Athwart left and right: politics in a second dimension

(Guest post from David Schutz)

So, I’m going to come out of the closet as… a declinist.  Much of the discussion here in RBC is about the Evil Reeps and the Pure-Hearted Demmies, and there are occasional blasts at the fanatic libertarians.  The left-right spectrum has the major allegiances of American politics, and there’s a moderately coherent spectrum from Kucinich on the left to Armey on the right (I come in at about the William Weld/Scoop Jackson/Bob Kerrey point on that line, please note that my chosen champions are dead or out of politics).

So if left and right are your x axis, I’m asserting that Pollyanna-ism can be your y, and that it should give insight to think about people’s assumptions about the economic future in looking at policies today.  You can be a things-are-getting-better-all-the-time person, a Pollyanna, or a the-future-will-be-much-like-the-present person (status quo), or a declinist, at the same time as having a position on the left-right scale.
Why am I a declinist?  I see resource competition continuing and ramping up – the hundreds of millions of middle class people in China and India and Brazil will bid for the same Australian coal and Saudi crude as we will.  And New Zealand lamb and strawberries, and – damn! – soon I expect an export market for maple syrup and we will have more trouble affording it here.  All of us are together taxing the world’s capability to deal with our pollution.  The abundant fisheries are overharvested.  The easy trees are being cut.  More costly conflicts diverting costly resources from production to military.  As well, the ingredients of USA primacy in manufacturing and cultural/knowledge production are under threat.  Used to be, you could make cars in Detroit, because you had a parts industry and competent engineers and the phones worked and the workers were literate and reasonably diligent and the power stayed on and the banks were dependable, and there weren’t that many other places in the world where all that was true.  Exhibit A: the Yugo.  Exhibit B: the Lada.  Now, in Ulsan, you have a parts industry and competent engineers and the phones work and the workers are literate and reasonably diligent and the power stays on and the banks are dependable – so how can you keep charging a lot more for a Chevvie than a Hyundai?  Not to dwell too much on Obama’s remark as reported by Rattner, early on, about Detroit, “Why can’t they build a Corolla?”

It costs about 14¢ a pound to ship stuff from China to the US.  I think we are approaching a time when we can’t charge more, for manufactured goods, than the China price plus 14¢ a pound.  For a Camry type car, that would be $580.  If it takes 30 hours to build a car, US auto-making wages can exceed foreign by no more than $20/hour.  Don’t plan your life around getting a job making pillow cases in a mill in North Carolina.  The voice and image of an Arabic teacher can be transmitted for nickels, and the kids in my county who are taking Arabic are getting video instruction from a teacher in Cairo.  This is rippling through the rest of the economy: used to be, someone might make a fairly even choice between working in a union factory for $40 an hour, and working as a fire fighter or paramedic for about the same wage.  Now, Governor Walker and Governor Christie are doing very well politically by asking factory guys who can’t get that kind of a wage anymore why the fire fighter/teacher/zoning inspector should keep getting $40?  I’m a civil servant, and when we advertise a job we get dozens to scores of qualified applicants.  I’m familiar with the claims that civil servants get more money because we are better educated, etc., but the level of interest in civil service jobs suggests that these jobs are much more than adequately compensated.  Even the work which can’t be outsourced – plumber, electrician, pediatrician – will have pressure as people move into those fields instead of the ones which can – factory work, radiologist.  Some types of law work can be outsourced, and displaced lawyers are clamoring to enter the types which cannot.  So I see general downward pressure on wages.  It’s kind of musical chairs, and some were lucky to be in a much nicer chair when the tune ended.

One way to categorize a lot of the news we see (NJ teachers’ union struggle with Christie, UAW allows 2-tier wage system with new hires making half what the old-timers make, banks raising fees on credit cards to make up for the income streams they are losing in the wake of Dodd-Frank, occupational licensing struggles for barbers, etc.) is that they are efforts by people who found themselves in a nice chair when the music stopped to keep that chair, and keep it nice, and that includes not letting other people get chairs like theirs.

