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Is the Business of the United States Still Business?

While much has changed since President Coolidge’s famous quote about the business of America, the United States has long been the entrepreneurial light of the world. But that’s changing.

Today, the World Bank released its new report “Doing Business 2012,” which assesses the level of regulation affecting domestic firms across the globe. To do so, the international institution collected data on regulations (measured between June 2010 and May 2011) on starting a business, resolving insolvency, the ease of paying taxes, and trading across borders.

2011 has been a record year for the number of business regulatory reforms around the world. In the face of a slow recovery, governments in 125 countries implemented measures aimed at improving their business climate.  Interestingly, Columbia and South Korea, both new preferred U.S. trading partners, have been among the leaders in this arena. South Korea is a new entrant to the top 10 countries with the best business environments and Colombia climbed five places in one year.

The United States remains the fourth best place to do business in the world in 2011. But this high ranking masks some disturbing hurdles that U.S. firms face in their daily activities. The U.S. tax system ranks 72th in the world--dropping two places from last year--when it comes to the size and the administrative burden of annual taxes and contributions that a medium- sized firm has to pay. In contrast, Canada ranks eighth and France 58th among the 183 countries surveyed.

Even when it comes to starting a business, Canada is doing better than the United States. In Canada, a would be entrepreneur needs what amounts to 0.4 percent of the national per capita income and one filing and a five-day wait. In the United States a new business requires six filings, a six-day wait and about 1.4 percent of the U.S. per capita income in fees.

The conclusion from the survey is clear--everybody has to do a better job at spurring start ups and creating a hospitable environment for current operating businesses. The United States no longer leads the world in this regard. Many countries are vying for business creation and attraction. This would be a good time for U.S. governments at all levels, especially in our metropolitan areas, to change their way of doing business if they want to to prosper in the new global economy.