a tepee in the woods. Now he is a hard-driving information technology guy who delights in the progress his children are making onward and upward in what we used to call the rat race. …

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