So I think we are in for a period of declining circumstances.  New houses will be smaller, not bigger.  Lots of college grads will be going back to live with their parents because they can’t afford apartments. Compensation for lots of different jobs – not just those with direct foreign competition – will drop. Driving the family minivan across the country to see the national parks will be an expensive and envied luxury.  Couples will be thinking very hard about how many children they can afford.  And I tend to see this as a result of global factors, rather than because of the evil machinations of The Koch Brothers, or George Soros, or Greedy Union Bosses, or Goldman Sachs. (Well, maybe Goldman Sachs…)  If I were a young guy starting out in the policy business, I think I might try to make a career in decline studies.  How did the Brits handle it, as the Empire went away in the aftermath of WWII?  Japan has maintained enviable social solidarity in the last fifteen years of stasis, what are they doing right?  What went so badly wrong for Germany after WWI, that led to their vile dictatorship?   The money spigot went dry in Netherlands when their natural gas bonanza ended.  What can we learn from these events, how can we treat people fairly going forward and maintain social cohesion, and do so while maintaining worker incentives to be diligent, resourceful, inventive?

So up top I claimed that on a left-right axis I am middle to center-right.  But I think that a left-declinist or a right-declinist would have pretty much the same view of what the problems are, though the left-declinist would likely have more redistibutionist and the right-declinist more unfettered market views of what to do about the problems.  My guess is that status quo believers and Pollyannas on the left would be inclined to look to the Koch Brothers and Goldman Sachs as villains in our current troubles, and to think that regulatory adjustments and protection for USA workers – both government and private – can bring back the wonderful US GINI coefficients of the 1970s.  Pollyannas on the right will tend to expect that if we can just unleash market forces, and get rid of stupid stuff like ethanol subsidies, a rising tide will make everyone better off, and by the way currency manipulators and Greedy Union Bosses.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

27 thoughts on “Athwart left and right: politics in a second dimension”

  1. Oh, I don’t know. You may be right about the decline of American prominence. But to the extent that we are seeing a spreading of wealth across the globe, I don’t see that as a problem. What is a problem is that the wealth being spread seems generally to be from the American middle class, and not from the wealthy. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to ask our economy to support a middle class wage + benefits for at least as many as it had in previous decades. Yet to do so I’m supposing it come from a more equitable distribution of wealth. I have no idea how to do that, other than to, at the very least pound the rich with taxes to pay for universal health care and solid government services. I’m also supposing the Laffer curve is a fantasy.

    In the end, the only thing that really matters to me is equality. Because if we don’t have that, then all the supposed “growth” is piss.

  2. “I come in at about the William Weld/Scoop Jackson/Bob Kerrey”

    Weld wasn’t known for strong opinions on national issues, and your other two exemplars are warmongers whose policies have caused much of the economic decline of the USA. You couldn’t have chosen a non-warmonger centrist like Tester, Voinovich, Snow or Specter?

    “the level of interest in civil service jobs suggests that these jobs are much more than adequately compensated”

    Very true now, not so much when the economy was booming. At the time, people who took public sector jobs in my cohort justified it in part on the stable benefits and job security. I don’t think it is bad they enjoy the fruit of this trade-off now.

    “The Koch Brothers”

    They’ve dumped several hundred million over the years into a variety of organizations that all oppose gas and carbon taxes. Every respectable economist (See Greg Mankiw and his Pigou Club for many conservative examples) supports a shift in taxation away from personal and corporate income taxes onto carbon consumption. Every respectable government, from Japan to Singapore, from Norway to Greece, all tax carbon more, and tax corporate income less. The United States alone fails to tax these, resulting in horrible over-consumption and reliance on a dwindling resource.

    They are thus behind the central failures of US economic and environmental policies to plan for the future in a reasonable and scientific manner.

    “Japan has maintained enviable social solidarity in the last fifteen years of stasis, what are they doing right?”

    No large-scale immigration of low-education, low-capital, and low-achieving populations. The highest level of subsidy to infrastructure and high-technology industries.

    “What went so badly wrong for Germany after WWI, that led to their vile dictatorship?”

