Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Economy, Free Markets, Freedom, Heartwarming, Politics, Technology, The United States, Unemployment | Tags: American Productivity, The Free Market, U.S. Manufacturing
A common complaint bandied about is that we are not manufacturing anything any more, and there are no manufacturing jobs. But we should always check on ‘common complaints’ to see if they are actually true. The reality is a bit different. America is manufacturing more than ever. Mark J. Perry is the proprietor of the Carpe Diem blog at AEI, and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.
America is a very big and prosperous country — even in the slowest recovery since 1945. Obama liked to call it the worst recession since the Great Depression (blamed entirely on Bush) and he’s been talking up his recovery ever since, which has been the slowest since 1945. Obama clearly wants America to be a smaller influence in the world (stop being a bully) perhaps turn us into a gentle giant? An odd ambition for an America president. But during campaign season a frequent claim is that we don’t manufacture anything anymore. Not so.
Our manufacturing workers are more productive than ever before. Europeans worry more about vacation time and time off. Americans for the most part expect and like to be productive, and consider that to be the way to get ahead. They hate union rules which mean that you have to wait for someone from another union to replace the lightbulb, and support right-to-work laws.
The real recession was short, ending in June 2009 — it’s the recovery that has been problematic. Keynesian economics doesn’t work. Neither does adding on hundreds of new regulations, new restrictions, higher corporate taxes, and ObamaCare.
We are manufacturing more stuff, making more profit, and increasing productivity per worker— with fewer people. Jobs that are simple and repetitive are being replaced by robots. Manufacturing output has increased more than five-fold over the last 67 years — from $410 billion in 1947 to a record-setting level last year of $2.09 trillion. The number of manufacturing employees has steadily declined to a low in 2010 of 11.6 million workers to rebounding slightly to more than 12 million last year. Remember that the jobs replaced by robots were mostly those that the worker hated. Doing exactly the same thing every 8 hours can get poisonously boring, and building robots would be way more interesting.
The ability of the U.S manufacturing sector to produce increasing amounts of output with fewer workers is a sign of economic strength and vitality. Disruptive for displaced workers, of course — but it only happens because of new inventions and new processes with more opportunity involved. Automation is here to stay, and results in lower prices and a healthier economy. Robots don’t get hurt, have pensions, make mistakes or take vacations, and they don’t join unions.
The clever engineers who devise robots will devise more machines, which will also have to be manufactured. But manufacturing isn’t really the romantic idea of “working with your hands” anymore either. For that scroll down to the clever parody of “Artisanal Firewood”
Donald Trump was grumbling the other day about having to buy televisions manufactured in South Korea and wondering why the US would defend a nation that sells such reasonably priced products. “I don’t think anybody makes television sets in the United States anymore. We don’t make anything anymore.” Let’s cut the talk about “bringing jobs back.” Bad idea.
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