They used to make televisions there, no?

I’m afraid I don’t understand John Judis’s latest foray into economic nationalism:

Can’t Japanese, South Korean, and German firms (with the Chinese also readying an industry) supply cars to American consumers? First, of course, it’s a matter of several million jobs ranging from auto workers to suppliers to the myriad of small businesses that cater to these workers and businesses disappearing in the midst of global recession that is verging on a depression. Secondly–and little remarked–it’s the loss not merely of assembly line jobs, but also the ability to conceive, design and engineer large durable goods.

With them, it is not going to be possible to abandon manufacturing while retaining the ability to engineer and administer. The industry will disappear the way the American television industry disappeared. American workers and engineers will lose their ability to compete in a major durable goods industry–and that’s not a good thing.

Conservative jingos, at least, have a concrete argument for industrial favoritism. Preserving domestic heavy manufacturing is worth doing because it’s supposed to keep us strategically independent.

Other than protecting domestic jobs, however, I’m not sure what the liberal argument for industrial protectionism is. Apparently, losing heavy manufacturing capability is bad because . . . otherwise we won’t have any heavy manufacturing capability. Which sounds like a bit of a tautology, though I’m sure our lack of TV-producing infrastructure has had a devastating effect on American society.

The best argument that Judis can muster in favor of the bailout is the plight of American autoworkers, who certainly deserve our sympathy and support. So instead of propping up a moribund industry, let’s examine job retraining programs and beefed-up unemployment benefits. That, at least, would prevent auto industry execs from holding workers’ job prospects hostage every time bankruptcy looms.

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Filed under Economics, Liberalism (Left)

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