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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Friday, January 20, 2012

US manufacturing jobs

Good manufacturing jobs that remain in the US will require significant skills, such as the ability to run capital intensive equipment. Unfortunately, most of the population lacks the requisite abilities. This Atlantic article does a good job of contrasting the future prospects of two young workers at a plant that makes fuel injectors. What percentage of the US manufacturing workforce is capable of doing Luke's job, even after (free) retraining?

Making It in America

In the past decade, the flow of goods emerging from U.S. factories has risen by about a third. Factory employment has fallen by roughly the same fraction. The story of Standard Motor Products ... sheds light on both phenomena. It’s a story of hustle, ingenuity, competitive success, and promise for America’s economy. It also illuminates why the jobs crisis will be so difficult to solve.

... Maddie got her job at Standard through both luck and hard work. She was temping for a local agency and was sent to Standard for a three-day job washing walls in early 2011. “People came up to me and said, ‘You have to hire that girl—she is working so hard,’” Tony Scalzitti, the plant manager, told me. Maddie was hired back and assigned to the fuel-injector clean room, where she continued to impress people by working hard, learning quickly, and displaying a good attitude. But, as we’ll see, this may be about as far as hustle and personality can take her. In fact, they may not be enough even to keep her where she is.

... Luke Hutchins is one of Standard’s newest skilled machinists. ... He transferred to Spartanburg Community College hoping to study radiography, like his mother, but that class was full. A friend of a friend told him that you could make more than $30 an hour if you knew how to run factory machines, so he enrolled in the Machine Tool Technology program.

At Spartanburg, he studied math—a lot of math. “I’m very good at math,” he says. “I’m not going to lie to you. I got formulas written down in my head.” He studied algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. “If you know calculus, you definitely can be a machine operator or programmer.” He was quite good at the programming language commonly used in manufacturing machines all over the country, and had a facility for three-dimensional visualization—seeing, in your mind, what’s happening inside the machine—a skill, probably innate, that is required for any great operator.

... When Luke got hired at Standard, he had two years of technical schoolwork and five years of on-the-job experience, and it took one more month of training before he could be trusted alone with the Gildemeisters. All of which is to say that running an advanced, computer-controlled machine is extremely hard.

... Luke says that on a typical shift, he has to adjust the machine about 20 times to keep it on spec. A lot can happen to throw the tolerances off. The most common issue is that the cutting tool gradually wears down. As a result, Luke needs to tell the computer to move the tool a few microns closer, or make some other adjustment. If the operator programs the wrong number, the tool can cut right into the machine itself and destroy equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Luke wants to better understand the properties of cutting tools, he told me, so he can be even more effective. “I’m not one of the geniuses on that. I know a little bit. A lot of people go to school just to learn the properties of tooling.” He also wants to learn more about metallurgy, and he’s especially eager to study industrial electronics. He says he will keep learning for his entire career.

In many ways, Luke personifies the dramatic shift in the U.S. industrial labor market. Before the rise of computer-run machines, factories needed people at every step of production, from the most routine to the most complex. The Gildemeister, for example, automatically performs a series of operations that previously would have required several machines—each with its own operator. It’s relatively easy to train a newcomer to run a simple, single-step machine. Newcomers with no training could start out working the simplest and then gradually learn others. Eventually, with that on-the-job training, some workers could become higher-paid supervisors, overseeing the entire operation. This kind of knowledge could be acquired only on the job; few people went to school to learn how to work in a factory.

... For Maddie to achieve her dreams—to own her own home, to take her family on vacation to the coast, to have enough saved up so her children can go to college—she’d need to become one of the advanced Level 2s. ...

It feels cruel to point out all the Level-2 concepts Maddie doesn’t know, although Maddie is quite open about these shortcomings. She doesn’t know the computer-programming language that runs the machines she operates; in fact, she was surprised to learn they are run by a specialized computer language. She doesn’t know trigonometry or calculus, and she’s never studied the properties of cutting tools or metals. She doesn’t know how to maintain a tolerance of 0.25 microns, or what tolerance means in this context, or what a micron is.

