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HIVE TOPIC OPEN: Sept. 16, 2012 - Oct. 16, 2012

How can American manufacturing be reinvented to thrive in an era of globalization?


Made in America

How Can We Reinvent American Manufacturing?

A worker builds an engine on a Ford Motor Company assembly line.

A worker builds an engine for a 2012 Ford Focus at Ford's assembly plant in Michigan.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Stringer.

Also in Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues that fast-food restaurants, especially newer chains like Chipotle and Chop’t, have become manufacturing.

America was built on building things. From warships to automobiles to textiles to rolled steel, manufacturing has long been the keystone not just of our economy, but of our mythology. The United States was transformed into a world power through its Industrial Revolution. It gained economic supremacy after the Great Depression through the manufacturing boom of World War II. And in a country whose history is inextricably intertwined with its industry, pride in manufacturing is often a starting point of patriotism. It’s no coincidence that both presidential candidates—and the vast majority of voters—prefer to “Buy American.”

In recent years, however, the U.S.’s rate of manufacturing has declined at an unprecedented rate. Products that were once considered quintessentially American are now produced overseas, and though America still has the world’s largest manufacturing economy, China is steadily closing the gap. The 2008 recession further slackened the pace of American manufacturing, while the economic recovery has yet to lift industry from its slump. A globalized world leaves little room for traditional American industry, and many manufacturing jobs upon which Americans once relied have been permanently shipped overseas. Even Apple, whose phones and computers are widely seen as synonymous with American innovation, has shipped its manufacturing jobs to China.

But while jobs may be sparse, ideas for how to reinvent American manufacturing are in no short supply. In this Hive, we’re asking readers to propose their own ideas for reviving America’s once-great industries or starting new ones. How can the United States use its advantages—an educated workforce, plentiful natural resources, decent infrastructure—to make more stuff and make it better? Should we focus on high-tech manufacturing? On artisanal manufacturing? Or should we shift the focus of education toward trade schools and individualized craft expertise? How, in the era of globalization, can American industry be reinvented and restored to its former glory? If you have a proposal, submit it below, and tag it with one of the following categories:

Tech boom: investing in high-tech industries

Hands-on: promoting hand-crafted, individually produced items

Know your trade: encouraging young people to learn highly specialized skills in a specific trade

Self-starters: creating incentive for Americans to start their own manufacturing businesses

Environment: shifting the U.S.’s manufacturing focus away from traditional industries like coal and toward more sustainable industry

Government help: using government incentives to support or start manufacturing concerns

Tariffs: taxing foreign goods to protect home-grown industry

Outsourcing: deciding which jobs are best fit for U.S. workers and which can be shipped overseas

Immigration: capitalizing on the influx of immigrants to tap new labor and brainpower

Unions: finding a role for labor leaders in the evolution of U.S. manufacturing

Everything else: proposals that don’t fit any particular category

Important note: Multiple entries are permitted, but please submit only one idea per entry.

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