David Harsanyi

Maybe that's the problem. Blame capitalism. Sure, the president says our "free enterprise system is what drives innovation," but it doesn't seem to play much of a role in his plan to "win the 21st century."

Obama, for example, used the word "invest" -- a well-known euphemism for more spending and subsidizing -- 13 times in the speech. Didn't he just get through telling us we don't know where modernization will emerge? Didn't he just explain that free enterprise drives innovation? True, but government knows how to guide the markets in the right direction. Just think of it as an ethanol additive for capitalism.

I know, this is a "Sputnik moment," and being cynical is unpatriotic. And maybe the Sputnik analogy can be instructive in other ways. Yes, the Soviets were the first to send junk and animals into space -- a race they lost in impressive fashion when it was all over. But were we really ever "behind"?

Of course not. The Soviet Union's intense effort to erect a facade of accomplishment was achieved by investing in an unnecessary, costly, symbolic, ideology-driven project that did nothing for the aspirations of its citizens or its stagnant, dying economy.

Let's be sure we're not on the wrong side of the Sputnik moment.

David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.