For centuries, economic thinkers, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, have tried to identify the elusive formula that makes some countries more prosperous and successful than others. My curiosity about this topic spurred me, as a young professor of economics in the late 1970s, to research new ways of measuring national competitiveness.

Discussions about economic performance, and levels of prosperity more broadly, have inevitably been accompanied by a desire to classify countries so as to better understand the forces that drive development and to improve economic policy.

Historically, a distinction was made between “developing” and “industrialized” economies. More recently, the term “emerging markets” came into vogue. Nowadays, organizations like the World Bank try to steer clear of the value judgments implicit in these terms by simply describing countries’ positions on the income ladder — low, middle or high — and their rates of growth.

Read the full article by Professor Klaus Schwab on the New York Times.

Author: Professor Klaus Schwab is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Image: People relax on a beach in Mumbai REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw