The factory is closed

Jack Baruth has long championed American industry, but he’ll tell you that we have a long way to go to bring back the glory days of “Made in U.S.A.”:

What’s really required here isn’t a policy change, or a regulatory change. We need a change in attitude, particularly among our MBA class. We need to start valuing manufacturing as much as we value financial manipulation or smartphone-app development. We need “angel investors” who would rather fund a well-run bicycle factory than spend their time digging through Y Combinator’s trash looking for “hundred-bagger” tech fads. Most of all, we need a cultural change. We need to be as excited about making things as we currently are about social media or trash television. It’s not a change that will happen overnight. We might need a few more years of watching Amazon delivery drones and McDonald’s touchscreens as they eliminate the service gigs which were supposed to replace the manufacturing gigs. Maybe we need a small shooting war with China, perhaps over some useless islands or something, to point out how deeply dependent we have become on a country which has its own best interests at heart. I don’t know when the tipping point will come — but it will eventually come. It has to. The alternative is too unpleasant to seriously consider.

I’m not sure I want to get into a shooting war with China, however small: we have plenty of cannon, but they have tons of cannon fodder. Still, we might as well face it: the so-called “information economy” has resulted in a population both less informed and underemployed.


  1. McGehee »

    11 July 2019 · 8:56 pm

    Economies are usually based on scarcity — natural or artificial.

  2. Joe »

    12 July 2019 · 10:06 am

    Too many parents, yes me too, have convinced the kids that they don’t want to break their back in a factory and pushed them to the university.

    Too much industry has moved to low cost countries and starting from scratch is tough here. Costs are high — labor, energy, raw materials and regulatory. Those are offset by the unbelievably high productivity the American worker still provides.

    That is when you can find workers willing to do the work and pass the drug test ( increasingly difficult according to friends who do actual hiring).

    I hope a strong manufacturing base can return, but I am more than skeptical.

  3. hollyh »

    15 July 2019 · 2:00 pm

    Andrew Yang is right. We are headed for either a Star Trek economy, where everyone can forget about money and just pursue self-actualization….or Mad Max, where everyone fights desperately for those last few precious truck-driving jobs. The old mantra that we can cure unemployment with lots of “training and education” just won’t work, when we are run by robots.

    And I don’t buy that we are truly experiencing “record unemployment”, since the statistics don’t include the people who have given up hope of finding a job. And the statistics also fail to convey the sad plight of all the under-employed.

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