Monday, December 27, 2004

A simple and perhaps naive question about the American economy:

During the Christmas shopping hubbub, I conducted a simple experiment - I went into department and specialty stores in our local mall, and examined a cross section of consumer goods that people were certain to buy. Things like household stuff, consumer electronics, clothes, and "cool stuff" gadgets at places
like the Brookstone store. I then looked at the manufacturing label on them. The result of my highly unstructured and uncontrolled experiment: the United States apparently doesn't manufacture any consumer goods any more. The are very few exceptions, such a some brands of washers, refrigerators, etc. But they are the very obvious exceptions to the rule.

So exactly what is it that we supply to the domestic and world markets that generates the enormous wealth to maintain our standard of living and benefits?
The automobile industry is in a shambles, where domestic vehicle manufacturers have steadily lost market share to worldwide makers, and American parts suppliers are in really deep Kim Chee. We don't make steel or other basic unfinished products. IT development and services are now moving overseas, and in any case most middle-class folks cannot be employed in these types of industries. So exactly how do we generate our wealth in a way that allows participation by the majority of the working population of the country?