Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.SNP Offers Labour Deadly Death Embrace Alliance, Holding England to Ransom, Destroy UK From Within - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold And Silver – Most Widely Used Currency In Western World? Stupidity - Michael_Noonan
3.Election Forecast 2015 - Coalition Economic Recovery vs Labour Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Election Forecast 2015 - Debates Boost Labour Into Opinion Polls Seats Lead - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Why are Interest Rates So Low? Ben Bernanke, Confused as Ever, Starts His Own Blog to Prove It - Mike_Shedlock
6.Leaders Debate Election 2015 - Natalie Bennett Green Party Convincing Anti-Austerity More Debt Argument - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Labour Economic Collapse vs Coalition Recovery - UK Election Forecast 2015 - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
8.China’s Stock Market Mania; How High can Red-chips Fly? - Gary_Dorsch
9.Gold and Misery, Strange Bedfellows - 31st Mar 15 - Dan_Norcini
10.Ed Miliband Debate Election 2015 Analysis - Labour Spending, Debt and Economic Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
U.S. GDP Sucking Spoilt Milk From A Bloated Dead Sow - 3rd May 15
Stocks, Gold and Oil Markets Chopsville - 3rd May 15
UK Election 2015 Forecast - The Most Probable Outcome is... - 3rd May 15
Kate Gives Birth to Coalition Government - 2nd May 15
Stock Market Correction Time? - 2nd May 15
Gold And Silver - Thieving Bankers Operate In Open; Public Have Eyes Wide Shut - 2nd May 15
U.S.A. Caught In Enormous Policy Vise - ZIRP & QE Destructive Influence - 2nd May 15
Crude Oil Price Bear Market Is Over - 2nd May 15
Gold and Silver Bear Squeeze Comes and Goes - 2nd May 15
UK Election Forecast 2015 - Who Will Win? - 1st May 15
Gold Developments Say New Mine Supply Is Peaking - 1st May 15
Emerging Mexican Silver - 1st May 15
Investigating The U.S. GDP Deflator: Wildly Differing Results Depending on Your Choice - 1st May 15
JP Morgan Cornering Silver Bullion Market? - 1st May 15
Baltimore Riots Whose Fault? - 1st May 15
Monetary And Economic Insights From Incrementum’s Advisory Board - 1st May 15
Your Best Stock Investment in the "Cloud" Is Right Here - 1st May 15
Stock Market Kondratieff Waves and the Greater Depression 2013- 2020 update - 1st May 15
How One Chart Is Changing My Outlook on Crude Oil Prices - 1st May 15
The Real Reason Why Obama Wants to Lift Sanctions on Iran - 30th Apr 15
Gold and the New U.S. and UK Recession - ZIRP to Continue - 30th Apr 15
Uranium Price Is About to Rocket - 30th Apr 15
Immigration Crisis Drives a Deep Wedge Between E.U. States - 30th Apr 15
Labour Leads in Nick Clegg's Sheffield Hallam Seat, Latest Ashcroft Opinion Poll - 30th Apr 15
Is the Fed about to Ignite the Stock Market Sell in May and Go Away Trade? - 30th Apr 15
Bill Gross on Pimco Hiring Bernanke and Fed Interest Rate Hike 2015 - 30th Apr 15
The European Stock Markets Trend Is Up. We're In. Are You? - 29th Apr 15
Putin: Czar Of Natural Gas, Crude Oil, Uranium & GOLD - 29th Apr 15
BEA Reports Weak U.S. 1st Quarter 2015 GDP Growth at 0.25% - 29th Apr 15
Why Labour Cannot Win Sheffield Hallam and other Lib-Dem / Conservative Key Marginal Seats - 29th Apr 15
Stocks, Bonds and Real Estate Financial Hurricanes Headed Our Way - No Where to Hide! - 28th Apr 15
Bitcoin Price Counterintuitive Signs - 28th Apr 15
Stock Market Valuations - Maybe I am Crazy - 28th Apr 15
Gold Price Rises, Silver Surges – Physical Demand and Greece, Ukraine, Russia Risks - 28th Apr 15
The Insurance "Game" Has Changed – and Investors Can Profit - 28th Apr 15
Prelude to a Japanese Revival - 28th Apr 15
Why You Could Make ANOTHER 100% in China Stock Market Starting Now - 28th Apr 15
CIA Prefab State Terror for Human Bondage - 28th Apr 15
Greece: Down and Probably Out - 27th Apr 15
Biotech Stocks and the Power of Context - 27th Apr 15
Strawberry Picking Undervalued Gold Stocks - 27th Apr 15
Rock-Paper-Silver - 27th Apr 15
Gold Flows East - China, India Import Massive Quantities of Gold from Switzerland - 27th Apr 15
Conservatives Start to Pull Away from Labour in Opinion Polls, But is it too Late? Election Forecast 2015 - 27th Apr 15
Gold and Silver - It's ALL about The Big Picture After All - 27th Apr 15
Sheffield School Places Election Crisis - Affluent Schools Demand Increase in Funding - 27th Apr 15
Labour Bribes Voters With Housing Market Stamp Duty Cut and Rent Controls - 27th Apr 15
Stock Market SPX Index at Resistance - 27th Apr 15
Society's Leaders Have Been Digging a Bottomless Economic Pit - 27th Apr 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The War on Cash!

