Infrastructure in America: How We Can Thrive Amid Globalization

Does the infrastructure in America allow us to compete in the world? What, if anything, needs to change?

Thomas L. Friedman argues that developing the infrastructure to connect and innovate in a globalized world is vital for America. He identifies two key areas in which the U.S. needs to build and maintain a strong infrastructure: internet technology and services, and scientific research and development. 

Read more to learn Friedman’s argument.

Internet Infrastructure

First up in Friedman’s discussion of the infrastructure in America is the internet, which has played a massive role in the most recent era of globalization. Therefore, according to Friedman, the U.S. needs to make sure its internet services and technology remain strong in the 21st century. There are two benefits to this: First, internet services technologies are huge money-makers, so being at the forefront in these areas will be a boon to the economy. Second, having easy, affordable access to the internet across the country will help increase the innovation and productivity of all citizens.

Poor Internet Access in America

Recent data shows that America has fallen behind in terms of internet speed and access. Out of 30 developed countries, the U.S. ranked 27th in the percentage of its population with internet access (87%). America’s average internet speed ranks 13th globally, but internet speeds vary drastically from state to state. For average cost per megabit (MB), the U.S. ranks second-worst out of 33 OECD countries, meaning Americans pay much more on average than other developed countries for worse internet speeds.

One of the main reasons the U.S. has fallen behind in internet infrastructure is the lack of competition. Only 62% of Americans have access to a competitive internet market, with more than a third of the nation living in areas dominated by a monopoly or duopoly. To improve infrastructure, there should be more regulation of such monopolies, especially in smaller, rural communities.

Research and Development

One of America’s strengths is its robust network of research and science institutions, and Friedman argues that maintaining the strength of this network will be vital to success in the flat world. These research institutions, especially publicly funded universities, provide a great deal of the country’s innovation and scientific discoveries, which, in turn, are key factors in economic growth.

(Shortform note: In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan argues that government-funded basic research in particular benefits all of society. Basic research is scientific research with no short-term goal in mind, in which scientists are given funds to follow their interests and pursue knowledge. Most major scientific discoveries happened through basic research. Recently, however, government-funded basic research has been in decline, with private companies contributing more to research and development. This could lead to less scientific advancement and innovation in the long run.)

Infrastructure in America: How We Can Thrive Amid Globalization

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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