Walter Russell Mead: “Two hundred years ago people thought that the only real jobs involved growing food”

Walter Russell Mead, on the relationship between American politics and American society…

Does the American middle class (and by extension, the middle class in other advanced democracies) have a future in a post-blue world? That is the basic question at the heart of American politics;. As I’ve noted, 4.0 liberals think that it doesn’t, and think that the defense of the blue social model is the only way to protect the social achievements of the twentieth century.
They’re wrong. The post-blue future for the middle class is bright, and instead of using the weight of the state to shore up a declining blue system to defend an embattled middle class we need to use that power to promote the transition to a 21st-century political economy and a reinvigorated middle class—larger, richer and more in charge than ever before. This is not a call to dismantle the state; there really are important things that government has to do in a complicated and interconnected society. It’s a call to transform, retool and repurpose the state so that it becomes an engine for progress rather than an anchor trying to hold us in place.
…and on how a future that is different from the present is a source of both hope and fear…
The information revolution destroys jobs, but it also creates them, and we are already in the early stages of a jobs explosion. And as it proceeds, the information revolution is likely to propel the rise of a middle class that is more productive, better educated, more autonomous and more interested in and capable of civic leadership than the Fordist middle class of the late industrial age.
The new jobs will be different from the old jobs, and this is one of the reasons many fear the economic transition we’re in. There are a lot of people on both the right and the left who think that in a country that doesn’t “make stuff” there won’t be any jobs. If it isn’t a widget that you can grab in your hand and do something with, it isn’t real. This is nonsense. Two hundred years ago people thought that the only real jobs involved growing food, and that people who made non-necessary consumer goods were engaged in a socially parasitic activity….
The industrial revolution transformed agriculture from the core business of the human race into just one of many things that we do. The information revolution is doing the same to manufacturing….Design, software and engineering become more important as manufacture slips into a secondary status. (We still need factories, just as we still need farms—but fewer and fewer people will be working in them and less and less of our GDP will be bound up in their products.)

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Max D
Max D
8 years ago

The perfect example is this crap:
H.R. 375 – Make It In America Manufacturing Act
This clown is a lawyer by trade so he has half a brain therefore the only explanation for it is not jobs or the economy, it’s just plain politics.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

There is a lot of truth in what is said. Any doubts? Google “CNC” and “3D Printing”. The former has drastically altered “subtractive” technology, the latter has begun the movement towards “additive” technology. “3D printing” will truly spark a revolution in manufacturing. There will be more manufacturing, but fewer “production workers”.

David S
David S
8 years ago

Well now. Maybe conservatives 200 years ago were singing that song. Today you have that same backward take on all the trends that will really matter– immigration, diversity, energy independence, tolerance. The economic changes that are coming favor the US for all the reasons listed.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

David, here is a test to see if you are hopelessly gone or not:
Do you actually think conservatives are against immigration, or maybe just illegal immigration?
Do you actually think conservatives are against diversity, or maybe just forced diversity, i.e., affirmative action?
Do you actually think conservatives are against energy independence, or maybe just massive public subsidies for dubious technologies like wind and solar?
Do you actually think conservatives are against tolerance? The RI Future gang is extremely intolerant of divergent viewpoints. Notice that you and all the other progressive commenters are still allowed to post here… even Sammy… while RIFuture bans those who dissent.
My point is if you frame things in intellectually honest terms and simply extent people the benefit of the doubt, you’ll find that conservatives aren’t actually against any of the things you’ve listed. They just have different ideas about how to achieve them.

David S
David S
8 years ago

Hi Dan. Thanks for the response. I do not take tests unless the test leads to a tangible benefit. But thanks for thinking of me.

Monique
Monique (@monique-chartier)
Editor
8 years ago

Dan, thank you for asking all the right questions.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

David – You will benefit if you answer honestly and reflect.

Max D
Max D
8 years ago

“Hi Dan. Thanks for the response. I do not take tests unless the test leads to a tangible benefit. But thanks for thinking of me.”
Translation:
Hi Dan. Thanks for the response. I do not take tests that will impugn and/or invalidate my views. I hate you.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

On a return of manufacturing:
ft.com/cms/s/0/f6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a.html#axzz2JtpTLM6I
China already has a “Museum of 3D Printing”.

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