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Manufactured Myths and Phony Nostalgia

I wish someone could explain to me what it is that makes a manufacturer better than any other business. President Obama and the Democrats lament the decline of manufacturing in the U.S. as if it is indicative of some great malaise; the result of a horrific political campaign of malfeasance and an obvious manifestation of our self-imposed decline.

Let me pose to you this thought: manufacturing jobs are not and have never been that great. In fact, this nostalgia for the age of great manufacturer…

  1. Valiuth
    Doug Kimball

      In fact, this nostalgia for the age of great manufacturers is a nostalgia for something that never really existed at all.  

    That is what all nostalgia is. The longing for a past that never really existed. 

    Great Post by the way. I could not agree with you more. No one in the US would want to trade jobs or unemployment with a Chinese factory worker. The future of jobs is to move forward not try to recreate the past. 

    That being said, one thing that has been pointed out by people like Micky Kaus is that factory jobs though crummy were well paid and easy to do for people with limited special skills, or creativity. In an economy that rewards the ability to innovate many people will find themselves left behind as the grunt work becomes exported to poor parts of the world. Worse yet, creative work while still labor intensive does not require many laborers. Markets will innovate a way out of this I am sure, but that is not a guarantee that things will go well for those untrained laborers or that they will not suffer, chronic unemployment and decreased standards of living. 

  2. Doug Kimball
    Valiuth

    Doug Kimball

      In fact, this nostalgia for the age of great manufacturers is a nostalgia for something that never really existed at all.  

    That is what all nostalgia is. The longing for a past that never really existed. 

    Great Post by the way. I could not agree with you more. No one in the US would want to trade jobs or unemployment with a Chinese factory worker. The future of jobs is to move forward not try to recreate the past. 

     Markets will innovate a way out of this I am sure, but that is not a guarantee that things will go well for those untrained laborers or that they will not suffer, chronic unemployment and decreased standards of living.  · 23 minutes ago

    I have faith that 99% of Americans can improve their lot and achieve in a vibrant economy.  Talented tradesmen may not make good economists and I’d neve hire an economist to fix my sink.  But if opportunity is there, ambition and drive outweigh everything else in the desire to succeed and achieve.  Heck, I’m and Ivy League graduate in the ditch digging business. 

  3. iWc

    Superb post. It is all about wallowing in marxist fantasies about the exploitation of the working class, and the subsequent glorification of unions.

  4. Valiuth
    Doug Kimball

    Valiuth

    Doug Kimball

      In fact, this nostalgia for the age of great manufacturers is a nostalgia for something that never really existed at all.  

     Markets will innovate a way out of this I am sure, but that is not a guarantee that things will go well for those untrained laborers or that they will not suffer, chronic unemployment and decreased standards of living.  · 23 minutes ago

    I have faith that 99% of Americans can improve their lot and achieve in a vibrant economy.  Talented tradesmen may not make good economists and I’d neve hire an economist to fix my sink.  But if opportunity is there, ambition and drive outweigh everything else in the desire to succeed and achieve.  Heck, I’m an Ivy League graduate in the ditch digging business.  · 22 minutes ago

    I think though this transition that we are going through will be hard on many people. I think all economic transitions historically have been hard on people even if many have benefited…

    The question is how can peoples fears be eased and what can be done to smooth the transition away from a factory based economy?

  5. Finster

    Nothing to say other than this was a well written, excellent post !! Thanks

  6. flownover

    You want fries with that ?

  7. Doug Kimball

    Romney’s plan relies on regulatory, not tax, relief to increase US competiveness.  A reduction in tax rates that is revenue neutral, if it results in significant simplification, will reduce tax regulatory compliance costs, hence will effectively result in a savings for US business.  Of course if these rate reductions incent investors to capture gains, it will also result in increased taxable commercial activity and increase tax receipts.  We saw this after the Tax Reform Act of 1986.  Energy proposals will be the most important factor for US competitiveness.  The US already has an energy cost advantage and this will be amplified under a Romney plan.  It is tough to predict the result of other unnamed regulatory changes.  I still think the best way to deal with capital gains is to use indices to separate real gains from inflation and tax gains at ordinary rates.  Reeling in deficits and revising entitlements will help avert dramatic future economic crises, but other than a better sense of confidence and relief among markets and the populace, will provide little in the way of gains in American economic efficiency.

  8. Xennady

    Wrong, on many levels.

