“My question is whether Congress should outlaw these productivity gains in the name of job creation. It would be easy. Just get rid of those John Deere harvesting machines that do in a day what used to take a thousand men a week, outlaw the robots and automation that eliminated many manufacturing jobs and bring back manually operated PBX telephone switchboards.”
Professor Williams has a lesson in basic economics: The Truth about the Manufacturing Sector’s ‘Sickness’
“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 2011 manufacturing output grew by 11 percent, to nearly $5 trillion. … Manufacturing productivity has doubled since 1987, and manufacturing output has risen by one-half. However, over the past two decades, manufacturing employment has fallen about 25 percent.”
It is the increasing efficiency that many see as a loss of jobs and interpret that as doom and gloom. Closely associated with that is the idea that there is a trade imbalance where all the jobs are going to China and everything on the store shelves is ‘cheap Chinese junk’. The reality is otherwise and Professor Williams explains why.
if technological advances had not eliminated millions of jobs, where in the world would we have gotten the workers to produce all those goods and services that we now enjoy that weren’t even thought of decades ago?
it would be great if foreigners didn’t buy anything from us and just gave us cars, computers, televisions, clothing and other goods in exchange for slips of paper with pictures of past presidents such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Ulysses Grant. We could live the life of Riley. The world would bestow all manner of goods and services upon us, and all we’d have to do is have a few Americans employed printing dollars that foreigners would hold precious and keep.
What needs to be kept in mind is that “The bottom line is that the health of an industry is measured by its output, not by the number of people it employs.” It is that output that makes the effort competitive and increases wealth. The ability to increase output and efficiency is why the U.S. remains an economic powerhouse with a growing manufacturing sector.