American Software Rules the World

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ever since our nation was founded there have been Americans doubting its survival, urging that we copy a rival.

In the earliest years of the Republic, this meant England. In the early 20th century, Germany became the model. Anti-communists wanted us to copy the Soviet Union. Later in the century it was Japan's keiretsu model that was favored. Now it's China.

But China is a century behind us. What it has perfected are the tools on which Americans like Henry Ford built their fortunes. Despite the bullet trains and new suburbs, China has yet to figure out what Americans have always nurtured -- the imagination that produces great software.

Take a look at that laptop on your desk. The brand may be Chinese, but inside it's running an American operating system, Microsoft Windows. That phone in your hand? Sure, it's made in China. But the software, the branding, and the experience are as American as a Macintosh Apple .

The one market that counts most, in all the world, is software. It's the last product we have that's made entirely by hand. But it's more the product of imagination than of typing. And America dominates it.

As Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst pointed out earlier this year, in a speech I reported on for TheStreet.com, today's cloud software tools are like the auto-lathe of two centuries ago. We're still at the nuts-and-bolts stage of the information revolution, he said. There is much more to come.

Want to know who best uses these American-made tools? Americans. Who leads in transaction processing, whether credit cards or stock trades? We do. Who leads in robotics, in the mass customization that will remake tomorrow's factories? We do. Who created social media and the apps explosion? We did. Whose colleges do the best job of training young minds for the 21st century's challenges? Ours do.

My point isn't to deliver a pep talk. It's to point out that the fulcrum upon which our leadership rests is software. Most particularly, software that defines what Apple devices or Google clouds or Intuitive Surgical robot surgeons can do -- their operating systems.

At the bottom of every important software stack you'll see the words "Made in the USA." This has been true throughout my life, and I believe it will be true through the lives of my children and grandchildren.

China today is what Japan was a generation ago. It's our contractor. We provide the value, we do the heavy intellectual lifting, and they provide the factories that make the products of our minds.

It's not our freedom that matters, but the imperative we learn to use that freedom -- the idea that no thought should be forbidden, that we can expand in any direction we choose -- that makes great software.

Free minds make the best software.

You can't copy what America does best without becoming American yourself. For anyone to suggest we copy someone else, to be like those we fear, I just say look at our history. You can contemplate that while you wait for Windows to boot.

At the time of publication, Blankenhorn was long AAPL, GOOG and MSFT.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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