Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago
The public (in America) is of the broad position that the NAFTA was responsible for the folding up of many factories and the transfer of jobs to Mexico/South. This NAFTA-bashing has some validity to it, but the semi-economic integration alone with Mexico and Canada isn’t a sufficient reason for the bigger problem of de-industrialization.
Once robust and colossal, the industrial sector of the USA contributed over 50% of the Gross Domestic Product or GDP, and employed half the labor as well. As early as the mid-50s, the futuristic sociologist Daniel Bell already warned that the trend wouldn’t hold long enough, as the ‘post-industrial society’ was already knocking its doors on the USA. Not only that, he also forecast that by the 21st century, the center of global economic growth would be the Asia-Pacific, while labor would shift to the services sector.
Had the policy-makers heeded the warning of the likes of Bell then, and fine-tuned the ‘real economy’ principles of Franklin Roosevelt, the de-industrialization of America couldn’t have happened. By the early 1980s, Alvin Toffler added resounding echoes to the forecast of a post-industrial society, by adumbrating the ‘3rd wave technology’ thesis. Such a thesis expounded that knowledge-intensive technologies would dominate post-industrial society, and will destroy institutions founded on old economic-ideological precepts notably liberal capitalism and socialism.
However, the neo-liberals led by Friedman and Hayek became the dominant Pied Pipers in shaping the public policy of America. All sectors of the economy soon became dog-eat-dog arena for private sector hegemony, leading to the ascent of the ‘virtual economy’ founded on predatory finance. Gradually did the ‘virtual economy’ wreck the classic industries of America, the most exemplary being the steel industry.
The tragic closure of Bethlehem Steel tells it all: that the ‘virtual economy’ has no interest in sustaining strategic industries or to develop their technological edge further. One after the other, manufacturing concerns were closed shop, dis-assembled and re-assembled in emerging markets where labor and factor inputs were cheaper. The ‘industrial belt’ of America—stretching from up New England down to the automotive & machine tool shops of the south—is rapidly evaporating.
The clear message for this year’s presidential poll in America is: resuscitate the industrial sector. Re-tool both the hardware, institutions and human resources to make them competitive again. Revive all the strategic reproducible industries (steel, machine tools, railways, automotive, shipping, airlines, etc.), or else face the specter of ‘third worldization’ of America. A tall order, but what choice does the USA have?
[Writ 06 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]