In Davos, Switzerland, and other venues, Americans have been lecturing the Europeans and Japanese about how to fix their economies, often in ways that create resentment.
U.S. public officials, corporate leaders and academics all claim credit for the wonderful performance of the American economy over recent years. Republicans point to Reaganomics, and Democrats point to Clintonomics, both based on varying definitions of those ''-ics.''Corporate leaders, especially anyone in or around the e-commerce business, stress their adoption of new technologies, based on various interpretations of what ''e'' is.
Academics speak and write in terms of a New Paradigm, based on various definitions of what a ''-digm'' is. Financial-market people don't claim any credit for themselves, necessarily, but praise the Federal Reserve.
Setting aside the question of who gets the credit, I see five reasons for the improved performance of the U.S. economy:
* Deregulation: Remember Regulation Q? That was when the Fed put ceilings on interest rates that banks could pay. It was a brutal instrument that could cause banks to stop lending, virtually assuring a recession in the short run while undermining the banks' longer-term competitiveness.
You can supply a similar example in your own line of work or industry - a rule or regulation that tied you up in knots exactly at the time you needed flexibility. Many but not all of those impediments are gone.
* Taxes: Cutting the upper brackets of marginal tax rates from punitive levels (once as high as 91 percent) has provided a huge boost. Previously, most people in high-income brackets spent unwarranted amounts of time and money involved in tax avoidance schemes. Now they can focus on productive enterprise.
The presidential candidates are arguing over where the top rate should be, but the current level of 39.6 percent has at least allowed the economy to reach 4 percent growth without inflation.
* Fiscal policy: The huge fiscal deficits, beginning in the late 1960s and building until the mid-1980s, imposed a drag on the private economy, mainly through the crowding-out effect, as the Treasury borrowed heavily in the bond market.
We now have sizable surpluses and more are projected, even after covering the needs of the Social Security trust funds. The Treasury is paying back debt.
The private sector now has greater access to funds, especially long-term funds. The recent turmoil in the long-bond market has been painful to many market participants, but it was caused by the announcement that the Treasury was going to pay down debt sooner and in larger amounts than most market participants had expected.
* Monetary policy: The Fed has been able to focus on a step-by-step monetary policy aimed at long-term sustainable growth.
By sticking to open-market operations and avoiding the use of arcane tools like Regulation Q, the Fed has allowed the money and financial markets to evolve on their own. The Fed has, of course, kept inflation under control.
* Education: No one is satisfied with U.S. results in tests of student proficiency from kindergarten through 12th grade relative to the results in other industrial countries. Every candidate for president is pressing for action to correct that deficiency.
But our higher education is second to none and indeed is a major export. Foreign students make up 25 percent to 35 percent of the classes in most top schools. U.S. higher education has always stressed individual initiative, and many students are now gaining incredible computer literacy at school and at home.
America's young people have spearheaded most revolutions in the past, often putting their own bodies at risk. This generation of Americans is spearheading the e-commerce revolution, putting their brains to work.
Critics in other countries are quick to point out flaws in the American economic system. One is the lack of a cradle-to-grave safety net, which forces Americans to seek riches at the expense of other qualities of life. That's true, and presidential candidates are debating this issue.
But the safety nets provided by many industrial countries are more like hammocks. If those countries are to grow faster, the governments must provide more incentives for companies to create jobs and for people to seek work.
The other flaw pointed out is the huge U.S. trade deficit, which means the United States is spending so much abroad it must depend on foreign savings to avoid a collapse of the dollar. This is also true. But the rest of the world benefits substantially from exporting into our relatively free markets.
An obvious solution is for them to open their markets and import more from the United States. The United States attracts foreign savings because its economy is being managed well and its companies create shareholder value.
If other countries would improve their economic performance, they would also attract capital. The wonderful performance of the U.S. economy surely provides lessons for other countries to follow. But we should avoid bragging too much - golden ages don't last long.