Each year, 25% of the world’s output is produced by less than 5% of the planet’s population. The juxtaposition of these two figures gives an idea of the power of the American economy. Not only is it the most productive among the major developed economies, but it is also a place where new products, services and production methods are constantly being invented. Even so, for all its efficiency and its capacity for innovation, the United States is progressively manifesting worrying signs of dysfunction. Since the 1970s, the American economy has experienced increasing difficulty in generating social progress. Worse still, over the past twenty years, signs of actual regression are becoming more and more numerous. How can this paradox be explained? Answering this question is the thread running throughout the chapters of this book.