While many in this country yearn for the good old days when America was the dominant industrial power in the world, we must ask ourselves if we really want that to be our future. Our evolution from a primarily rural agrarian economy to an urban industrial powerhouse arose out of the need to ramp up arms production for both World Wars. Our factories were filled with cheap labor that streamed in to this country from across the seas. This mass migration was driven by a hope for self betterment as people reached for the American Dream. But factory life was less than glamorous. It was dirty, dangerous, and paid poorly. While the factories of today are much cleaner and safer, much of production has moved overseas. Simply put, American workers will not tolerate the high intensity work conditions that Foxconn in China places on its employees. We demand a work-life balance. Chinese employees are willing to work six 12-hour shifts per week, live in work dormitories, be roused in the middle of the night to rush production, etc. Do we really want this in America?
“No!” Answers Seth Godin. He instead says we need to think about competing in a different way. We should embrace what change has brought us: a shift from manufacturing to service and knowledge-intensive industries. The creation of the internet and wealth that was created from e-commerce has been unprecedented. Perhaps green technology will be the next wave that ripples through our workforce?
Americans today should study to be innovative; they should not study to be mindless worker bees inside of vast factories. There is so must latent intellectual talent that is waiting to be unleashed. What is needed is a better education in entrepreneurialism. Teaching people how to create businesses and give their creative minds an outlet that’s economically productive would go a long ways towards driving our economy to the next great thing. Whatever the next big thing, one thing is certain: Our economy will continually evolve.