    1) As a former worker at several manufacturing facilities I find it quite tiresome to see people continually assert that people who lament the loss of economic activity to our foreign competitors believe that these were all “great jobs”. Plainly they weren’t. But you know what they were?

    Jobs. Since there are presently tens of millions on food stamps and an unemployment rate that is infamously high I would have thought that this would be a consideration when discussing  policy. Apparently not.

    2) The democrats care nothing at all about the fate of union members except in the same grubby way they care about welfare recipients- i. e. votes to be purchased without concern for the fate of the voter. I note that the supposed union-loving democrat Bill Clinton quite happily signed NAFTA, which sent vast numbers of union members into the unemployment line and onto the welfare rolls. Of course they remained likely democrat voters, so democrat politicians didn’t care.

    3) America is politically stable only because of a vast and unaffordable welfare state. It can’t last much longer.

    What then?

    I don’t know, but I suspect much ugliness.

  9. KarlUB

    The average IQ is– by definition– ab0ut 100. I know, I know: depending how you slice and dice these figures it might be a little higher here in the US, and– for now– let’s not get into the Bell Curve stuff.

    But is it your proposition that the roughly half of our population that lies on the left side of the peak of that bell curve is supposed to raise a family by getting a job in the knowledge economy?

    For crying out loud, IT companies already would rather import plane-loads of H1Bs rather than go to the trouble of training a returning vet with experience operating complicated machinery.

  10. Doug Kimball
    Xennady: Wrong, on many levels.

    I don’t know, but I suspect much ugliness. · 44 minutes ago

    My analysis may be lamentable, but it is not wrong.  If America is not competitive, for whatever reason, jobs will move.  And technology advances can have a chilling effect on jobs.  What are we to do?  Have the government mandate the use of abacuses because calculators have ruined the abacus manufacturing industry?   Progress can be delayed, but it cannot be stopped.  Economic principles cannot be undermined forever. 

    Nor is it entirely fair to say that Democrats don’t really care about workers.   They do, they are just daft when it comes to understanding economics, hence their initiatives often have a result that is the opposite of their intended result.

    There is some truth in what you write about the welfare/entitlement state.  I submit we can only address and correct this problem if the symptoms are diminished and if our economy is strong. 

  11. Doug Kimball
    KarlUB:

     

    First of all, there is a moral argument for the sponsorship of vets in our workforce, but there is little in the way of an economic one.  The bully pulpit is a good place to make it.  H1B visas are another issue.  Look into it.  It is a damnable way to get people – very difficult and awkward.  I know.    So this is very much a straw man argument.

    Also, we too often ignore the trades as viable places to make a living.  You don’t need a college degree or a high IQ to frame a house, fix a car, build a road – an yet these trades can provide a good living – a great living if you leverage your skills in a small business.  In addition, a two earner family where each makes $15.hr, one with benefits, can provide a modest living for a family in most places in the US.   No, it’s not a cruise a year, new car every three lifestyle, but it provides a the necessities for an independent middle class existence.  Any person with reasonable drive and integrity can move up from there.

  12. Xennady

    I find this a fascinating post, and while I don’t want to be rude or intemperate I must be honest: I take it as an excellent example of the logic that resulted in the US becoming the brokest nation in history.

    Too many on the right are unable to approach politics in any way except as politics relates to business. So if a given policy conflicts somehow with the interests of business then that policy must yield.

    For example note the business interest lobby for open borders. KarlUB has just noted the H1B racket.

    The end result is that Americans face competition in America from foreign nationals, legal and illegal, working here. And we also face competition from outside America, obviously.

    Politically, these policies have led to the disaster that is California, plus the leftist lurch imposed on the entire country due to illegal immigration, and the unwillingness of Americans to enter certain fields of study because they believe they will be unable to make a living in them.

    But business loves them. Cheap labor, etc.

    And the US has slowly become the brokest nation in history, on a path to ruin and revolution. Not good.

    Even for business.

  13. Doug Kimball

    Xennedy:

    The US is not the brokest nation in history, its government has the largest debt in history.  Its public debt is actually dwarfed by its actual debt, which includes the net present value of unfunded entitlements.  But I digress into the details.  The US is very rich indeed – rich in assets.  However, beginning with Wilson, then FDR, Johnson and now Obama, our forey into statist redistribution schemes, cross generational and progressive current redistributionist schemes, (ie. the welfare state) has resulted in deficits as far as the beancounters can foresee.  It’s not a hole, it’s a crater.  It’s time to start backfilling.

