Or, Pay No Attention to that Bunting and Patriotic Music in the Background
Re-shoring as an answer to our economic troubles in the United States is a waste of our collective time and effort and here is why:
A Night at the Museum
Re-shoring is a simplistic means for recreating a complicated era in our nation’s history when mines, mills and factories dominated our economic landscape. Just as this industrious landscape with it’s hissing and clanking of discovery dispensed with the quiet family songs of the agragrian eighteenth century, we need to dispense with the nostalgia of the industrial era and embrace discovery of the future- whatever that will be.
Do we really want to bring cold forging of chisels back to Connecticut or rebuild textile mills in South Carolina? Hardly.
Innovation is the engine of progress which will drive us forward. Re-creating the past is akin to building a museum which serves us no purpose and will have few visitors.
What’s In Your Wallet?
I fear that many of the state and local revenue structures will be at risk when Johnny Comes Marching Home from China.
Imagine the city council meeting in Anytown, USA when a prodigal manufacturer decides to bring some of those lost jobs back to the economically depressed area which was created when the jobs left in the first place.
In keeping with the precedent established by new industries coming into job-challenged areas, pleas and demands for tax abatement will issue forth against the backdrop of a veiled threat to take the jobs elsewhere if the demands are not met. And, sadly, many of these communities will forego taxes and other revenues for many years into the future. And, some may actually agree to give money to the prodigal industrialists to offset wages and benefits for those unskilled new workers.
You Mean, Five Days a Week?
Finding the labor to do those re-shored jobs will be a challenge.
Those jobs which were exported to foreign workers were handed over for a reason: nobody here wanted them. As technology became more integrated into industrial plants in the 1970’s, the gap between the technically-driven job and the menial job widened and the path for advancement within the organization became less clear. Where once a high school diploma sufficed for most jobs, the increase in the technical demands of commerce required a technical school degree, or better.
Today’s young workforce has no connection to the industrial legacy of the United States. Their parents mostly worked the deskbound service and adminstration jobs which rose to fill the void created by the exported production jobs. The tool of this new workforce was a personal computer which broke the connection between the worker and the physical looms, assembly lines or injection molding machines which made the products.
Creating a mindset which respects those manual jobs again would be a daunting task and a societal sea change. In other words, it will probably never happen.
But, what can we do? To begin, creating a sense of respect for those who rise to the challenge of improving existing machines and processes will help to re-establish the lost connection between the worker and the physical products of those processes.
Those new physical workers can then use their manual skills and regenerated sense of curiosity to rise to the challenge for discovery of the products of the future.