Michael Porter proposed the theory of competitive advantage in 1985. The competitive advantage theory suggests that states and businesses should pursue policies that create high-quality goods to sell at high prices in the market. Porter emphasizes productivity growth as the focus of national strategies. This theory rests on the notion that cheap labor is ubiquitous, and natural resources are not necessary for a good economy. The other theory, comparative advantage, can lead countries to specialize in exporting primary goods and raw materials that trap countries in low-wage economies due to terms of trade. The competitive advantage theory attempts to correct for this issue by stressing maximizing scale economies in goods and services that garner premium prices.
Competitive advantage occurs when an organization acquires or develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors. These attributes can include access to natural resources, such as high grade ores or inexpensive power or access to highly trained and skilled personnel human resources. New technologies, such as robotics and information technology, are either to be included as a part of the product or to assist making it. Information technology has become such a prominent part of the modern business world that it can also contribute to competitive advantage by outperforming competitors with regard to Internet presence. From the very beginning (i.e., Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations), the central problem of information transmittal, leading to the rise of middle men in the marketplace, has been a significant impediment in gaining competitive advantage. By using the Internet as the middle man, the purveyor of information to the final consumer, businesses can gain a competitive advantage through creation of an effective website, which in the past required extensive effort finding the right middle man and cultivating the relationship.