THE REAL WORLD WAR by Hunter & Donald Allison Lewis

THE REAL WORLD WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An up-to-the-minute overview of the global trade war--US weaknesses and foreign strengths--for people without the time or inclination to read the more specialized (and precise) appraisals of Hofheinz and Calder (p. 533), Kenichi Ohmae (p. 628), and John Newhouse (p. 628). The thesis--almost new last year, almost received wisdom today--is that American economic health, and the preservation of American society, depends on success in the world marketplace. (We cannot, as we long believed, prosper on our own.) So Lewis and Allison first take up the reasons for America's ""lack of competitiveness""--dismissing (as others have) OPEC and Japan, blaming American government and industry, and unconcern in both quarters. Next, they briefly review the state of technology in key vanguard sectors--semiconductors, computers, telecommunications--and find the US position strong only in satellite transmission. On the innovation front--robots, automated office equipment, genetic engineering, alternative fuels--we are also at risk. The reasons: short-term orientation, declining commitment to R & D. Then the challenges are assayed: the Japanese focus on ""industrial specialization and market dominance"" (not beneficent management or unfair trade practices); joint EEC initiatives and--not always recognized--France's remarkable upsurge; the newly industrialized countries' stress on export of manufactured goods (not only flooding the US market and preempting other markets, but curtailing investment opportunities: NICs prefer investment from one another). In the succeeding, most specifically illustrative section, we hear what's happening to ""America's biggest and most successful businesses."" The US chemical industry faces competition from Japanese pharmaceuticals and OPEC petrochemicals, for one; the slogan of Japan's preeminent manufacturer of construction machinery, Komatsu, is ""Encircle Caterpillar."" Already lost are the markets for consumer electronics, digital watches, steel, autos, and machine tools--a matter mostly (though there are variations) of lower productivity and lower quality. The authors' recommendations center on adopting an ""investment doctrine"" (and, with it, some of the business strategies spelled out by Ohmae). Anti-trust, they feel, is out-of-date; Reagan's policies, thus far, have been a disaster. Cursory in some respects, but not unindicative--or unintelligent.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan