Economic development has always been primarily determined by the human factor, the so-called “human capital” improved by education. In the contemporary world economy characterized by asymmetrical interdependencies and the worldwide networking of transnational companies promoting globalization, the very position and economic development of countries depends also on those competitive advantages created by their governments and social actors, which imply favourable conditions for the rise locally, and/or the inflow from abroad, of transnational companies. Among such “created competitive advantages” the most decisive one is the availability of well-educated, skilled, innovative and disciplined manpower (whose productivity as compared to their wage cost is high enough for increase in profitability), and of local R&D capacities, so important for the transnational companies when choosing their “home base”. Consequently, investments in education and science are the most productive and profitable ones. The commodity pattern of trade is also shaped accordingly, while the type of specialization itself influences education and the dissemination of knowledge in the economy.
Keynesian policy was quite successful in the post-war decades in Western Europe, but by the late 1960s lost its efficiency due to changes in conditions rather than its mistaken logic. The lesson from the first global crisis erupting in early 1970s and also from the subsequent several crises since then is that the increasing crisis propensity of the world economy is rooted in its inherent disequilibria stemming from deep inequalities, asymmetrical interdependencies and disintegrated socio-economic structures. In view of the failure of the prevailing methods of crisis management, particularly those undifferentiated, antisocial austerity measures corresponding to a neo-liberal monetarist concept which neglects this lesson, many economists prefer the Keynesian recipe. However, since global crises need global solution, and the spread of conspicuous consumption modify the demand constraint, its application must be adjusted to reality, and requires some global governance which may pave the way for a global oeco-social market economy.
The study deals with the interpretation, notion, and measurement of competitiveness, as well as with certain theoretical and practical approaches related to it. It sets out from the competitiveness of products and services, then analyses the competitiveness of corporations, finally considering certain aspects of the competitiveness of national economies. The study approaches its topic critically, presenting the confusion and misinterpretations of competitiveness concepts through the thorough analysis of numerous works. It especially criticises the theoretical principles and composition methods of competitiveness rankings very wide-spread in international practice, with special emphasis on the indices of the World Economic Forum and the Human Development Index of the UNDP. This paper is an attempt to a multidisciplinary and many-sided approach to the interpretation and measurement of competitiveness.