On Fletcher and the False Assumption of U.S. Manufacturing Decline

by Don Boudreaux on February 1, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter to the Huffington Post:

Ian Fletcher’s column on U.S. manufacturing is a stew of misunderstandings, non sequiturs, half-truths, and false presumptions (“Manufacturing in Decline; Establishment in Denial,” Feb. 1).  For example, about the fact that U.S. manufacturing output remains the highest among all countries in the world today, Mr. Fletcher – after expressing surprise that anyone bothers even to mention this fact – dismissively says “This statistic proves nothing about improvement or decline.”

America’s continuing high manufacturing output deserves to be mentioned simply because so very many people today – such as prominent anti-trade pundit Harold Meyerson – ceaselessly and ominously repeat the falsehood that American manufacturing is in decline.

As for the “statistic prov[ing] nothing about improvement or decline,” a scholar so well versed with the data as is Mr. Fletcher surely must know that, measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, U.S. manufacturing output in 2009 was about ten percent higher than it was in 2000, 47 percent higher than in 1990, 83 percent higher than in 1980, and 120 percent higher than in 1970.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Don’t miss this new report on the current state of manufacturing in America.  (HT Craig Kohtz)

For the record, there would be nothing inherently wrong with, or worrisome about, the U.S. economy if U.S. manufacturing output were declining by whatever metric you choose to measure it.

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