There is something authentic, something noble about making physical objects. It appears to me the essence of capitalism. Service and support sectors are all very well, but their output feels so much less tangible than a production business. Moreover, economies need balance: that way they are better equipped to ride out downturns.
But manufacturing matters not simply because of vaguely romantic notions about creating things. It provides well-paid blue-collar and professional jobs. It generates exports to help offset trade deficits generated elsewhere in the economy. It adds far more value pro rata than service industries. Every major plant fosters clusters of other businesses.
This seems so self-evident, that you might think smart soi dissant progressives would embrace the notion. Not Michael Lind though, who, in his Financial Times column last week ("Healthcare can get America working") followed fellow progressive Matt Miller in arguing for eschewing manufacturing in favor of health care as a source of future jobs. Lind gives the same rationale as Miller: manufacturing jobs can be outsourced (as if health care jobs can't be -- and increasingly aren't being - insourced, i.e., filled by immigrant workers). Lind writes, apparently without irony,
Will the health aide be the typical worker of the 21st century, as the factory worker was the iconic figure of the 20th?
If the elites in both major parties don't come up with more coherent responses to the challenges that globalization presents to those who are vulnerable to outsourcing or insourcing (i.e., most private sector workers), they will leave open a large political void. They may not like what fills it.