In this paper we show that it is possible to measure the development and management of knowledge in a country using indicators of intellectual capital that consider non visible assets not included in Gross Domestic Product. Using this idea, we obtained a measure of the intellectual capital for 72 countries selected in accordance with the information available for 2000, 2005 and 2008. These measures allows us to verify the hypothesis that knowledge acts as a divergent factor of wealth, that is, that rich countries are richer in knowledge and manage it more efficiently than poor countries. Thus, in a global economy, intellectual capital circulates in the opposite direction to development, that is, from poor to rich countries. In this sense, economic growth in developing countries displays a stronger relationship with intellectual capital. We show how national intellectual capital anticipated the economic crisis before GDP, as real GDP averages increase in all the years considered, whereas national intellectual capital decreased in last year analysed. Moreover, we used a data panel model with common coefficients to emphasize the most influential factor in the recession in order to ascertain the areas where governments must act to overcome a crisis.