Sunday, January 02, 2011

They don't do it no more

Came across this rather interesting video of how a leather football is manufactured:



I enjoyed watching the details, but thought something was strange about it. Took me a while to put my finger on it: the people engaged in the repetitive, humdrum tasks were not Vietnamese, not Bangladeshis, but Americans.

Think of the stereotype of an American worker: she fights wars, invents, sues, buys, sells, teaches, nurses, packages loans, and struts around like Jerry in the first 15 minutes of Jerry Maguire. What you don't see her doing is making stuff with her own hands.

OK, that was a little facetious, but not entirely make-believe. American manufacturing has been declining steeply in the past 50 years. It has gone from accounting for 53 percent of the economy in 1965 to 9 percent in 2004. In the same period, agricultural work was increasingly being performed by foreign migrant workers. Borrowing and spending has replaced production as the chief economic activity of this nation.

Much is said about the collapse in house prices and the financial meltdown, as if these caused the economic malaise. But these are mere symptoms. Indeed, the biggest untold story of the current economic narrative is the demise of American production.

I am taking bets on whether Wilson will still be manufacturing footballs using American labor 5 years hence...

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