    The impossible demands of war reparations, well-foreseen by Keynes. The demands that the Irish taxpayers make good on their impossibly oversized financial sector’s implosion is a modern parallel. The insistence of the same Euro banker types that the Greeks repay their debt in Euros is another. Not much application for the United States, whose public debt per capita is much lower and in our own currency.

    “What can we learn from these events, how can we treat people fairly going forward and maintain social cohesion, and do so while maintaining worker incentives to be diligent, resourceful, inventive?”

    We really don’t have a failure of “learning” so much as a failure of our political system. I don’t expect that to change, so with you I am a pessimist.

    “regulatory adjustments and protection for USA workers – both government and private – can bring back the wonderful US GINI coefficients of the 1970s”

    Of course they could. Comparable countries to the like Canada, Australia, Germany, and France do not have the radical wealth inequality of the U.S.

  3. I find this line of argument somewhat disingenuous.

    There is no accounting or economic reason that transfer payments and progressive taxation stop being effective means to improve income distribution when the transportation costs of trade drop to minimal values.

    Heavily taxing wages in non-tradable and rentier sectors (e.g. FIRE) to fund a reverse income tax benefit for unemployable former workers in tradeable sectors works just as well if the cost to ship goods from China is 1c/kg or 1000$/kg.

    A strong case can be made that global wages for specific types of labor will converge towards 3rd world levels, but this says absolutely nothing about wage inequality within countries.

    There is also no moral obligation for the west to accept goods from China at a transport cost of a 14c/kg simply because it is technologically feasible to deliver ocean freight at that rate. It would be economically and technically feasible to abolish immigration and security controls on air travel, too, but the state imposes them regardless because some needs supersede economics. Duties are the economic equivalent of airport metal detectors: they protect society from a threat made possible by the socially destructive use of technology and capital.

    The damage to human welfare caused by goods from cheap labor jurisdictions is far greater than the damage caused by the terrorist destruction of airliners and should be treated similarly. A bomb on an airliner can kill hundreds. Making the entire tradeable economy vulnerable to 3rd world labor rates can, has, and will irrecoverably destroy millions of lives. The choice to use the power of the state to protect against the former but not the latter is entirely political and has nothing to do with the cost of trade.

    Rising income inequality in the United States is not a function of ocean freight rates. It is a function of the capture of the political process by the top 1% of the income distribution and their deliberate abdication by them of any sense of responsibility towards the remaining 99% of the population.

  4. I’d just like to point out that the loss of Imperial power by Britain after the Second World War does not equal “decline” in the sense of what you are talking about. The lives of ordinary Britons manifestly improved after the Second World War, and your post largely addresses that issue. In many ways the end of Imperial power allowed for Britain to focus its resources on its own population rather than foreign peoples.

  5. As I relate in “In a nutshell”, what’s happening is that automation is gradually climbing up the IQ and skill curve, displacing human contributions. It’s not worker productivity that’s rising, it’s equipment productivity. (Applies at all levels: I’d like to pretend that I can design a stamping die in half the time I used to need because my mad designer skilz have doubled, but it’s not true. If anything, at 52 I’m slowing down…)

    China has a comparative advantage when it comes to products which require mostly unskilled labor. Not so much when it comes to products which require skilled labor, and when it comes to products which require complex production equipment, not much of an advantage at all. The inevitable rise of automation will erase that advantage with time, but it will also deprive most people of the ability to contribute to production.

    kind of a mixed bag: Everything gets cheaper, but fewer and fewer people have any basis beyond having the right chromosomes to demand a share of it. Eventually everything will be essentially free, but who will be in a position to buy it?

    The working for a living economy is on it’s way out, what will replace it?

  6. Race-to-the-bottom isn’t an iron law of history. It’s a public policy choice. Barro makes the same mistake here:

    In research published in 2000, economist Thomas Holmes of the University of Minnesota compared counties close to the border between states with and without right-to-work laws (thereby holding constant an array of factors related to geography and climate). He found that the cumulative growth of employment in manufacturing (the traditional area of union strength prior to the rise of public-employee unions) in the right-to-work states was 26 percentage points greater than that in the non-right-to-work states.

    But what happens if there isn’t a convenient border? Do those manufacturers just disappear? If the US has more worker-friendly policies, is 3M CEO George Buckley really going to take his business to Canada?

    “There is a sense among companies that [the U.S.] is a difficult place to do business,” he told the FT. “We’ve got a real choice between manufacturing in Canada or Mexico — which tend to be more pro-business — and America.”

    Maybe. But Canada isn’t China, and it doesn’t have to be if it – and the U.S. – make policy choices in favor of preserving middle class wealth.

  7. Very nice points, Brett. “Eventually everything will be essentially free, but who will be in a position to buy it?”

    There is, unfortunately, an answer: personal services. The people with the right chromosomes (as you put it: I wouldn’t underestimate luck and inheritance) will have an insatiable demand for personal services. Some of them will be high-end: medicine, education, and the like. Others will not: think “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The latter may well exceed the former, although you might be surprised at how entrepreneurial personal services might be: yoga coaches and the like. I agree that modern machinery has displaced some personal services, but I’m not sure that this is important. In countries like India, an engineer making $20K or so has a reasonable amount of modern machinery, and a house servant or two.

    I don’t like such an economy. It might be conservatism on my part: I remember how nonplused early nineteenth-century people were at the notion of a primarily non-agricultural economy and social system. But I see no reason why it can’t happen. Or we might get socialism, with nobody working much and everybody getting. You’re pretty much describing Edward Bellamy’s world.

  8. “The left-right spectrum has the major allegiances of American politics, and there’s a moderately coherent spectrum from Kucinich on the left to Armey on the right (I come in at about the William Weld/Scoop Jackson/Bob Kerrey point on that line, please note that my chosen champions are dead or out of politics).”

    In other words you’re an obsolete sane Republican (with a cute-here-in-the-11s reactionary anti-communism fetish) concern troll.

    Looking from high above at the rabble below. Thanks for deigning to wade into the fever swamps.

    On substance, nothing you say here is new to anyone paying attention.

    I suspect most of us on your simpleton “left” caricature are just muddling-throughers. We read Kleiman on crime and Krugman and Bartlett on econ, Marginal Revolution to watch sanity wrestle with libertarian demons within the authors’ own minds, the oil drum on energy, Econbrowser for how it all integrates, Fallows on how all the interconnected systems are evolving, and push forward. The Kochs get deployed IN THIS SPACE to efficiently counter Brett’s dumber “arguments”. But really have no weight otherwise.

    I hope you have something new to add. But scolding from on high… that’s not very smart. Quite disengaging.

  9. Michael O’Hare: “And I tend to see this as a result of global factors, rather than because of the evil machinations of The Koch Brothers, or George Soros, or Greedy Union Bosses, or Goldman Sachs. (Well, maybe Goldman Sachs…) ”

    Just in case you haven’t noticed, the share of US economic growth going to the top 1% has been extremely high for the past few decades. And by now anybody who says that this is ‘natural’ shouldn’t be taken seriously.

  10. Brett: The working for a living economy is on it’s way out, what will replace it?

    I’ve been saying this for two decades: The culture has to figure out a way to pay people to watch teevee so they can buy the stuff advertised there. How do you pay people to watch teevee? I’m not sure. But there’s got to be a way to cycle concentrated wealth from the top into the pockets of boob-tubers. Here is why: Money needs to be cycled to be an effective human construct (That’s the second law of money)…

    And speaking of the cycling of concentrated wealth…

    If anything is wrong with Michael O’Hare’s analysis, it is that he too blithely underestimates just how intensely wealth is concentrated at the top.
    But that underestimation is a national problem as well…

    Gigatons and gigatons of money are locked up in billionaire blackholes that swallow up nearby money and leave surrounding space vacant and bare (This is a result of the first law of money: Money attracts money). If we were to go back to Eisenhower tax rates these billionaires would still be able to own 50 homes in 50 countries. That’s how concentrated wealth is in America. But the magnitude of these gravitational sink holes is lost on average man in the street, who has a hard enough time remembering the name of his two senators, and is not helped at all to understanding by an innumerate media that has trouble articulating magnitudes and powers of ten.

    Fact is, these billionaire black holes need to be made to spew money/matter in the opposite direction for some decades.
    New solar systems will be invented and ecosystems of jobs created once the black holes quit sucking human space time dry…

    What was it Toynbee argued?
    Civilization must have a challenge to flourish?
    Black holes challenge and change nothing…
    They are stolidly oligarchic in nature. Death stars…
    Multiple solar systems on the other hand, are a riot of new flourishing life…

  11. “Couples will be thinking very hard about how many children they can afford.”

    Uhh, no, not enough anyway.
    At the end of the day, as I have said in a thousand different posts, the big picture here is very very simple. The earth has enough resources for a small number of us to live like kings, or for large numbers of us to live like peasants. Human society, has shown, over and over again, that for the most part they’d rather have a plethora of peasants than a rarity of royals.
    It would be nice if every other society on earth could follow the example of Italy or Japan for a few generations, but the fact is that these two are anomalies — and anomalies that their movers and shakers are trying to “fix”.

    Look, none of this is new or esoteric information. Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash, 1992,
    “once things have evened out, they’re making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here, once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel, once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity”
    was merely repeating what had been said earlier by John Brunner, who was repeating what had been said by Mary Anne Moore-Bentley in 1901, who was, of course merely extrapolating Malthus.

    This WILL all end in tears, and I fear it will end in tears before the end of my lifetime. And you can all console yourselves that you ABSOLUTELY were responsible. While you were out following your goo-goo fads, whether CND, save the whales, or reducing CO2 emissions, you all had multiple babies, ignoring the voices that told you this was not sustainable. Sure, those Republicans who don’t want pollution and peak oil to be true — they’re evil parasites lying to themselves — but you’re in possession of some higher truth that, no matter what logic and the numbers say, YOUR baby won’t contribute to the future problems of the planet.

  12. The anger at David here is misplaced.
    I’ve no idea what David thinks about the money flowing to the wealthy in the US — maybe he is as angry about it as I am, maybe he thinks it’s great. Either way, it is IRRELEVANT to the point he is making.

    Pretending otherwise is exactly the issue he is trying to raise — that people refuse to accept the large-scale factors behind what is going on — but it is only by understanding the reality that you can try to ameliorate it. Otherwise you’re just a 21st century ghost dancer, or Nongqawuse, or member of the Righteous Fists of Harmony. And no matter how much their hearts may have been in the right place, they failed abysmally, didn’t they?

  13. The abundant fisheries are overharvested.

    When the world deals you lemons, make lemonade:

    The other, more significant factor — a lobster population boom that has been building for at least 15 years — is harder to explain, he said. The decline of predators, like cod, and the state’s strict conservation rules for lobster are among the most commonly cited reasons.

    (Normally marcel)

  14. One of the problems with globalization has always been that people in other countries aren’t as free as we are/were to form unions and fight for their fair share. I don’t see why we should assume that this will always be the case.

    Where I share the pessimism is in regard to our politics. I’ve said it many times, the US is not a smart country. We have the IQ, but we are ignorant and we just don’t have the attention span. But it’s too easy to just throw up our hands. What are we going to *do* about all this?

  15. The wild card in this pessimism is fuel prices, right?

    Gasoline here is up 24% since last year. The effects on the price of shipped goods are bound to be felt. Which isn’t such a bad thing, actually, and even the fact that we’ve spent 30 years sending our manufacturing base overseas might prove to be not so bad, as we won’t have to “retool” so much as build new state-of-the-art factories and etc. The real drag on economies worldwide, however, is the concentration of wealth…which (no reflection on the GOP) is the elephant in the room.

  16. I agree the future is robots doing the work. The choices are socialism, or a few lords own all the capital and sometimes want enough personal services to keep the rest of us out of starvation.

  17. No, seriously, if you fully automate production, so that it requires no human labor at all, why shouldn’t every individual own a factory of their very own? Or a share in one, anyway?

  18. Brett, how do your “self-sufficient capitalists” obtain the fuel that feeds their nano-fabricators? What about the designs for the items that come out? How are issues like pollution resolved?

    If no-one is doing any work, why is it necessary for INDIVIDUALS to own the factories? Why is individual ownership (in your utopian world) superior to having communal or state or global ownership of the nano-fabs?

  19. “So I think we are in for a period of declining circumstances. . . . My guess is that status quo believers and Pollyannas on the left would be inclined to look to the Koch Brothers and Goldman Sachs as villains in our current troubles, and to think that regulatory adjustments and protection for USA workers – both government and private – can bring back the wonderful US GINI coefficients of the 1970s.”

    I would count myself as a very pessimistic declinist on the Left. And, I do think the Kock Bros and Goldman Sachs personify the Evil driving decline.

    Decline is so palpable a part of our present reality that I don’t think it constitutes a dimension.

    Our politics of partisan divide is driven on several dimensions of worldview. And, one of those dimensions is the very strong difference between those, who reach for broad, global, impersonal forces, on the one hand, and those, who see successive choice. There’s a strong inclination toward fatuous inevitability in the narratives of the former, and a certain, corresponding fatalism in the narratives of the latter.

    What’s “inevitable” for the relatively complacent or sanguine is powerlessness, in the face of collectively self-destructive selfish stupidity for those of a darker view.

    In Left-Right terms, I think “inevitability” has a decidedly Centrist hue, while the idea of a fatally corrupt choice has appeal to the disaffected Tea Party followers as well as much of the Left (that part repulsed by Obama, in particular).

    Rather than an x and a y making some kind of four-corner box, really seeing what is going on, may require something that allows distinguishing the radicals from the centrists.

  20. Well said, Bruce. At least, that’s pretty much exactly the way I view things.

    I am very curious to see how US gas price running through $5/gal and beyond perturbs the giant non-linear semi-discrete differential system from its fairly sticky status-quo equilibrium, in all its myriad coordinate directions. I couldn’t begin to predict what’s going to happen.

  21. I wish I had time to do a careful side-by-side of Dave Schutz’s view, as expressed above, with that of Ian Welsh. Especially, here and here, where Ian Welsh is doing a very similar analysis of transport costs driving trade, as Schutz above, but coming to a radically different view, a view that takes a very, very dim view of Koch and Goldman Sachs, with those two standing as icons of the petroleum economy and financialization. And, also says some insightful things about how macro-economic policy is going desperately wrong.

    I am among those, who find our current left-right partisan continuum extremely tiresome, and looking for other dimensions is intriguing. The opaqueness with which some critical debates are taking place is symptomatic of the sterility of the Kucinich-to-Armey continuum. The whole demand-managment v. structure “debate” in among macroeconomic policy wonk just makes me want to cry, it is so vapid, on both sides.

  22. “If no-one is doing any work, why is it necessary for INDIVIDUALS to own the factories? Why is individual ownership (in your utopian world) superior to having communal or state or global ownership of the nano-fabs?”

    Because ownership is control. If you control a small nano-fabricator of your own, you control what it produces. If somebody else controls it, (And ‘communal’ ownership always boils down to “somebody else” control, and thus ownership, for most people.) you get what you get at their whim. And given that starting premise, that they don’t need anything you can supply, you’ve got little leverage.

    You probably will not like what you’ll have to do, to get ‘your’ share of what they’re producing.

  23. Our decline in manufacturing isn’t limited to just production. Because of offshoring, now our “higher-order” strengths are suffering, too — such as design, innovation, technical capabilities and R&D functions:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13every.html?src=me&ref=business

    “The big debate today is whether we can continue to be competitive in R&D when we are not making the stuff that we innovate … ”

    Something else is gone, too. “We had a storehouse of knowledge and skill built up in these workers and we can’t use it now.”

    …. As manufacturing’s presence — and status — shrinks in America, the odds of a Henry Ford or a Thomas Edison or a Steve Jobs appearing in the next generation are reduced. …

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