Forbes Magazine published an article titled "America's Manufacturing Crisis: Finally Harvard Gets It." What academics finally "get" is that it is, indeed, a disaster for America to lose our manufacturing base specifically because that causes us to lose our "ability to innovate."
The theorists held onto their out-of-date free-trade theory despite the loss of millions of outsourced jobs, despite 42,000 U.S. factories permanently closed, and despite the loss of high blue-collar wages that could support a family. But our loss of innovation is finally waking them up.
Most people recognize that America's prosperity and high standard of living depend on our remarkable power and skill of innovation produced by manufacturing. They should read Alexander Hamilton's great 1791 treatise on the importance of manufacturing.
Harvard management professors Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih emphasize the effect on innovation in their new book "Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance." Another useful book is "Freedom's Forge" by Arthur Herman, which proves that a manufacturing base is essential for national security, and we couldn't have won World War II without it.
Our manufacturing base was what enabled the "arsenal of democracy" in 1944 to produce a war plane every five minutes, 150 tons of steel every hour and eight aircraft carriers a month. After World War II, our manufacturing base caused an incredible rise in our standard of living, bringing electricity and indoor plumbing to most homes and good wages that built a middle class to enable blue-collar workers to support a fulltime homemaker to raise their children.
We've been told that the new normal is for America to be an economy based on providing services instead of products. The trouble is it's pretty hard to export services such as waiters and dry cleaners; we can only export things we make.
The main defect with free trade is that, in the words of the old cliche, it takes two to tango. America steps naively onto the dance floor, but Communist China won't dance.
China protects and subsidizes its home industries and products, forces foreign-owned plants to give China their patents and trade secrets, cheats us with shoddy and dangerous exports, manipulates its currency to keep it artificially low, operates a large network of technology spies in the United States and pays slave-labor wages to its workers.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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