The No. 1 Problem in America Today
|By Andy Snyder, Founder Manward|
“Respect your elders,” we told the young man.
“What’s an elder?” he struck back.
Oh boy. Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, we gave him our business card and walked away.
The knowledge our oldest generation is taking to the grave is a hot topic these days… and not just among grumpy old men worried about society. Economists and industrialists are quite worried about a rather fresh trend in our culture.
Some folks say the start of this trend can be traced straight to Henry Ford and his assembly line.
What Ford did is no secret.
He took the assembly line techniques long used in the nation’s packing houses and brought it to the realm of complex manufacturing.
He cut the time it took to build his iconic Model T from 12.5 hours to just 93 minutes.
With 13,000 workers, he managed to build more cars than all 300 or so of his competitors… and their more than 66,000 workers.
And while Ford got rich and added serious horsepower to America’s economy, he also stirred something that was quite peculiar.
He bragged about it. But today, we’re not so sure of its effects.
The Devaluation of Knowledge
When Ford first started making cars, he needed talented folks to machine the parts and assemble them just right. It wasn’t a job for a man off the street.
But by the time his assembly line was running at full speed, Ford didn’t need to wait around for his skilled laborers. Each man had just one job… and it was a simple job.
It was the birth of the unskilled laborer… and the death of generational knowledge.
That’s what has so many thinkers worried these days.
Put in our words, it’s the death of Know-How.
We see it in the stock market… where data aggregators like Google and Facebook are leading the markets forward, pushing industrial beasts like General Electric straight out of the Dow.
We see it in our schools… where shop class is a thing of the past.
And we see it in our politics… where America – the country that invented it all – now needs to compromise and threaten just to get its skilled jobs back.
|Making Manufacturing Good Again
As the world’s leading economy, we should be sending our products to technologically desperate countries around the globe. But, alas, the opposite is true.
Manufacturing in the U.S. is stagnant. It hasn’t grown in more than a decade.
Since 1979, our nation’s population has grown by 40%. And yet the number of folks working in skilled manufacturing has fallen by nearly half.
That’s fine, the economic progressives will shout. Those folks are now employed in higher-paying tech jobs. The new blue-collar worker, they’ll tell you, isn’t a plumber or electrician… he’s a coder or data analyst.
As an analog world turns digital, we face some serious hurdles.
We’re going to catch heat for writing such politically incorrect blasphemy, but the man who doesn’t know how to do things… is no good in our society.
He’s a taker… in a country desperate for more makers.
As American manufacturers close, we don’t just lose jobs, we export our Know-How and the industrial knowledge that once was used to build a strong economy and great nation.
When we export our skilled jobs, we export the Know-How to build machines. We export the Know-How to create innovative new processes. And we export the integral desire to get the job done.
In turn, we get a nation of specialists that know how to do but one thing. Take that thing away and they’ll wander like a sailor without his ship.
We’re already seeing the results.
Where a “Made in the USA” sticker was once a sign of world-class quality, the idea is waning today.
Now if you want a precise machine or a highly engineered product, you’ll make a call to Germany, Switzerland or, in a real change of the tides, Japan.
The Greatest Inheritance
It comes back to that idea we introduced at the top… respect your elders.
Farmers, tradesmen and even shop owners once handed knowledge down from one generation to the next. This Know-How carried as much weight as the trust funds so many Americans drool over today.
Our elders were held in high esteem not because of what they left behind when they died… but because of what they could share while they were still alive.
We listened to them. We learned from them. And we expanded on what they did.
But today, that’s not the case.
Generational Know-How is dead.
There’s a steady stream of workers carrying their laptops into Amazon at the start of each day. When they die, we may miss the man… but few folks will miss his knowledge.
Some folks call it progress. We say we’re in big trouble.
Know-How is everything.