In a series of essays, a team of experts argues that a robust manufacturing sector is necessary to keep the American dream alive.
Following up on the notable 2009 work Manufacturing a Better Future for America, editor McCormack (Lean Machines, 2002, etc.) and like-minded business wonks suggest ways to nurture a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing. The book comes at a pivotal moment; the sector has lost nearly 6 million jobs in the 21st century, and its contribution to the gross domestic product declined to 11.9 percent in 2012 from 22.7 percent in 1970. Renewed interest in rebuilding America’s manufacturing base, however, offers a chance to change course. The book’s 10 contributing authors—including business executives, engineers and journalists—contend that the United States must adopt new policies regarding trade, infrastructure, taxes, education and energy and develop a comprehensive strategy to encourage domestic production while leveling the international playing field. McCormack opens with a sobering assessment of the state of American manufacturing, and his survey of key industries such as semiconductors, chemicals and automobiles reveals the United States as a diminished giant, outstripped by global rivals. In an equally compelling chapter, trade lawyer Eric Garfinkel calls for stronger enforcement of World Trade Organization rules to prevent some nations from bending them. Journalist Harold Meyerson is perhaps the group’s biggest skeptic, as he points to Germany’s vibrant manufacturing culture to argue that an industrial revival without labor unions is no revival at all. This articulate, well-sourced and skillfully constructed anthology covers an impressive amount of ground. The authors tackle thorny issues, such as value-added taxation, labor relations and Chinese currency manipulation, and often challenge prevailing wisdom; for example, manufacturing advocate Harry Moser contends that corporations’ narrow focus on labor costs has led them to overlook the sizable hidden costs of shifting production overseas. Although none of the proposed remedies are easy fixes, the book’s main message—that manufacturing is critical to the future of American prosperity—is gaining traction among economic observers. The chapters are long and densely packed, and McCormack wisely gives each chapter a synopsis for quick reference.
A sophisticated, persuasive argument that “Made in America” means a stronger America.