Working adults compete for wage raises and promotions. Firms compete to gain market share and increase profits. Countries compete to boost GAP figures. Politicians and their parties compete to gain power.
The pervasiveness of competition in our society is testament to its consistent ability to produce good results, and it does so motivating people to do more in order to be or stay ahead of their rivals. However, we find that there are also instances when competition is wasteful or even counter productive, which American politics is most often accused of being guilty of, and instances when it cannot at all achieve desired outcomes, such as in efforts to tackle environmental, poverty, or other global problems.
Furthermore, not everyone succeeds in competition, and those who lose out are often those who start the race with less. Therefore, believe that by-and-large, competition does breed and is essential for development and improvement, but not when success is defined as a collective achievement, not when society is deeply unequal, and not when parties are focused more on competing than succeeding. Few can deny that competition does indeed breed SUccess. This is because competition motivates people to work harder in various ways.
For one, when more people want the same rewards, one has to work even harder to achieve it. This is why increased competition for spaces in prestigious universities like he University of Oxford drives up average standardized test scores over time, and also why the Human Genome project in 1980 was completed years ahead of schedule when private enterprises entered the race. Also, competition means that people are constantly reminded by their competitors not to sit on their laurels and past achievements, and this spurs effort that is continuous and sustained, even if it means going beyond one’s comfort zone.
Often, success can only be attained through such rigor and sacrifice. This is evident in sports, where the desire to win and be better than all other competitors purrs sportsmen to endure the great pain and discomfort that comes with the forging of a sporting legend. In fact, the desire to beat the crowd is such a strong motivator that countless athletes, such as Lance Armstrong and Tyson gay, have been tempted into consuming illegal performance boosting drugs just to win. While we certainly cannot consider this to be a form of success, it is evidence to just how powerful ‘competition’ is.
In many other areas Of society – business and commerce, education, science and technology, the positive relationship between competition and success holds true, and forms he bedrock of how we progress and develop. Besides motivating people to do more and work harder, competition also spurs people to be more creative, which sometimes is in itself a form of succeeding. This is especially evident in the world of business and economics. Traditional economic theory states that dynamic efficiency, otherwise known as the level of product innovation in a market, is greatest when a market is competitive.
This then gives rise to the Theory of Conceivability, which goes further to say that single-firm monopolies often lack innovation, and tends to cycle existing products under different designs, until they threatened by external competition to come up with more creative products. The value of such competition can be observed in the evolution of most of the consumer goods we use everyday – all-encompassing smartness, paper thin laptops, fuel-free cars, AD printers, that are a far cry from the level of technology even a decade ago.
Such successful innovations were born not just out of genius and hard work, but also catcalled by competition between firms such as Apple and Samsung, Toyota and BMW, Intel and Google. Hence, competition breeds success because it pushes people to come up with brighter, more creative ideas that drive our world forward. Having firmly established that competition indisputably engenders success, it is important to recognize the nuances and where such a relationship is not true. First, is when competition is so intense that the process towards success becomes greatly inefficient.
This happens when parties spend more time, effort and resources trying to beat rivals, rather than achieve results and successes that are good for society. Such an observation is again acknowledged in the study of firms and economics, where markets with big firms locked in fierce competition tend to be much more wasteful than markets with one dominant firm, leading to less “success” for consumers and society as a whole. These inefficiencies take the form of advertisement expenditure, which can number into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
For instance, in response to increased competition from other beverage firms, Coca Cola, has planned a “brand-building budget” of 1 billion dollars to be spent by the year 2016. Surely, such wealth can be channeled to much more reductive purposes that would benefit consumers, such as to building better products or to charity. Additionally, another similar example of wastage in competition is in the field of politics, where recent legislation to remove caps on political donations and spending in America opened the floodgates to obscene amounts Of money flowing from firms to political parties.
Such wastage are even more pronounced when contrasted against a backdrop of high unemployment and poor public services in the United States. The recurring failure of competition in American politics in yielding successful outcomes also be observed in the shutdown of the American government after months of stagnant debates about the debt ceiling, or the difficulties faced by the Obama administration in implementing universal healthcare plans. Therefore, when competition becomes a goal in and of itself, success often cannot be achieved. Furthermore, the spoils of success from competition are often only enjoyed by the privileged few.
In other words, those who begin with a head-start usually win the race, while those who begin with less stray behind. Such an issue is a pertinent one today, as many have began to question the exorability of a highly competitive yet unequal meritocracy education system. Students nowadays start competing from as young as pre-school to secure an education that can send them straight to the top of the social ladder, yet every additional check point, requirement, and examination means an increased advantage for those who can afford supplementary enrichment’s.
In Hong Kong, top primary schools interview prospective students, which gave rise to classes that prep 6 year old pre-scholars for such admissions. In Singapore, parents send their 8 year olds for lessons to qualify them for the Gifted Education Programmer, then more lessons to do well for the Primary School Leaving Examination. In the United Kingdoms, top universities and employers look out for students who with not only good results, but a C.V. that boasts internships, enrichment’s, and other achievements.
Yet, it is obvious which families are the ones who can afford $100 an hour lessons for their toddlers, and on the flip side, which are the families whose teenagers cannot afford to rack-up co-curricular achievements because they need to work to support a family. When success favors those who have been endowed with additional advantages, competition often leaves the less privileged straying, and only guarantees success for a fortunate minority. Sadly, whether or not competition does breed success is actually very much dependent on the nature of achievement.
More specifically, if achievement is defined as a collective triumph, then cooperation, rather than competition, is the secret to success. This extends to many global issues and problems, such as global poverty, climate change, terrorism, and so on. While competition does spur individuals and firms to come up with innovations to tackle global sues, the successful implementation of these tools and the international effort that is often required to solve these problems can only be achieved through collaboration.
For example, success in curbing climate change certainly cannot be achieved through competition between nations. Instead, nations and firms need to work together to come to agreement to cut emissions and adopt more environmentally friendly business practices in order for us to have any hope of saving the environment. The Economist magazine recently revealed that the single policy that is most responsible for alleviating environmental degradation is the Montreal protocol – a collective effort.
In fact, this international agreements to regulate Chlorofluorocarbons was as effective as all other policies by individual governments put together, which shows that significant, meaningful, successful efforts to tackle large- scale problems can only be attainted through partnership. Hence, competition does not lead to success when being successful is a collective achievement. Undoubtedly, competition does engender success in many ways, be it in our personal lives or with regards with firms and governments.
Meritocracy, capitalism, and democracy, pillars of the modern world all of which rely on some element of competition, has produced commendable results and should continue to be adopted and nurtured. Despite so, believe that we should only rely on competition to breed success to the extent that the rules of the game prevent players from staying too far off their intended purposes, and that regulators are compassionate enough to recognize and help those who start with less. Even then, competition is not a full-proof ticket to attainment, especially when success is defined as a shared achievement.