Tony explains that Maddie has a job for two reasons. First, when it comes to making fuel injectors, the company saves money and minimizes product damage by having both the precision and non-precision work done in the same place. Even if Mexican or Chinese workers could do Maddie’s job more cheaply, shipping fragile, half-finished parts to another country for processing would make no sense. Second, Maddie is cheaper than a machine. It would be easy to buy a robotic arm that could take injector bodies and caps from a tray and place them precisely in a laser welder. Yet Standard would have to invest about $100,000 on the arm and a conveyance machine to bring parts to the welder and send them on to the next station. As is common in factories, Standard invests only in machinery that will earn back its cost within two years. For Tony, it’s simple: Maddie makes less in two years than the machine would cost, so her job is safe—for now. If the robotic machines become a little cheaper, or if demand for fuel injectors goes up and Standard starts running three shifts, then investing in those robots might make sense.

“What worries people in factories is electronics, robots,” she tells me. “If you don’t know jack about computers and electronics, then you don’t have anything in this life anymore. One day, they’re not going to need people; the machines will take over. People like me, we’re not going to be around forever.”...

See also this old post Outsourcing vs technological innovation.

Another related article from the NYTimes, this time about Apple and Foxconn. Excellent video.

NYTimes: ... Companies like Apple “say the challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force,” said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. “They’re good jobs, but the country doesn’t have enough to feed the demand,” Mr. Schmidt said.

69 comments:

Benjamin Espen said...

The hardest part about staffing a manufacturing line is finding people you can trust with your product and your equipment. US manufacturing is so capital-intensive that we don't have a place for folks from the bottom quartile of the ability distributions in either intelligence or conscientiousness. Skilled trades is even harder, because guys, and they are often guys, who are good at this kind of work are especially likely to fall through the cracks in the educational system. Smart enough to learn calculus, but usually not a fan of school, in my experience.

RKU1 said...

Yes, from what I've read a country like Germany, with its vocational schools and apprenticeships, does a much better job preparing the less-academically-oriented portion of the population for solid and productive employment.  I'd think someone like Maddie would do quite well there.

One of the main problems in America is that the reigning ideology has been that everyone should be put on the mind-worker track, which works about as well as the old Communist ideology did in the late USSR.

Bobdisqus said...

Yes, that surely must be the reason that manufacturing jobs have left for China.  We just don’t have enough machine operators that know calculus and metallurgy. We should just be more like those smart guys over at companies like FAW, Haier, and Dalian Machine Tool Group Corp where the machine operators study differential equations at lunch for fun.  You know St. Steve just couldn’t do manufacturing here because we don’t have those quality engineers like Foxconn.
Steve you are too smart of a guy to buy this nonsense.  There are lots of reasons for the manufacturing job loss, but of all of them lack of brain power is pretty far down the Pareto chart.  The UAW, OSHA, EPA, cost of labor, and just plain bad trade policy there is no shortage to pick from.

steve hsu said...

I think you miss the point. The advantage of low-wage countries is cost. Our advantage is in skill- and capital-intensive manufacturing. But that creates jobs for (a limited number of) Lukes, not Maddies.

Guy_Brodude said...

Limited being the key word here. 

"The Gildemeister, for example, automatically performs a series of operations that previously would have required several machines—each with its own operator."

Luke does what was previously the work of five men. Soon the work of five Lukes will be done by one Luke. And on it goes...

Nano Nymous said...

About Maddie: "She did finish school and, she’s proud to say, graduated with honors" and "She doesn’t know how to maintain a tolerance of 0.25 microns, or what tolerance means in this context, or what a micron is."

WTF? Some honors...

Bobby Arnold said...

Agreed. Automation will continue to devour the labor market, and people of all walks of life will be affected - skilled and unskilled, smart and dumb. Martin Ford as written quite cogently on this subject in his book, "The Lights in the Tunnel".

Bobdisqus said...

Yes, I am onboard with “Automation will continue to devour the labor market” just as Guy & Bobby are saying here.  That is a far cry from machine operators need to know calculus and metallurgy and the implication that the reason the Maddies here in the US don’t have jobs is they are not smart enough, and that they are being replaced by smarter overseas machine operators.
I don’t know how smart Maddie is, but let us assume she is somewhere in the first standard deviation. This puts trigonometry well within her grasp (even if her lousy public school didn’t teach it to her).  It is a tossup if she can do the CMM programming, but most of that is going to come from the engineering department (preprocessors on the design side).  The shop has a few senior and or bright guys like Luke doing the setups anyway and they can support quite a number of Maddies.
If Luke is smart enough for calculus and metallurgy he probably ought to be going back to night school and getting his engineering degree unless he is just the kind of guy that like to get his hands dirty and enjoys the shop floor.

