Image: Europe © Photodisc, SuperStock

For most of the 20th century, the United States was considered the world's economic superpower. And as recently as four years ago, the World Economic Forum would have agreed. In 2008, it ranked the United States as the most competitive economy in the world.

But things change. The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013 (.pdf file) asserts that the U.S. economy today is the world's seventh best in terms of competitiveness.

The United States performs well in nearly all of the economic measures examined in the report. But indebtedness and political gridlock are growing problems, says Kevin Steinberg, the forum's chief operating officer, who notes that Americans' confidence in elected officials declined after the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.

This year's report places each of the 144 countries surveyed into one of three economic categories.

"Factor-driven" economies are the least developed; they rely on low-skilled labor and natural resources.

More developed countries are considered "efficiency-driven," because they are organized toward the goal of improving output.

The most developed economies are "innovative," with a focus on improving technology and developing new products and ideas.

To create each country's Global Competitiveness Index score, the WEF ranked more than 100 economic indicators, which were divided into 12 broad categories, or pillars, that measure competitiveness. The economic indicators and pillars were then scored on a scale of one to seven. To rank the countries, some economic measures were weighted more heavily than others, depending on how the economy was categorized.

The most-competitive countries ranked among the best in technological readiness, business sophistication and higher education. The least-competitive countries scored lowest in such factors as institutions, infrastructure, health and education.

There were exceptions, however. Many competitive countries had less-than-stellar scores on macroeconomic environment -- an economic measure reflecting the broader economy -- because of high debt levels. Public debt, according to Steinberg, "is definitely an obstacle for many of the highly developed and competitive countries."

Here's a look at the World Economic Forum's most- and least-competitive countries. In analyzing the rankings, the website 24/7 Wall St. included data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

The top 3

No. 3: Finland

GCI score: 5.55

GDP per capita: $49,350 (12th highest)

Debt as a percentage of GDP: 48.6 (52nd highest)

Percentage of individuals using the Internet: 89.4 (seventh highest)

Infant mortality rate: 2.4 per 1,000 live births (seventh lowest)

The country has the second-most innovative economy in the world, according to the WEF report, behind Switzerland's.

Finland scores the highest in terms of the availability of scientists and engineers. Finland's educational system is also impressive; the WEF asserts that the country has the planet's best primary education, and the second-best math and science programs in higher education.

No. 2: Singapore

GCI score: 5.67

GDP per capita: $49,271 (13th highest)

Debt as a percentage of GDP: 100.8 (10th highest)

Percentage of individuals using the Internet: 75.0 (24th highest)

Infant mortality rate: 2.1 per 1,000 live births (third lowest)

Americans fed up with their elected officials might want to consider moving to Singapore; it has the highest rank in terms of the trust in politicians and is also No. 1 in terms of the quality of its legal and administrative frameworks.

Singapore also ranks near the top in market efficiency, infrastructure, higher education and financial markets development.

But an inflation rate of 5.2% weighs on Singapore's competitiveness.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

No. 1: Switzerland

GCI score: 5.72

GDP per capita: $81,161 (fourth highest)

Debt as a percentage of GDP: 48.6 (51st highest)

Percentage of individuals using the Internet: 85.2 (10th highest)

Infant mortality rate: 4.1 per 1,000 live births (24th lowest)

The country received a 6.6 out of 7 in the quality of its infrastructure, the highest of any country in the WEF survey. Switzerland also scored at the top in terms of cooperation in labor-employer relations and the availability of financial services.

Its education system also contributed to Switzerland's competitiveness.

The WEF report points out, though, that while the university enrollment rate among the Swiss is improving, it lags behind other "high-innovation countries."

Go to 24/7 Wall St. for more on the world's most-competitive economies.

More from 24/7 Wall St.: