Manufacturing was an obsession of ours for over a hundred years – from the beginning of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th. By then, America was manufacturing most of the world’s goods, and we felt secure and superior in our position as the richest nation in history.
But in twenty years that was gone – and America has never gotten over the shock of that loss. The Midwest, where I grew up, became a rust belt. Most of the American population, who had good jobs in manufacturing – were without jobs.
This loss was so painful, we repressed this memory – and pushed it into our subconscious, where it still has a powerful, although unacknowledged, effect – fifty years later. It is part of our American Craziness.
This coincided with my entry into the workplace. I needed a career that had good jobs, and so I became an Electronic Engineer (U of Illinois, 1959) and I specialized in Radar. I had the best job possible – defending our nation from Soviet bombers that never existed. One of these Radar stations, on the tip of Long Island, could detect the liftoff of missiles in Florida! It was a four story building, full of vacuum tubes – with an antenna on the top of it, half the size of a football field. The building still exists, as part of a State Park – and a monument to our wasteful past.
Looking back at it, I can see we were desperate. We needed those jobs that we had lost – and were willing to invent jobs (at great expense) to get them. This trend continued with our next obsession – the Computer.
The Computer would save us from the loss of Manufacturing! And people flocked to get computer jobs. Which required many computer companies to furnish these jobs. Capital flowed to them in huge quantities – and was wasted copiously.
I was part of this craziness, and marveled at it. No one noticed that this industry provided fewer jobs – and only in a few locations – mostly in California and the Boston area. The rest of the country slowly withered away. Completely unaware of what had happened to it.
The net effect was the switch to the manufacture of Software – which very few are qualified for. And which few understand. The same mania took place – only now in the form of computer startups.
Gradually, some people (many of them computer people) are asking themselves, where they are going. Where is this craziness going to end?
If we were smart, we would sit down, figure out what we want – and then figure out how to do it. But most of us are not smart – and rush on as though the Devil were after them – which he probably is.
And you know where He will take them.