True or False

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Recently
by Walter E. Williams: Free
or Fair?

 

 
 

So many statements
we accept as true, plausible or beyond question; but are they? Let’s
look at a couple of important ones: global warming and U.S. manufacturing
decline.

In 2000,
Dr. David Viner of University of East Anglia’s disgraced Climatic
Research Unit advised, “Within a few years winter snowfall will
become a very rare and exciting event.” “Children just aren’t going
to know what snow is.” Britain’s Meteorological Office said this
December was “almost certain” to become the coldest since records
began in 1910. Paul Michaelwaite, forecaster for NetWeather.tv,
said, “It is looking like this winter could be in the top 20 cold
winters in the last 100 years.”

In reference
to the last decade of the Earth’s cooling, geologist Dr. Don J.
Easterbrook, emeritus professor at Western Washington University,
says, “Recent solar changes suggest that it could be fairly severe,
perhaps more like the 1880 to 1915 cool cycle than the more moderate
1945–1977 cool cycle. A more drastic cooling, similar to that
during the Dalton and Maunder minimums, could plunge the Earth into
another Little Ice Age, but only time will tell if that is likely.”
Global warming hype is nothing less than a gambit for more government
control over our lives.

How about statements
like these: “The United States got to where it is today by making
things.” “There’s nothing made here anymore.” “One-third of the
nation’s manufacturing jobs have vanished in the past decade.” These
statements suggest that we are no longer the world’s top manufacturer;
we have all but turned into a nation of “hamburger flippers.”

According
to data assembled by Dr. Mark Perry, in his article in The American
(12/23/2009) titled “Manufacturing’s Death Greatly Exaggerated,”
“For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimates that the value
of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion.” If the U.S.
manufacturing sector were a separate economy, with its own GDP,
it would be tied with Germany as the world’s fourth richest economy.
The 2008 GDPs were: U.S. ($14.2 trillion), Japan ($4.9 trillion),
China ($4.3 trillion), U.S. manufacturing ($3.7 trillion), Germany
($3.7 trillion), France ($2.9 trillion) and the United Kingdom ($2.7
trillion).

U.S. manufacturing
employment peaked at 19.5 million jobs in 1979. Since 1979, the
manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent, and there’s every
indication that manufacturing employment will continue to shrink.
Because of automation, the U.S. worker is now three times as productive
as in 1980 and twice as productive as in 2000. It’s productivity
gains, rather than outsourcing and imports, that explains most of
our manufacturing job loss.

U.S. manufacturing
is going through the same kind of labor-saving technological innovation
as agriculture. In 1790, farmers were 90 percent of the U.S. labor
force. By 1900, only about 41 percent of our labor force was employed
in agriculture. By 2008, less than 3 percent of Americans were employed
in agriculture. What would you have had Congress do in the face
of this precipitous loss of agricultural jobs? Should Congress have
outlawed all of the technological advances and machinery that cost
millions of agricultural jobs and made our farmers the world’s most
productive? Also, had Congress done something to save those agricultural
jobs, where would we have gotten the workers to produce the millions
of things we enjoy that weren’t even around in 1790? We would have
been poorer.

Let’s
not stop with agriculture. In 1970, the telecommunications industry
employed 421,000 workers, in good-paying jobs as switchboard operators,
handling 9.8 billion long-distance calls yearly. Today, the telecommunications
industry employs fewer than 60,000 operators, and they handle more
than 100 billion long-distance calls yearly. That’s an 85 percent
job loss. The spectacular advances in telecommunications, which
raised productivity, made the cost of long-distance calls a tiny
fraction of what they were.

What we’re
witnessing in many of our industries is what economic historian
Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” The adjustment
to it can be painful, but to stand in its way will make us a poorer
nation.

January
5, 2011

Walter
E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics
at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist.
To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other
Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate web page
.

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