Factoryocracy

by Don Boudreaux on July 1, 2010

in Agriculture, History, Myths and Fallacies, The Economy, The Hollow Middle, Work

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

A prominent group of 18th century economic thinkers – the Physiocrats – argued that the ultimate source of all wealth is agriculture.  They regarded the then-just-emerging industrial sector to be sterile.

Harold Meyerson is a member of a group that we might call the “Factoryocrats.”  Just as the Physiocrats misread the once-dominant role of agriculture as proof that the only truly productive activity is farming, Mr. Meyerson’s histrionic fear about the decline of manufacturing employment in America suggests that he misreads the once-dominant role of factory work as proof that the only truly productive activity is manufacturing (“In recession battle, Germany and China are winners,” July 1).

The Physiocrats would be astonished to learn that Americans today are very well fed (and otherwise provided for) even though a mere 2 percent of the work force is in agriculture.  Similarly, if Mr. Meyerson weren’t blinded by Factoryocratic myths, he’d see that Americans today are very well supplied with manufactured goods (and food and services) even though a mere 10 percent of the work force is in manufacturing.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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