Competitiveness is not a magic solution. When a pharmaceutical company brings a drug to market, it's patented and over time other companies can sell generic versions and conduct their own research with it and variants of it. But when a pharmaceutical company researches a drug and the drug is deemed to ineffective or unsafe to bring to market, it's buried - and there's a good chance a dozen other pharmaceutical companies will have researched and then dropped the same drug.
But that's almost entirely because incredibly stupid and increasingly far-reaching government interference has increasingly deformed the pharma industry for nearly a century. The FDA's draconian rules, regulations, penalties, bureaucracy, and accompanying exponential costs have killed far more people than all their efforts have ever saved. We would be better off without an FDA at all, than the monstrosity we have now - the exorbitant cost of FDA compliance is WHY pharma can't bring cheap effective treatments to market - they have to recover the $1-3 billion cost of endless trials and regulatory approval - in the meantime, patients die. It's time to let people try any reasonable (or maybe even unreasonable) therapy, and end this silliness that all tests and studies must be double-blind by pretending that there is only a single active substance involved in the action of drugs. (And we still have NO idea what drug interactions are or do - tests must be designed to avoid that, despite the fact that most people on "maintenance drugs" (the kiss of death) take at least SIX prescription drugs...)
Or look at planned obsolescence. Do cars need their styling tweaked every four years, and the cupholder layout rearranged? How about smart phones, wonderful pieces of engineering that consumers are expected to discard in two years because it's better for the vendor - not the consumer - if they do.
When we had real competition and properly functioning markets (and that's the core of capitalism), things actually lasted much longer. (Cars are an exception in that the manufacturing technologies have made them longer lasting, if not always more durable.
I recently went in for a part for our washing machine, and the first thing the counter guy asked was, "How old is it?" "Twenty-eight years", I replied. "Oh, well you definitely want to fix it then - the new ones are all crap...")
Appliances actually used to be durable goods in TWO important senses: 1) they were actually designed to last for decades, and 2) you could get parts for them for that long. The parts supply house said that Chinese and Korean appliances are discontinuing parts in as little as four or five years. That's a bigger problem than poor initial design, although with only a few exceptions, "Made in China" is a sure mark of poor quality.