    By the way, the state of California has very, very little to do with H1B visas or even cheap labor.  It has everything to do with the redistributionist policies noted above and a complete failure of the federal and state governments to even remotely deal with illegal immigration.  Businesses do what they must to remain viable and competitive.    

  14. Xennady
    Doug Kimball

    Economic principles cannot be undermined forever. 

    There is no economic principle that requires the US government to admit endless millions of unskilled workers into the US economy, vast numbers of whom end up on the dole- but who also provide a source of cheap labor for business.

    The end result is more profits for businesses that employ them, but higher costs for everyone thanks to the welfare state.

    Doug Kimball

    If America is not competitive, for whatever reason, jobs will move. 

    No doubt. This is a problem for the American government to address, not a wonderful manifestation of economic principles.

    But it does not, because it cannot separate the interests of the American people from that of global business.

    So we see events such as the emigration of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to Singapore to avoid paying US taxes while the still- taxpaying Americans are hung on the hook by thew US government to provide defense of that nation free of charge.

    This is just stupid.

  15. Doug Kimball

    Xennedy:

    Illegal immigration is a huge problem.  We obviously need to stop the inflow and then find a way to deal with the illegals already here.  An ancillary problem is the drug trade and the deterioration of Mexico.  Perhaps we should give them California back?  (Just kidding.)

  16. Xennady
    Doug Kimball:

     It has everything to do with the redistributionist policies noted above and a complete failure of the federal and state governments to even remotely deal with illegal immigration. 

    True. And just how do you think we ended up with these policies?

    My take is that the left’s desire for more constituent voters has meshed with the business lobby’s desire for lower wages and given us a political disaster.

    And too many on the right and in the business community don’t even see the connection. They just tell us “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande”, and mock the voters of California as imbeciles for electing the people they elect.

    Doug Kimball:  It’s time to start backfilling.

    True, again. But the US will never be able to backfill when the country is run by people who don’t see a difference between economic activity here in the actual, physical United States and economic activity elsewhere on the planet.

  17. Xennady
    Doug Kimball: Xennedy:

    Illegal immigration is a huge problem.  We obviously need to stop the inflow and then find a way to deal with the illegals already here.  An ancillary problem is the drug trade and the deterioration of Mexico.  Perhaps we should give them California back?  (Just kidding.)

    Actually I suspect that the de facto policy of the Mexican government is a modern day version of the reconquista of Spanish history, with an eventual goal of assimilating the SW to Mexico via demographics.

    Of course if they succeed then the remainder of the United States would be in the same situation they think they are in now, which likely wouldn’t lead to a stable situation… but I’m rambling far off topic. 

  18. Amy Schley
    Valiuth: But, so much of what I do could be done by anyone. You don’t even need a collage degree, just a steady hand, and the concentration and attention to be able to follow directions in a reproducible manner. 

    What we need to do as an economy is to start to shift away from utilizing Knowledge based workers as menial laborers in research.  Right now in academic research it is like having the Ford engineers not only design the cars but also assemble them. I think what we need to do is to get way from the notion that to work in a lab you need a collage degree.  · 9 hours ago

    Exactly! We require all these credentials for jobs that don’t really require anymore education that what could be done in an apprenticeship type program.  There are plenty of semi-skilled labor jobs out there — but because of certifications, licenses, and other restrictions put in place to restrict competition, you need at least a college degree to do them.

  19. KarlUB

    I couldn’t agree more with your criticism of the college guild-racket enforced by the universities, HR borgs, etc. In fact, this thought only just occurred to me, now:

    The whole H1B fiasco is a product of this guild: One the one hand, they all know that the vast majority of the positions that need filling do not need a Bachelor’s degree, let alone a Master’s, which has become the new BA. But on the other hand they need people who will work cheaply who also have various certifications so the Ponzi scheme can be continued.

    H1Bs fit this bill perfectly.

    Meanwhile, we keep shoveling money at higher education– and secondary education– without devoting a whit of energy to secondary vocational training. Perhaps, maybe, the GEs, Lockheeds, and Microsofts of the world would be willing to actually train people– a responsibility they’ve abrogated– if they could get involved at the secondary level.

    Back to the point, though: It is not false nostalgia to regret the ejection of middle-class blue-collar jobs from our economy. Sure, those jobs were hard, sometimes. But lots of people don’t LOVE their work. But they like actually having jobs.

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