Sunday, February 12, 2012

I'm not sure Romer said what you think she said, Laura D'Andrea Tyson

More false dichotomies I guess.

The other week, I shared an article by Christina Romer claiming that there was nothing special about manufacturing - nothing that deserved special treatment, particularly.

Tyson, in a response titled "Why Manufacturing Still Matters", disagreed, claiming that she was "one of a rare group of economists who believe that “manufacturing matters” for the health of the American economy".

Hmm... I think you guys are talking past each other. Surely for Romer to say that there's nothing special about manufacturing is not the same thing as saying that manufacturing doesn't matter! Of course it matters! Manufacturing makes us stuff, and we like stuff, and we need stuff to live civilized lives.

Tyson is offering something that's not as "heretical" as she seems to think. I think we all think that "manufacturing matters". If it didn't matter, we wouldn't do it! The question is - does it matter more than other economic activities, such that it deserves some special treatment?

1 comment:

  1. I agree that they are talking past each other.

    I've heard this so many ways that it gets tiresome. When in conversation, I ask one of two questions: Do you think that there should be protection for boilermakers? Nearly all goods were moved by steam power in the very recent past.

    Or, should there be a mandate on the percentage of people employed by farms? If you told someone just a hundred years ago that a hundred years hence there would be only a single digit percentage of the total population working on farms they would gasp as they envisioned mass starvation.

    Manufacturing is very strong in the US. It's just done by fewer people than in the past. For farming, people have accepted that it's not a bad thing. The same epiphany for manufactured items has not yet occurred.


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