Friday, September 07, 2007

Killing the Revolution

The slow erosion of the manufacturing sector of the US economy is no accident. It was, as this book would tell you, an inevitability.

The goal of industry is efficiency. That's what produces profit. In the time-honored pursuit of efficiency, labor costs rank as arguably the most logical sacrifice. Which is really only a sacrifice for the people who perform the labor.

As American industry has matured, it has mastered the reduction/elimination of labor costs. Hell, before morning even broke on the Industrial Age, the country built itself up largely on the backs of Africans who were captured, imported and sold into slavery. Shortly after the 13th Amendment rightly killed that golden-egg laying goose, the Industrial Age finished its breakfast and punched in. Initially, industry required an abundance of manpower in order to function. Before the lunch bell rang, though, inventive industrialists had created machines to cut the number of workers needed to perform the labor. When other machines sped up travel--and captains of industry (those devilish pots) determined American workers to be greedy--outsourcing was born. By dinner time, most manufacturing jobs in the US had disappeared or been transformed into service/creative jobs.

During the course of this American day, many dreamers have planted picket fences and lived happily ever after--thanks to their own labor or their ability to capitalize on the labor of their neighbors--while many others have been disposed of like they were torn, stained t-shirts.

The point here, at long last, is that a bunch of Americans may get pissy about losing their jobs, but a bunch of other Americans are still smoking the pig. And as long as there are enough people living high on the hog, the collective rage that results in revolution remains quelled. In this country, it may even be dead.

In China, though, they're slurping their noontime ban mian while the revolution quietly bubbles.

By now, we've heard plenty about how the Chinese economy is a fire-breathing tiger.

With the Beijing Olympics less than a year away, the tale of two countries is growing longer and more prominent by the week.

The next move for the People's Republic mirrors the dusk play we've already watched in the US.

And I, for one, am left to wonder whether the Chinese government will sag under the heavy load of Chairman Mao's dream.

One point three billion people live in Zhōngguó. The way I read the stories linked to above, there are a lot of them who are smoking the pig, yet there are an awful lot more whose backs are being broken while their dreams get another deferment. I also gather that the number of people on the wrong side of that equation could grow if China moves to abandon the manufacturing sector that is still making it such an industrial powerhouse.

That probably won't happen, though. The Chinese will surely benefit from borrowing the American playbook on how manufacturing can yield to service and innovation. Perhaps their car makers will lock down the market on alternative fuel sources and give the people what they really want: clean air, a more vain mode of transportation and employment to create and service those machines. Maybe some other breakthrough will allow communism and capitalism to run parallel to each other more efficiently.

In a worst case scenario, though, the dream could explode. Struggling farmers. Fed up miners. Laid-off factory workers. Displaced middle managers. If they don't make it to the supper table as China steams through its day, the revolution could get new life in the People's Republic.


ek said...

great words, good sir.

the_capital_t said...

Whoa. People actually read this thing? Cool. Thanks, homie.