Thursday, March 29, 2007

Third World Michigan?

Among the many trying to understand the state of the state, Prof. Bryan K. Ritchie, associate professor of international relations at James Madison College at Michigan State University, blogged yesterday about the parallels between Michigan today and Singapore in 1972.

"...Last week I presented a paper on how Singapore simultaneously created highly skilled people and attracted high-tech companies. After my presentation, a well-known colleague inquired if I had ever applied my research to Michigan. To be honest, I had never considered it. But as he talked I saw the potential application: globalization and an increasingly complex and technical international economic system is driving the primary location of competition to the state level. Michigan is not competing only with other states. Michigan is competing directly with Singapore and every other developing country. If true, why not act like these other countries?"

He goes on to offer a vision for business and government leaders:
Singapore’s success in the world economy has come from a mixture of technocratic and bureaucratic professionalism, strong political leadership, and active private sector participation. And by participation I don’t mean simply consultation. Heads of companies, leaders of unions, and leading academics have all taken turns directing the entire public policy process in key economic areas including forming, implementing, monitoring compliance, and ensuring enforcement of policy. The key to making this work is tight coordination between the private sector and government—not government as a regulating force, but as a facilitating one."

Still, in order to forge these alliances a lot of people will have to forswear an adversarial model of relating. United we stand (a chance of getting out of this downward cycle), divided we fall (farther and farther behind Singapore).