The State of Manufacturing

Robert Reich has a nice piece about the state of manufacturing. The main cause of manufacturing jobs losses worldwide:

Want to blame something? Blame new knowledge. Knowledge created the electronic gadgets and software that can now do almost any routine task.

His solution:

The biggest challenge we face over the long term — beyond the current depression — isn’t how to bring manufacturing back. It’s how to improve the earnings of America’s expanding army of low-wage workers who are doing personal service jobs in hotels, hospitals, big-box retail stores, restaurant chains, and all the other businesses that need bodies but not high skills.

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6 Responses to “The State of Manufacturing”


  1. 1 Abby June 21, 2009 at 8:56 PM

    This is a great introduction to what I can tell would be a great full-length piece. Reich states:

    “Any job that’s even slightly routine is disappearing from the U.S. But this doesn’t mean we are left with fewer jobs. It means only that we have fewer routine jobs, including traditional manufacturing.”

    Yes, and some Americans’ nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” of manual factory labor is crippling our ability to embrace the opportunity to devote resources (labor, capital, time) to what Reich calls symbolic-analytic work. Just like when the ancient Inca Empire developed the new technology of irrigation, Incan cultural activity subsequently skyrocketed: in religion, arts, science, language, etc. Because people were spending less time in the fields, resources and focus could be devoted to more intellectual and developmental pursuits.

    So, the loss of countless manufacturing jobs is an inevitable effect of human progress in technology. Shortsighted people will complain about the loss of these routine, mundane jobs. But in the long run, the creation of more specialized, skilled jobs will only raise the bar for humanity and propel us forward.

    Another view of the GM crisis is P.J. O’Rourke’s recent article in WSJ, which starts with:

    “The phrase “bankrupt General Motors,” which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age 
    in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as “Mom’s nude photos.” And, indeed, if we want to 
    understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.”

    Check out his article online for a flip-side to the economic perspective to the downfall of an American icon; it’s more about the symbolism of cars in America, but I find that it is rational,insightful explanation of the emotional fallout of GM’s collapse.

  2. 2 Joseph Garcia June 25, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    Interesting blog. New knowledge has definitely gotten rid of many manufacturing jobs and replaced them with more analytical jobs. I believe it’s just a natural progression in a society if we are to keep evolving. The challenge he poses to us in the end is a tough one, but getting an education will improve their earnings and offer more job security. If there is a lack of low-skilled workers, we can always outsource it to other developing countries.

  3. 3 Tanisha/ Econ 100 July 9, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    While new knowledge can be blamed for taking jobs, it’s also a necessity for an economy to grow. If the workers went to school for what they were doing, maybe they would get paid more. Until then that’s just where they will be; Because knowledge will always keep growing. It’s just a matter of who wants to grow with it. And the jobs that do not require eduaction will eventually be taken over by robots or by someone who doesn’t mind making $6.75 per hour.

  4. 4 Alejandro Cortez August 3, 2009 at 4:32 PM

    Dr. Reich is correct. We should not bemoan the loss of manufacturing jobs, instead we should rejoice in the fact that service sector (and more high-tech) jobs are being created every day. The American economic landscape is changing. With this change there is a demand for trained and more educated workers. Hopefully this will encourage workers to seek more education and compete for those jobs that are being created. It is important to note that these new jobs will also pay more than working at a factory as an unskilled laborer. My hope is that the new changing economic landscape will lift the educational level as a whole and create a more efficient and less wasteful economy.

  5. 5 wongt August 5, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    That was a very interesting blog and quite a good observation. This change might actually encourage higher education and training for most workers which will move America to the next level. Overall, I hope that it lifts the economy as a whole as it takes us to a new and different era.

  6. 6 angela December 16, 2009 at 6:01 PM

    Interesting blow but we can´t not blame it all on technology. It is just a natural progression and it comes with kwnoledge, technology and new developments that we all are working on in some way or another.


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