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Thuggery Masquerading as Public Policy

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris’s plea for government to more actively promote manufacturing in the U.S. is a mish-mash of self-serving confusions, half-truths, and falsehoods (Letters, Feb. 23).  Consider his complaint about your recent article on manufacturing in America: “you rightly champion the gains in industrial productivity achieved in the last 30 years, but you gloss over the impact this productivity has had on employment.  These lost jobs are significant.  Of the eight million jobs lost in the recession, two million were in manufacturing, which are higher-paying and intrinsically supportive of more employment in other sectors.”

Overlooking the question of whether or not Mr. Liveris complains about the fall in agricultural employment caused by Dow’s own fertilizers and pesticides which raise productivity on farms, Mr. Liveris’s claim about manufacturing pay is simply wrong.  (His claim about manufacturing jobs being “intrinsically supportive of more employment in other sectors” is too devoid of meaning to make any sense.)

In 2011, median weekly earnings of full-time production workers in America were $605 – lower than were median weekly earnings of, for example, management, business, and financial workers ($1,160); professionals other than business people and financial workers ($1,029); sales people ($670); office and administrative support staffers ($623); and transportation workers ($614).*

Let’s hope that Mr. Liveris’s knowledge of the chemicals business is better than his knowledge of the economy.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* See Table 8 at this Bureau of Labor Statistics site.

The number of flaws that infect Mr. Liveris’s letter are legion; they far outnumber the one that I highlight above.  His entire letter is a fine specimen of the poor reasoning, misleading claims, and ignorance of history and public-choice that are typical in such apologies routinely issued by business people for government policies that pick taxpayers’ and consumers’ pockets in order to acquire booty for the benefit of CEOs and their companies.


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