JustinLoe said...

This is another example of the possible paradox of efficiency. As manufacturing becomes more efficient and requires fewer workers to produce the same set of goods, what jobs will be available so that the now laid-off manufacturing workers can buy these goods?

To quote Prof. Brad Delong, UC Berkeley:
"Men with less than a high school diploma: down from $13.93 of today's dollars an hour in 1979 to $11.04 today. Men with just a high school diploma: down from $16.32 to $15.07. "
Source: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/05/why_oh_why_cant_14.html

David Coughlin said...

I think that the point is that Luke's work building his foundation and drive for improvement are what it is going to allow him to make a career of chasing the technological-manufacturing dragon.  The salient point on Maddie is that not only does she not have the background, she's not doing anything about it.

Sam H said...

"
I don’t know how smart Maddie is, but let us assume she is somewhere in the first standard deviation. This puts trigonometry well within her grasp (even if her lousy public school didn’t teach it to her)."

I disagree because I am in the first standard deviation (or a little higher) but am incapable of learning algebra no matter how hard or long I try (because of the shuffled genes that were passed on from my parents -- I had enough environmental advantages). You assertion could be probable if you specify M intelligence however. 

RKU1 said...

Yes, exactly.  And our crazy health care system is certainly a big part of it.  From the figures I've seen, something like one-third of all the expenditures are not going into health care, being administrative overhead, advertising, executive salaries, profits, and that sort of thing.  That's why the costs are so much more expensive here than in other comparable countries, but the outputs no better and often worse.

Back in the old days, we used to read that one-third of all the agricultural employees in the USSR were bureaucrats and administrators, and we'd laugh and laugh at how silly the system was and and how likely it was to inevitably collapse.  These days I feel guilty for such cruel laughter.

Similarly, a few decades ago four years of college at an excellent state university cost virtually nothing.  Nowadays, the costs often amount to near-permanent debt-slavery.

Bobdisqus said...

Correlation of math to verbal scores is pretty high.  If your quant and verbal scores are far apart you are the exception not the rule Sam.  Perhaps it is true that you Sam just don’t have the M IQ horsepower for algebra & trig. but, I think it safe to assume that most of the machine operators in the US do.  Before you accept that personally you might want to search out a few other math teachers or programs.
IQ matters whether one likes it or not and Luke as described in the story has more than just “drive and foundation” as David has suggested below.  No amount of drive on the part of many of the Maddies of the nation will get them over the hump to learn calculus.  This is not to say they can’t make perfectly good machine operators.
We are not bleeding manufacturing jobs because the Maddies of our nation do not have the drive to work hard. 

JustinLoe said...

There isn't any reason to suppose neoclassical economic models are the last word for the best economic growth. We're clearly in a Darwinian process. If this blog had existed in the 1930s or some analogue thereof many posters would be advocating communism and pointing to the success of Stalin's Five Year Plans. Clearly, communism was a complete failure. So was socialism. 

As my professor noted in class years ago, the European Union had very significant flaws. There isn't any reason to think that our system doesn't have fundamental flaws that may be improved by legal innovations and insights from new areas such as behavioral economics, provided the university system and the government are open to new ideas.

What's troubling is that the system has a longer learning curve toward adaptive behavior, and we may go through a needlessly lengthy process to find our new synthesis for a renewed prosperity.

Steve Sailer said...

"a facility for three-dimensional visualization" -- That seems to be less correlated with general intelligence than most cognitive skills.* It's interesting that in personal computers, the 3d graphics processor for rendering is often the second most expensive chip after the CPU. That seems pretty analogous to the brain. 

* I'm sensitive to this because I don't have any 3d visualization skills. In high school, I wanted to be a golf course architect. The margins of my high school textbooks are full of 2d diagrams of cool golf holes I dreamed up. I'm okay thinking in 2d. But I could never think in the third dimension, so it was hopeless for me to imagine I'd ever be good at shaping greens. 

Reactionary_Konkvistador said...

Care to identify some of the parasitic memes?

steve hsu said...

Benbow and Lubinski have been studying spatial ability as a separate cognitive factor, and find it is a significant independent predictor of career outcomes. See the figure at the post below; spatial ability is represented by the arrow, with superior ability pointing to the right. Engineers come out on top, although perhaps because they've lumped the physicists in with chemists and other physical scientists.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/human-capital-mongering-m-v-s-profiles.html

Roe also measured it in her study of top scientists. I was a bit surprised that theoretical physicists came out ahead of experimenters in spatial ability, as those guys actually build things. Perhaps we wouldn't be quite as useless in the lab as we think ;-)

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/07/annals-of-psychometry-iqs-of-eminent.html

The author of the Atlantic article is pretty astute. I was impressed when he emphasized the role of spatial ability in Luke's job.

LondonYoung said...

Around 1910 technology delivered a new power loom that worked so well it required only one worker to supervise four silk weaving looms rather than a worker running just one or two looms.  In 1913 Paterson, NJ, got a strike that kept the loom/weaver ratio at 2:1 until the manpower needs of WW1 appeared.  We all know what would happen today ...   
http://patersongreatfalls.org/silkstrike.html

JustinLoe said...

One particularly useful measure of spatial ability is the block design subtest of the Wechsler IQ (WAIS). Unfortunately, the SAT, GRE, and ACT as far as I know all lack measures of spatial ability. For air force pilots, unsurprisingly, spatial ability is particularly important and there's also a correlation with piloting skill and artistic ability.

Johns Hopkins, in its CTY (program for gifted 7th graders and up), added a measure of spatial ability (http://cty.jhu.edu/ts/stb.html) since they found it was an important predictor of math and science performance but was lacking on the SAT.

In my own family, we've observed observed that correlation with piloting skill and spatial ability as we've had pilots as well as people who've gone into non-pilot fields with high spatial requirements.

Yan Shen said...

" That is a far cry from machine operators need to know calculus and
metallurgy and the implication that the reason the Maddies here in the
US don’t have jobs is they are not smart enough, and that they are being
replaced by smarter overseas machine operators."

Blogger Half Sigma seems to be believe that math and spatial ability are highly conducive to value-creation activities such as high tech manufacturing and that the reason why high tech manufacturing is increasingly shifting towards East Asia is because of the East Asian cognitive profile skewing towards M and S.

JustinLoe said...

I'll make a brief observation that CTY has added a spatial ability test as well since they recognized that their previous entrance exams did not have any measures of spatial ability.

Bobdisqus said...

Well my respect for the quality of thought coming from Halfsigma having recently greatly lowered, please forgive me if I don’t give his opinions much credence. See below for reference.
http://www.halfsigma.com/2011/12/robert-heinlein-libertarianism-vs-ron-paul-libertarianism.html#comments

Bobdisqus said...

Steve & Steve
The problem is that the bright boys with the quant skills have no shame or feeling of responsibility to the Maddies of the nation.  Most are so arrogant that they think they earned their own abilities through their own personal drive (see David’s post below) rather than admit the grace of God or luck of the genetic lottery played a big part. 
Can we get cheaper goods elsewhere? Sure.  Is our nation better off optimizing for the lowest cost of goods?  St. Jobs felt no shame in tossing over the Maddies that would have worked at Apple for the teaming hoards at Foxcon.  What becomes of the Maddies of the nation?

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

...and it's almost as if our system is suffering from an autoimmune disorder.  Malfunctioning "left" antibodies are directing their attacks against healthy "right" antibodies while invading antigen are creeping even deeper into our system.

LondonYoung said...

Bobdisqus - you may want to think about the consistency of asking the American winners of the "generic lottery" to preferentially show a helping hand to the "Maddies" in order to do what is best for "the nation".  I am not saying you are from "the American left", but it rubs me the wrong way that such people have recently pivoted from what is good for all of humankind to what is good for the those who won the "lottery" of being born in the United States.  When I show charity, Maddie is just nowhere near the top of my list.  The social safety net we pay for in the U.S., though short of western european standards, still provides an above world median lifestyle.

Bobdisqus said...

genetic not generic, and I lean more to paleocon than the left. Why should we choose regression to the mean?

RKU1 said...

Well, I'm not really suggesting that any memes themselves are parasitic, but rather that the parasitic elements in our society regularly secrete large quantities of ideological memes and sensory-distorting compounds in order to confuse, paralyze, and generally incapacitate the host.

As for the identity of the parasites, it hardly seems much of a mystery to me, though I suppose each of us must choose to draw his own structural boundaries.  Just consider the large and powerful non-productive sectors of the economy, observe the huge quantity of nutrients which they absorb, and notice the vastly disproportional quantity of memetic emissions they produce. Furthermore, consider their heavy concentration in and around the key control organs of the central nervous system, and the near total influence they seem to exert.

As a personal hobby since college, I've always spent a couple of hours each morning closely reading the pages of the NYT, the WSJ, and several other major newspapers.  In recent years, I've reluctantly concluded that either I'm on LSD or most of the journalists are.  I suspect the sensory inputs sent to the ganglia of a heavily-parasitized caterpillar would be just as strange and confused.

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

The problem is that we cannot discuss these controversial topics in detail without coming off as a social "barbarian" in contemporary society.  Political left will soon label any dissenters *ignorant* and try to alienate these people.  I, for one, am reluctant to talk about these matters considering how sensitive American society has become; however, such actions (or inaction) shouldn't be construed as an evidence of absoluteness of liberal ideals (a.k.a. Populism).

David Coughlin said...

"...No amount of drive on the part of many of the Maddies..."

I view that comment as ill-conceived.  We don't know anything about Maddie except her culture.  She is clearly not Luke, how much less than Luke is she?

Bobdisqus said...

Steve & Steve seem to be pretty brave guys with respect to not being held back from fear of the PC twaddle that gets hurled at them. It speaks well of them.

Bobdisqus said...

We do know more about her than that. We know that she has the drive to get herself hired in a manufacturing environment that has been shedding jobs for years even before the bubble burst.  You infer that she is lazy.  I don't see that in the article.
Perhaps you think my judgment that many of those in the first standard deviation just don’t have the mental facilities for calculus?
Steve & Steve you tend to have your fingers on the SAT and school result data.  Can either of you narrow that down to students with a score that would place them in the first standard deviation and then examine the results of those that attempt calculus? I posit that the drop/fail fraction of these students is pretty high.

Yan Shen said...

I'm not sure why you choose to lump Steve Hsu and Steve Sailer together. One of them is a theoretical physicist and accomplished tech entrepreneur, not to mention someone doing interesting work with BGI. The other makes his positive contribution to humanity by egging on his white nationalist/neo-Nazi readers with his persistent ridiculing of blacks and Hispanics and his obsession with Jews and East Asians, all for a few bucks so that he can feed his wife and kids.

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

There are few points I want to make:

(1) Most bottom people aren't as hard working as Maddie.  The current welfare system supports even those with little or no desire for self improvement.  Since we can't even force these people to work, we'll just have to keep paying them off.  In addition, working basic 40 hour week isn't hard working.  Most desk workers who only work this number don't get paid (perhaps 30-50k to start off with bachelor's degree from decent university) lavishly as you suggest.  You can think of extra $$$ figures as an incentive for 4 years of labor & expenditure thru college.

(2) Maddie works hard because she has 2 kids.  You might think this is noble and all, but she is the one who chose to have those babies.  I don't see any justification in these responsibilities being forced upon us as we aren't even the ones who inadvertently knocked her up.  She has made her choice in life; she should accept consequences, along with the goods, that comes with it.  It's called "being accountable for one's own action."  Along this line of reasoning, she also put herself in bad situation for self-improvement.  Perhaps she is capable of learning but is just too busy to undergo more training.

(3) The successful smart guys aren't as crooked up as you make them out to be.  They work (including studies) long hours to be successful despite their natural gift, with which they could still make decent living by going for less demanding posts.  Obviously, academics are still going to work hard in spite of low monetary compensation but why would businesspeople and others in high paying fields?  There aren't even many redeeming factors as intelligent people don't garner much fame among common people.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that you're grossly underestimating the amount of time successful bunch put into to get there and overestimating the efforts of low level workers.  I mean calculus is pretty easy, but how about real analysis or topology?  Of course, there are probably some exceptional beasts (these types are very rare) who would find all of these a breeze, but most people experience increasingly higher amount of time spend on solving problem sets in areas such as mathematics and physics.  Do *Maddie*s even conscientiously prep learning vocabulary terms in SAT?  From what I've seen, lesser intelligence people also tend to not work in high school.  I don't think I studied in high school but compared to those people I probably studied harder despite being already smarter.

Bobdisqus said...