American Manufacturing Slowly Rotting Away: How Industries Die

Politics / US Politics Feb 22, 2011 - 02:05 AM GMT

By: Ian_Fletcher

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleI wrote in a previous article about why America's manufacturing sector, despite record output, is actually in very deep trouble: record output doesn't prove the sector healthy when we are running a huge trade deficit in manufactured goods, i.e. consuming more goods than we produce and plugging the gap with asset sales and debt.


But this analysis of the problem only touches the quantitative surface of our ongoing industrial decline. Real industries are not abstract aggregates; they are complex ecosystems of suppliers and supply chains, skills and customer relationships, long-term investments and returns. Deindustrialization is thus a more complex process than is usually realized. It is not just layoffs and crumbling buildings; industries sicken and die in complicated ways.

To take just one example, when American producers are pushed out of foreign markets by protectionism abroad and out of domestic markets by the export subsidies of foreign nations, it is not just immediate profits that are lost. Declining sales undermine their scale economies, driving up their costs and making them even less competitive. Less profit means less money to plow into future technology development. Less access to sophisticated foreign markets means less exposure to sophisticated foreign technology and diverse foreign buyer needs.

When an industry shrinks, it ceases to support the complex web of skills, many of them outside the industry itself, upon which it depends. These skills often take years to master, so they only survive if the industry (and its supporting industries, several tiers deep into the supply chain) remain in continuous operation. The same goes for specialized suppliers. Thus, for example, in the words of the Financial Times's James Kynge:

The more Boeing outsourced, the quicker the machine-tool companies that supplied it went bust, providing opportunities for Chinese competitors to buy the technology they needed, better to supply companies like Boeing.

Similarly, America starts being invisibly shut out of future industries which struggling or dying industries would have spawned. For example, in the words of tech CEO Richard Elkus:

Just as the loss of the VCR wiped out America's ability to participate in the design and manufacture of broadcast video-recording equipment, the loss of the design and manufacturing of consumer electronic cameras in the United States virtually guaranteed the demise of its professional camera market... Thus, as the United States lost its position in consumer electronics, it began to lose its competitive base in commercial electronics as well. The losses in these related infrastructures would begin to negatively affect other down-stream industries, not the least of which was the automobile... Like an ecosystem, a competitive economy is a holistic entity, far greater than the sum of its parts. (Emphasis added.)

One important example of this is the decline of the once-supreme American semiconductor industry, visible in declining plant investment relative to the rest of the world. In 2009, the whole of North America received only 21% of the world's investment in semiconductor capital equipment, compared to 64% going to China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The U.S. now has virtually no position in photolithographic steppers, the ultra-expensive machines, among the most sophisticated technological devices in existence, that "print" the microscopic circuits of computer chips on silicon wafers. America's lack of a position in steppers means that close collaboration between the makers of these machines and the companies that use them is no longer easy in the U.S. This collaboration traditionally drove both the chip and the stepper industries to new heights of performance. American companies had 90% of the world market in 1980, but have less than 10% today.

The decay of the related printed circuit board (PCB) industry tells a similar tale. An extended 2008 excerpt from Manufacturing & Technology News is worth reading on this score:

The state of this industry has gone further downhill from what seems to be eons ago in 2005. The bare printed circuit industry is extremely sick in North America. Many equipment manufacturers have disappeared or are a shallow shell of their former selves. Many have opted to follow their customers to Asia, building machines there. Many raw material vendors have also gone.

