One thing the financial crisis shows is that the United States is in trouble because Americans have stopped making stuff.
It used to be that we made a lot of stuff: televisions, clothes, washing machines, radios, typewriters, shoes, telephones, and furniture. And we also used to make the stuff out of which stuff was made: steel, aluminum, plastic, rubber, glass, and electrical components. Today that’s largely made overseas. They send us their stuff and we send them our money.
It also used to be that Americans liked to make stuff. Think of all the things Thomas Edison invented. Or consider Henry Ford, who made the car affordable, perfected the assembly line, and paid workers a decent wage. Countless others, such as my grandfather, worked as toolmakers and machinists because they liked to work with their hands. Today we rely on people around the world to do that innovation for us.
To be sure, outsourcing has some benefits, but the danger in abrogating our desire to make things is that, in doing so, we forget what made America great. It wasn’t manipulating money; it was hard work and persistence. It wasn’t “flipping houses”; it was having a dream and being patient and self-sacrificing to achieve that dream. It wasn’t speculative gambling; it was belief in a line of labor that rewarded honest risk. Forgetting that contributes to America’s deterioration.