You make Ju's point.  I read both blogs and in fact on found Steve Hsu's because of the link from Steve Sailer's.  Both accept HBD as real and look to see the consequences of that information.  I am one of Steve Sailer’s white readers and I do believe the cognitive elite of this nation have a duty to the left half of the bell curve in this nation before the rest of the world.  I guess that makes me a nationalist. Perhaps you believe that makes me a neo-Nazi?

Bobdisqus said...

I assume Maddie represents the center not the bottom.  From the article “continued to impress people by working hard, learning quickly, and displaying a good attitude” this does not sound like someone from the bottom to me.
I am not sure in what way you think responsibility for her children has been thrust on you.  Maddie works hard and she doesn’t seem to be asking for any handouts that I can see.
I didn’t say that the cognitive elite didn’t work and study hard.  I said many do not even acknowledge that they had a natural gift to start with and that many had no shame and sense of responsibility to the left half of the Bell curve.  As Herrnstein & Murray pointed out the increasing cognitive stratification in the US results in many of the right hand tail decreasingly coming in to contact with the center and left hand tail.  The judgments about the abilities and skills of a machine operator shown in the comments here I would suggest confirm that.
In what world is calculus easy?  Show me the group where a grasp of calculus is on par with the literacy rate.  What fraction of machine operators worldwide know calculus?  Is that fraction in the US considerably different than in the nations we compete with?

Yan Shen said...

"Maddie works hard and she doesn’t seem to be asking for any handouts that I can see."

According to the article, Maddie makes $13 an hour. That comes out to around $26,000 per year before taxes and other deductions, assuming a standard 40 hour workweek. She also has 2 kids to take care of. I don't know if she asks for handouts, but it wouldn't be a surprise if she did receive financial assistance of some sort from the state.

I think Ju's general point is on the mark. While one might feel sympathetic for Maddie, it's really her own fault that she's a single mother of two kids at the age of only 22.

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

"From the article 'continued to impress people by working hard, learning
quickly, and displaying a good attitude' this does not sound like
someone from the bottom to me."
-It's typical for these articles to try to extort emotional response out of people, but I don't see any reason to exhibit similar response as *hoi polloi*.
working hard- 2 kids (see being accountable one's own action above); It doesn't take that much to support oneself in life.
learning quickly- Obviously not for her level 2 competency
good attitude- Who really has a bad attitude?  Even illegal workers are described as *good* routinely by the media.  What use does distinction *good* have when virtually everyone can be described as good?
Still, the journalists are doing good job in convincing *hoi polloi*.

-I used bottom in reference to the bottom 99% movement; though, it is obvious many bottom 99% of income class, including myself, have different opinions.  The term is used loosely here to indicate below the boundary of calculus efficiency.

"I am not sure in what way you think responsibility for her children
has been thrust on you.  Maddie works hard and she doesn’t seem to be
asking for any handouts that I can see."
-They get paid for each children they have besides welfare.  Our government is subsidizing for the support of those children.

"In what world is calculus easy?  Show me the group where a grasp of
calculus is on par with the literacy rate.  What fraction of machine
operators worldwide know calculus?  Is that fraction in the US
considerably different than in the nations we compete with?"
-I'm demonstrating how even cognitively gifted people encounter a wall at some point in their study.  They have to put decent amount of study time to understand some concepts and streamline their understanding.  The difference is that they relish these challenges and continue to work on it, while bottom people falter at the prospect of challenge (e.g. Calculus).  It's common for undergraduate students in physics or mathematics to spend hours in solving just one homework problem.  While intelligent people relish working on their field of choice, they
certainly have no qualms about working on hobbies of theirs.  Working
long hours means giving up Monday Night Football, nightly poker games,
and other frivolous activities in life.  I don't see the "Maddie"s working vehemently to get their calculus down.  It's well established that people of higher intelligence have more impetus to learn than people of lower intelligence.  Call it a "will to power" or whatever you will; all I see is that people who work harder also getting more share of a cake.  You might want to come up with data plotting study time vs. SAT scores (High School/College GPA) than subjective words like "working hard."  Such distinctions could be given out freely within contexts.

Average IQ-
US: 98, PRC: 105 (IQ and Global Inequality, 2006)
There is probably higher mathematical discrepancy between the two.  Combined with Americans' unwillingness (higher pay for similar skill level) to work in harsher working conditions, I'd say there's significant discrepancy in skills level between two groups of people who are willing to work in similar working conditions.  No one suggested that they should know calculus.  They just need to be intelligent enough to operate relevant machinery.  Americans workers are just underrepresented in the number of people above relevant threshold.

