Competing in a global economy starts with understanding its context. And context involves understanding how it got to be this way.
Hans Rosling is a Swedish intellectual who thinks about big questions on a grand scale. He's investigated what's happened over the past 200 years to global wealth and health.
Rather than eye-straining rows and columns of minuscule numbers, he presents his findings with the visual excitement of a rock concert. Watch this video several times and consider all its implications.
First is the idea that the US is "falling behind" the rest of world. Another way to look at this question is to ask, "How long has the US 'led' the world?" And if the US is to be a "leader," does it want to rank highest in per-capita income, life-span or values or something else?
Finally, what about the debate that the "middle class" is in decline. In a global perspective, is the "middle class" in decline? If the middle class has discretionary income to spend on education, for example, does the changing relationships of global wealth and health suggest the middle class will soon be extinct?