Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Is the Stocks Bull Market Over? Dow Trend Forecast into End January 2015 - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold and Silver Stocks Apocalypse Now, Bear Market Review - Rambus_Chartology
3.NHS Baldrick Plan to Spread Ebola Across UK - Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, London Hospitals - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Ebola Terror Threat Suicide Bio-Weapons Threatens Multiple 9/11's, Global Plague - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Second-Richest Man Says Mortgages Now a "No Brainer" - Dr. Steve Sjuggerud
6.Gold And Silver Still No End In Sight - Michael_Noonan
7.NHS Baldrick Plan to Spread Ebola Across UK - Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, London Hospitals - Nadeem_Walayat
8.The Gold Bug is Set to Bite Back - EWI
9.How Alibaba Could Capitalize on the EBay-PayPal Split - Frank_Holmes
10.The Consequences of the Economic Peace - John_Mauldin
Last 5 days
Stocks Bear Market Indicator Is Off the Mark - 20th Oct 14
Stock Market Ideal Turning Point is at Hand - 20th Oct 14
Investors Quit Complaining, The Environment is Perfect Right Now - 20th Oct 14
Ebola Armageddon Could Trigger a Rebirth in Gold and Silver Prices - 20th Oct 14
Gold vs Euro Risk Due To Possible Return of Italian Lira - Drachmas, Escudos, Pesetas and Punts? - 20th Oct 14
Stocks Rebounded Following Recent Sell-Off, But Will It Last? - 20th Oct 14
U.S. Responsible for West Africa Ebola Outbreak Says Liberian Scientist - 20th Oct 14
Stock Market Intermediate B Wave has Started - 20th Oct 14
Gold Stocks Analysis – FNV, CG, NCM, SBM - 19th Oct 14
Stock Market Primary IV Wave Counter Trend Rally - 19th Oct 14
Gold And Silver - Financial World: House Of Cards Built On Sand - 18th Oct 14
Anatomy of a Stock Market Sell-Off - 18th Oct 14
Why OPEC Has Declared an Oil War on Russia - 18th Oct 14
Gold and Silver Extreme Shorting Peaks - 18th Oct 14
Bitcoin Price Fall to $350? - 18th Oct 14
Tesco Supermarket Crisis Worse To Come as Customers Vanish! - 18th Oct 14
Sheffield Roma Crisis School Place Application's Fraud Perfect Storm - 17th Oct 14
Stock Markets, Commodities and Indicators - 17th Oct 14
“Save Our Swiss Gold ” - Game Changer For Gold? - 17th Oct 14
How to Trade the Ebola Stock Market Sell-Off - 17th Oct 14
When... Not if... Crude Oil Price Drops Below $70 - 17th Oct 14
Either You're The Butcher or You're The Cattle - 17th Oct 14
Gold Benefits from Market Uncertainty - 17th Oct 14
Stock Market Pullback Underway, Euro downside, Commodities - 17th Oct 14
Stock Market Seven Year Cycle and A Correction Ahead? - 17th Oct 14
Three Ways to Play Uranium: Top Stock Picks - 17th Oct 14
America Flirts With Deflation - 17th Oct 14
Why the Fed Should Consider Delaying the End of QE - 16th Oct 14
Gold Prices Since 9-11 - 16th Oct 14
The Inflation Imputation, Dear Saver, May You RIP - 16th Oct 14
Flight To Safety - Gold Rises As Stocks, European Bonds Sink - 16th Oct 14
The March Of History And The End Of Nations - 16th Oct 14
Stocks Bear Markets Move Fast and Are Intensely Emotional - 16th Oct 14
Stocks Got Their Piece – Now It’s Our Turn - 16th Oct 14
Why This Stock Market Selloff Is the Next "Buy the Dip" Opportunity in Stocks - 15th Oct 14
Possible Stock Market Runing Correction - 15th Oct 14
Get Your Tactics Ready for the Ebola Stock Market Event - 15th Oct 14
Secret Scheme To Manipulate Silver Price - Lawsuits Against Banks Proceed - 15th Oct 14
Stocks Bull Market Over? Trend Forecast to End Jan 2015 - Video - 15th Oct 14
Stock Market Dow The Contrarian Play - 15th Oct 14
The Ukraine, As We Know It, Is Gone Forever - 15th Oct 14
We Can Police the Dark Web / Bitcoin - 15th Oct 14
The Safest Stocks in the World - 14th Oct 14
Building an Ark: How to Protect Public Revenues From the Next Financial Meltdown - 14th Oct 14
9 Ways to Retire Rich - 14th Oct 14
Silver, Warfare and Welfare - 14th Oct 14
Swiss Gold Referendum “Propaganda War” Begins - 14th Oct 14
What Happened To The Fourth Estate? - 14th Oct 14
How To Blow Up OPEC In 3 Easy Steps - 14th Oct 14
Investment Myth - Wars are bullish/bearish for Stocks - 14th Oct 14
Powerful Reversal and Shakeout in the Junior Gold Mining Stocks at May Lows Around $33 - 13th Oct 14
When The Economy Went Ponzi - 13th Oct 14
Stock Markets Get Ugly – and May Be Getting Uglier - 13th Oct 14
Cycle Failures Point to a Stock Market Correction - 13th Oct 14
Bill Ackman: I'm not a Crybaby Shareholder - 13th Oct 14
U.S. and World Stock Markets Chartology - 13th Oct 14
Stock Market Intermediate Downtrend Confirmed - 13th Oct 14
Gold and Silver Price To Rally Or Not To Rally - 13th Oct 14
Is the Stocks Bull Market Over? Dow Trend Forecast into End January 2015 - 12th Oct 14
Has Obama Changed His Mind About Syria? - 12th Oct 14
New Zero Bound Only Game In Town - 12th Oct 14
The 5–Year U.S. Treasury Bond is Emblematic of Careless Risk Taking in Bond Markets - 12th Oct 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Stocks Epic Bear Market

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


© 2005-2014 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