Bobdisqus said...

Nonsense, the article tells us nothing about why she is single with two children.  It is just as reasonable to assume that the father of her two children died in Iraq or Afghanistan.  We just don’t know the facts.  You look at the picture of her and make some moral judgments that I don’t find supported.

I didn’t see any info about the ages of her children so it is hard to make guesses about her life.  A toddler and an infant would seem to fit the facts given without straining credibility much.  It does say that she has parents and grandparents that encourage her to further her education. This would tend to lower the probability she just hooked up with a couple of nameless baby daddies. From my paleo world view I think perhaps we are all better off if she and Luke get married and she stays home to raise the current two and perhaps even adds a third to the mix.

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

From the article:

"Until her senior year of high school, Maddie seemed to be headed for the
American dream—a college degree and a job with a middle-class wage. She
got good grades, and never drank or did drugs or hung out with the bad
kids. For the most part, she didn’t hang out with anybody outside her
family; she went to school, went home, went to church on Sundays. When
she was 17, she met a boy who told her she should make friends with
other kids at school. He had an easy way with people and he would take
Maddie to Applebee’s and cookouts and other places where the cool kids
hung out. He taught her how to fit in, and he told her she was pretty."

"She did finish school and, she’s proud to say, graduated with honors. “On my graduation, I was six months pregnant,” she says. “Six months.”
The father and Maddie didn’t stay together after the birth, and Maddie
couldn’t afford to pay for day care while she went to college, so she
gave up on school and eventually got the best sort of job available to
high-school graduates in the Greenville area: factory work."

Are we reading same article here?  From the article, I get the sense that she could've been living decent middle-class life.  If anyone should be accountable for Maddie and the two babies, it should be the boys who knocked her up.  The article doesn't say anything about the father of the second baby, but we can infer that he's not much more responsible than the first one.

"It is just as reasonable to assume that the father of her two children died in Iraq or Afghanistan."
I love the unlikely scenario you come up with.  In this case, there is nothing to worry about as she should be receiving hefty sum in government pension.

Bobdisqus said...

Clearly I missed this, point granted.  It would also lend credence to she is further left on the bell curve than my initial estimate. Though I think the “learning quickly” still gives a bias to that being in the first standard deviation only now on the left side of mean. 

RKU1 said...

Well, Yan Shen always strikes me as a pretty quarrelsome fellow.  Sometimes I wonder if he's really Asian.

I remember a while back, he mentioned that in college he'd been a member of the local atheist-activist club, which didn't surprise me.  He also mentioned he was nearly the only Asian member, which also didn't surprise me.

Yan Shen said...

"Well, Yan Shen always strikes me as a pretty quarrelsome fellow.  Sometimes I wonder if he's really Asian."

Unless I'm deeply confused about my own identity, I've been 100% Chinese since the moment I was conceived.

yulva said...

What Apple (and other companies) want are employees that are housed
in dormitories, can be roused at midnight to work a 12-hour shift on
demand fueled with only a cup of tea and a ten cent biscuit, paying them
$17/day.
THAT is what Apple and these other firms demand.

It is absolutely true that America cannot fill that demand, because at one dollar an hour
you can't manage to put the food on your table for a family of four,
say much less pay rent, electricity or gasoline for your car to get
there and back!
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred
countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation
to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best
product possible.”
That's absolutely true.  But
America remains a monstrously-large market and America has no obligation
to let you bring products into this nation without tariff or impost
while you exploit the existence of authoritarian governments and
environmental arbitrage.

A 100% tariff on all of Apple's foreign-produced or assembled products should make the decision easy -- is this really about the availability of a workforce, in which case it would not matter to Apple, or is it really about state-sponsored enslavement and exploitation?

 

Yan Shen said...

How does he explain the shift of high tech manufacturing to places like Japan or South Korea or Taiwan, where wages are undoubtedly much higher than they are in mainland China?

Bobdisqus said...

It appears that we have a conclusion, Yan Shen is deeply confused about his identity, and he is of Chinese ethnicity. ;^)

RKU1 said...

I'd read the long NYT/Apple article as well, and since it ties in so closely to this thread had been thinking of recommending it here.

