The reality in manufacturing seems to be even if we go back to or try to at least preserve what we have of a manufacturing sector — and I am all for that — we can never get all the jobs back.
Also, worker control of industry does not seem to do the trick. Just read a story that even though workers at Volkswagen in Germany have a large say in that company via required seats on the board of directors and a favorable representation in government, VW is planning to cut jobs in a desperate attempt to remain solvent. It is facing the future of electric cars and the costs it will require to re-tool for that, including a plan for VW to produce its own batteries, and it is suffering from heavy fines from its software scandal in which VW cheated on emissions standards.
I have often wondered how employee-run factories fare. I have not read many case histories. But I do know of at least one or two paper plants that went to employee ownership, one or both eventually went bankrupt, I think. With the death of newspapers and a drastic reduction in print advertising, their market dropped off.
You just can’t fight market forces.
I’m writing this looking for a point maybe. Well, I think it is that I think we ought to push all out to bring our nation (the USA) back to a manufacturing-based one (or is it still?). Even though automation and technology in general has severely changed the landscape, someone still has to make things and why should it not be us?
I have often admired Germany (I have much German blood in me) for the fact it has such a giant manufacturing sector and that it leads in quality. I think that is how the U.S. should try to compete in the global market — be known for quality (to the extent we are not already).
And even though it seems an old-fashioned German-type system, I think we should divide young students into vocational tracks and academic tracks with the stipulation that no on is bound forever in that. People grow up and change their minds and the world changes their minds somehow.
But we have far too many young people either unemployed or underemployed. In fact we have far too many people in total of working age and ability who are in those two categories.
In order to do this, however, we can’t just put those not selected or aspiring to academics in wood shop or metal shop or auto shop, or at least not the type we had in the past. It has to be a modern version of shop that has all the technology. And even those who go for the vocational program will need rigorous general education with math and science and a sprinkling of the humanities to make them people who cannot only compete for jobs but who can share in an appreciation of the world around them and live and enjoy and communicate with others. Oh, and knowledge gained in liberal studies is necessary to understand the needs of the modern market. And man can I just go on and on with words, but I am trying to express something meaningful here.
We don’t have the luxury in this new age to just allow people to drift and never quite decide on what they want to do or whether they want to do anything. We have an immense non-productive sector and it is costing us dearly.
One result: Donald Trump.
He may either rescue us or be the last straw that added the weight to sink us.
And that is my essay for today as I await my next dispatch out here in the truck-driving world. Hey, I’m doing my part.
But wait, I knew I could not wrap this up just yet:
My life story: young marriage, Army service, some work in the manufacturing sector and in agriculture, a journalist, and finally a truck driver. I took four years of farm shop in high school and was at least introduced to the world of tools, and the very basic welding instruction I had at least helped me out in a job along the way where I ended up delivering welding supplies. And not all at once, but over the course of years I completed four years of college. So, yes, I know. You don’t just freeze someone in one role.
And even though I don’t know how we can go about it, I do think we need to try to move back into more stable employment or at least some system in which willing and able workers can always count on employment that pays at the minimal a satisfactory wage.
That is easier said than done. I am not at all sure that simply designating a minimum wage does that because for one thing the minimum wage does not address the needs of the market, but I suppose it’s a start.
And that is my essay for today.
I did not mention construction but of course that fits into vocations, and we continue to need skilled people there. We should not have to import skilled labor or raw materials as we do now.