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Monday
Apr252016

Three Things that Aren't Going to Happen

There has been a lot of talk during this election season about the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, about the need to protect our borders to stem the tide of illegal immigration as well as restrict legal immigration, and for the need to to abandon the election process entirely in favor of a "revolution" of direct actions that bring the direction of the country back into the hands of the people. I don't think any of these things will happen and below are my reasons why.

 

Most of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost to China, Mexico, Vietnam, etc. will never come back to the United States.

Loss of lesser skilled manufacturing jobs to third world countries is a function of globalization and a higher standard and cost of living in the United States. So long as there remain vast differences in wages between the United States and countries in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, assembly-line manufacturing jobs will continue to drift toward the lower wage countries. Only stringent protectionism would alter this process, and then only for the short term as other developed countries, such as Britain and Germany, which allow freer trade, continue to outsource their manufacturing and produce products that are cheaper than those made within the United States, leaving us isolated in the world market.

 

As the cost and standard of living in other countries, such as China and Vietnam increases and automation and robotization of assembly-line manufacturing improves and becomes more widespread, the jobs themselves will disappear, regardless of where the workers live. Whoever retools its workforce and alters the sources of its GDP growth to meet this changing manufacturing scene will be the economic power of the future.

 

A better solution to the American loss of manufacturing is to improve the educational and skill level of our workforce so that the hundreds of thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. that now go unfilled for lack of workers can be filled by Americans. Fighting against Free Trade Agreements, and blaming them for the drain of manufacturing jobs is a misguided and fruitless mission. It is a battle against globalization that is doomed to failure and a movement toward economic protectionism that will isolate the United States from a world that needs to figure out how to be connected in better ways than have been figured out up to now

 

Massive human migration is not going to end.

While Americans and American political candidates focus upon the almost static flow of Mexicans and Central Americans across our southern border, Millions of dislocated Africans and Middle Easterners are fleeing war and drought to move into more stable Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, or into Europe. As climate change raises sea levels and wreaks havoc with rainfall levels throughout the world, Asia and Africa will be disproportionately affected. Many of the most low-lying countries in the world are in Asia, and Africa is already drought-ridden in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Senegal and others.  These climate-related catastrophes will have both direct effects in terms of loss of land mass and arable land and indirect effects in terms of increased wars and political unrest.

So far, after an initial welcoming response from most of Europe, the response of the Northern-hemisphere developed world has been to place severe limits on the numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees and develop procedures for returning them to the Middle East. America has taken a thimbleful of refugees from the Syrian conflict and further plans to admit more refugees are in severe political trouble. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are inundated with refugees. With regard to Syrians and Iraqis, a solution to the current conflicts may allow return of refugees who didn’t want to leave their countries in the first place. However, the chances of new conflicts breaking out are high, and the facts of climate change almost mandate that the number of refugees seeking asylum in safer countries (safer from war or from ecological disaster) will swell in the future. Refusal to accommodate these refugees is no long-term solution.

I suspect that the United States and European countries will continue on a path of nationalistic protectionism with regard to their countries’ borders and populations. I cannot see this working as a long-term solution. What is more likely is that such activities will further inflame third-world countries against the West and lead to more terror attacks, if not international conflicts. Some new kind of relationships between the haves and have-nots of the world needs to be developed. To develop such relationships we need not just leaders who are outward and forward-looking into the world of the future, but a change in world perspective for ordinary people who are currently tied to nationalism as their chief source of identity.

 

There will be no successful revolution in the United States except one that works through the existing political system.

Bernie Sanders has called for a “revolution” to support his presidential candidacy and said that, even if he is elected, such a revolution will need to continue in order to persuade politicians in Washington to pass legislation to implement his proposals. Sanders’ proposals are striking and progressive, but his use of the word “revolution” is metaphorical. The mechanism by which he hopes to change America is via the ballot box. Mass demonstrations in favor of a single payer health care system, against fracking, in favor of a more progressive tax system, or against Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United all would have the aim of pressuring elected officials or demonstrating the public’s sentiments to the court.

There are some, perhaps many, Americans who have abandoned the ballot box as a means to solve our country’s problems. “Direct action” in which those who oppose a government policy or corporate action do their best to stop that policy or action from being implemented is seen as a more effective strategy, given the role of wealth and corporate interests in controlling what happens in America, especially at the governmental level. Their view is that by engaging enough people in these actions, they can start a movement that enables circumvention of governmental policy making and the execution of policies in favor of carrying out the will of the people directly. Besides these revolutionaries being a definite although vocal minority within the country, direct action as a method of controlling government activities in general, is a bad idea. Our government is designed to carry out the will of the people. Sure, this aim has been circumvented by those with money who control politicians and the political process through campaign contributions, lobbying, and an “old boy network,” which cycles the same people between corporate leadership positions and appointments as government officials, but circumventing this aim by having the most vocal minority control government policies is not better. While the result could be beneficial in some cases, as a routine method of making and implementing decisions that affect all Americans, it would result in chaos. Using the force of public action instead of public opinion invariably leads to confrontation, if not between the public and the government, then between different factions of the public. The same groups who now oppose each other at the ballot box would oppose each other on the street.

“Direct actions” are a valuable method of raising public awareness or demonstrating the public will. For them to be effective and not just divisive and leading to chaos, there needs to be a working democratic system that responds to them. They are not a replacement of that system. That is why the real “revolution” needs to be in mobilizing the electorate to get money out of politics, to oppose corruption and  policies that favor a small group of wealthy Americans at the expense of the rest of us and especially those most in need of government assistance, and to express our collective will in demonstrations and in active support and opposition to the people who are elected and the policies they enact.

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