Skip to main content

View Diary: The Problem with Manufacturing (100 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Here’s a (pessimistic) historical view (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First, the U.S. had a primarily agricultural economy. The majority of workers in the country before about 1900 (plus or minus a few decades) worked on farms. And before the end of the Civil War in 1865, a lot of them were slaves -- also, on a lot of small farms, the farmer would have lots of kids, who would work on the farm without pay (which is another form of slavery, I suppose). What killed agricultural jobs was tractors and combines and other machines that could do a lot more work than men and horses and mules.

    Second, the U.S. had a manufacturing economy, from about 1900 to about 1960 (again, this is plus or minus a decade or two). The jobs weren’t on farms anymore, so lots of people went to the cities to work in factories, making cloth or steel girders or cars or manufactured food (spam) or airplanes or whatever. So Detroit (and other cities) grew large because that’s where the jobs were. In cities.

    Third, the factories either became automated (using robots and computers and big automated machines to replace the workers who once welded the cars or whatever) or the jobs were outsourced to other countries (because it’s cheaper to make clothing in Bangladesh and send it to the U.S. on a ship than to make it here). So we became a service economy (computer programming is a good example).

    I don’t think we can go back to a manufacturing economy where a high school graduate can get paid well to make cars or steel parts or clothing. That would be like going back to a 19th-century economy where a relatively uneducated person could get a job working in the fields with a horse and a plow.


    So my point is this: the era of the well-paid unionized manufacturing jobs for high school graduates is gone. I don’t think it’s coming back.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 09:26:34 PM PDT

    •  Where will the new jobs come from? (4+ / 0-)

      In the past, automation replaced human or animal muscle power.  Now, automation is replacing human information processing.

      "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

      by Thutmose V on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 09:40:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good question (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know where the new jobs will come from.

        I tend to think that a good liberal arts education will teach you how to think (even if it seems like a useless degree). If you can think, you can figure out how to do the job.

        On the other hand, if you specialize in something that seems to be useful like learning how to be a truck driver or a nurse or horse-shoe maker, then you're kind of stuck doing that job for the rest of your life. But that's just my opinion.

        "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

        by Dbug on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 10:06:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You are missing several key pieces... (0+ / 0-)

      Of information.  

      The move from small family farms to  industrial-scale farms was a policy conceived and implemented by the US government (I believe the words of the Secretary of Agriculture were "Go Big or Get Out")

      The move from domestic manufacturing to shipping jobs overseas was also a policy conceived and implemented by the US government.  Tariffs - we used to have them.  

      Automation has been impacting jobs since the dawn of the industrial revolution - the Luddites were, after all, skilled tradespeople forced out of their jobs by factories.  The idea that we're helpless against the awesome power of automation is largely a myth.  Automation creates churn - old jobs disappear, but new jobs appear.  

      Why aren't new jobs appearing now?  That's the question.  But automation has been a constant, so it's not the answer.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site