What is basically left in the United States are very fragile manufacturers, weak in capital, struggling to supply [Original Equipment Manufacturers] at prices that do not contribute to profit. The majority of the remaining manufacturers should be called 'shops.' They are owner operated and employ themselves. They are small. They barely survive. They cannot invest. Most offer only small lot, quick-turn delivery. There is very little R&D, if any at all. They can't afford equipment. They are stale. The larger companies simply get into deeper debt loads. The profits aren't there to reinvest. Talent is no longer attracted to a dying industry and the remaining manufacturers have cut all incentives.

PCB manufacturers need raw materials with which to produce their wares. There is hardly a copper clad lamination industry. Drill bits are coming from offshore. Imaging materials, specialty chemicals, metal finishing chemistry, film and capital equipment have disappeared from the United States. Saving a PCB shop isn't saving anything if its raw materials must come from offshore. As the mass exodus of PCB manufacturers heads east, so is their supply chain.

All over America, other industries are quietly falling apart in similar ways.

Losing positions in key technologies means that whatever brilliant innovations Americans may dream up in small start-up companies in the future, large-scale commercialization of those innovations will increasingly take place abroad. A similar fate befell Great Britain, which invented such staples of the postwar era as radar, the jet passenger plane, and the CAT scanner, only to see huge industries based on each end up in the U.S. For example, the U.S. invented photovoltaic cells, and was number one in their production as recently as 1998, but has now dropped to fifth behind Japan, China, Germany, and Taiwan. Of the world's 10 largest wind turbine makers, only one (General Electric) is American. Over time, the industries of the future inexorably become the industries of the present, so this is a formula for automatic economic decline. Case in point: nanotechnology is probably the first major new industry in a century in which the U.S. is not the undisputed world leader.

America's increasingly patchy technological base also renders it vulnerable to foreign suppliers of "key" or "chokepoint" technologies. These, though obscure and of small dollar value in themselves, are technologies without which major other technologies cannot function. For example, China recently restricted export of the rare-earth minerals required to make advanced magnets for everything from headphones to electric cars. Another form this problem takes is the refusal of oligopoly suppliers to sell their best technology to American companies as quickly as they make it available to their own corporate partners. It doesn't take much imagination to see how foreign industrial policy could turn this into a potent competitive weapon against American industry. For another example, Japan now supplies over 70 percent of the world's nickel-metal hydride batteries and 60-70 percent of the world's lithium-ion batteries. This will give Japan a key advantage in electric cars.

The Obama administration shows no awareness of any of this, despite scratching a hole in its head over why job creation has stalled. (Hint: it hasn't stalled in the nations, from China to Germany, running trade surpluses with us in manufactured goods.) It is not yet too late to reverse these dynamics, but we are definitely running out of time. So the sooner we start questioning the sacred myth of free trade, which is largely responsible for this mess, the better.

Ian Fletcher is the author of the new book Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace It and Why (USBIC, $24.95)  He is an Adjunct Fellow at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank founded in 1933.  He was previously an economist in private practice, mostly serving hedge funds and private equity firms. He may be contacted at ian.fletcher@usbic.net.

© 2011 Copyright  Ian Fletcher - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

EX INTEL
23 Feb 11, 02:09
How Industries Die

HEAR HEAR..Richard is right on...I know Richard is voicing the BIG TRUTH...Its just not obvious why NATIONALISM is no longer an accepted VIRTUE in USA as it should be and is in CHINA..Have we become just too meek and passive in this regard..?? WHY ? Who Wins? Who loses...?? The average people lose and Wall St Wins..This is obvious and most painful to see.


gAnton
23 Feb 11, 21:29
We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us

The following quotation is take from the book "The Quest of

the Simple Life" by English author William J. Dawson. (I think that the publication year was 1907.)

"When once Money-hunger seizes on a nation, that primitive and wholesome Earth-hunger--old as the primal Eden, where man's life began--is stifled at the birth; the spade and harrow rust, and instead of swords being beaten into ploughshares, ploughshares are beaten into swords for soldiers who are the gladiators of commercial avarice; the wealth of the country runs into the swamp of speculation; the scripture of Nature is cast aside for the blotted pages of the betting book; sport becomes not a means of recreation but of gambling; and instead of sturdy races bred upon the soil, and drawing from the soil solid qualities of mind and body, you have blighted and anaemic races, bred amid the populous diseases of cities, and incapable of any task that shall demand steady energy,

continuous thought, or sober powers of reflection or of will."


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014