“Son, I Want You To Grow Up to Be a Pipefitter”

by Don Boudreaux on April 21, 2010

in Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen, The Economy, Trade

Here’s a letter of mine published in today’s Washington Post:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

John Tkacik [letters, April 19] writes that “the most unsettling aspect of China’s economic power is its manufacturing output. According to the latest figures in the CIA’s World Factbook, industry accounts for about 22 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and about 49 percent of China’s.” Because he doesn’t elaborate, Mr. Tkacik apparently believes that this fact speaks for itself and that its message for Americans is ominous.

He’s mistaken.

Do today’s Americans suffer a lack of access, or even shrinking access, to industrial production? Would our economy be strengthened by policies or trends that force surgeons, software engineers, airline pilots, gourmet chefs and other service-sector workers back to toiling away, as their parents and grandparents did, in factories and in mines? If someone you care about suffers a serious illness, would you prefer an America full of sawmills and seamstresses or one planted thick with doctors, nurses and pharmaceutical researchers?

Donald J. Boudreaux, Fairfax

In the pre-edited version of my letter, the first sentence of the final paragraph read “Do today’s Americans suffer a lack of access, or even shrinking access, to industrial outputs?”

(Please: no one take offense at the title of this post.  My father – a fine man if ever our species boasted a fine man – was a pipefitter, and I’m damned proud of who my father was.  And he was damned proud that I have the service-sector job that I do rather than the manufacturing job that he had.)

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