What most surprised me was the fact that the large wage gap between Chinese and American workers was *not* the main factor behind the relocation of all of Apple's production lines to China.  That's because labor costs are a relatively small portion of the total expense of products like the iPhone or iPad, not trivial but not large either.  So it's quite possible that much of that production will stay in China even if wages rise substantially in the future (e.g. when the vast supply of floating-workers becomes exhausted).

This raises a fascinating question.  It's well known that the total size of the Chinese economy will pass that of America in the very near future, perhaps even in just a few years depending upon purchasing-power adjustments.  It's also well known that the numerical size of China's total "middle class" (as defined by income and asset-type ownership) will also pass the size of America's 200M middle class not too long from now (and this might happen quite rapidly if we suffer another sharp financial collapse).

However, the fascinating question is at what foreseeable point the standard-of-living of *median* Chinese person will exceed that of the median American, as properly adjusted for PPP, quality-of-life etc.  This would be a truly astonishing development.

There was a big newstory that the Chinese government is planning to build over 35M brand-new modern worker-apartments in the next few years, clearly following Lee Kuan Yew's successful trajectory.  Meanwhile, the Housing Bubble has left many millions of Americans living on couches or in cars.  Even today, I'd suspect the average Chinese enjoys a better quality-of-life than the 10-15% of Americans who live in crime-plagued ghettos.  So the possibility described in the previous paragraph is not so utterly ridiculous at it might sound.

han said...

洋鬼子的·最大的问题是本事不大,但是脾气不小。只会打嘴仗。明明智力不够,但还要高高在上 in term of income and payment.

Bobdisqus said...

Japan also bleeds manufacturing jobs to China. I would suggest that perhaps a larger percentage of the Japanese cognitive elite do hold faith with their brethren.  I would guess this tends to mitigate the flow. 
 
Free trade is not a cross we should martyr ourselves on.  To the extent it doesn’t damage our national interest sure I lean to more open is better.
 
The people making the gains from those decisions at Apple and other companies moving jobs to low wage, low regulation countries are not the same people that are enduring the cost of those decisions.  How do we mitigate the social disruption without killing the goose?  My preference is a low across the board tariff.  I would also reward those companies with US-foreign employment ratios outsize to their US-foreign sales ratios with tax credits.  They are cheaper than welfare and people that feel they have a productive place in our nation make better citizens than those on the dole. A little Mercantilism goes a long way. Our market size is still a pretty big stick in the world and we should wave it around a bit.
 
Beyond government policy I think we should look to some good old fashioned shame. I would like to see some business leaders hauled to some nice televised Congressional investigations. Tim Cook and other from his station in life should have their feet held to the fire metaphorically.   The news media who like to think they stick up for the little guy could do a lot better here also.

Bobdisqus said...

Han, you said "The biggest problem is the foreign devil's little skill, but his temper is not small. Only Dazui Zhang. Obviously not intellectual, but also superior" Perhaps one ofthe others can translate it better than google for us.

han said...

本来就不是写给你的。看不懂没关系。

RKU1 said...

Actually, I'd say that something like half the problem is due to "Chinese advantage", and perhaps some sort of fairly small tariff might be a good means of addressing that.

But I'd say at least half is due to "American disadvantage", namely all the crazy/stupid things we're doing here, and that's something only we can fix.  Furthermore, given that Chinese wages are rising rapidly and the Yuan generally appreciating, I'd say this second part is becoming a larger and larger component of the total.  Focusing exclusively on things like tariffs is similar to hooking a sick patient up to a respirator without bothering to apply antibiotics.

Guy_Brodude said...

It is getting very tiresome seeing all these old feuds get hashed out on this blog. I propose that any post with the word 'Sailer' in it be automatically deleted from now on ;)

Yan Shen said...

I think it's very tiresome to see every Steve Hsu blog post on affirmative action be derailed by white nationalists/neo-Nazis, but you don't see me telling Steve how he should run/moderate his own blog.

David Coughlin said...

It merits the note to a chunk of 'Why to manufacture in Asia' is supply chain alignment.


How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

Kevin Rose said...

Actually Yan Shen is a very common Chinese type. With little imagination or ability to envision new perspectives yet with a single-minded attachment to his positions once chosen. The Chinese have always been known for being incredibly stubborn in a way that refuses to take logic or evidence into account. There used to be a phrase, now discredited, which gives a flavor of what I am talking about - *Asian fanaticsm*. Of course, that stereotype has long been discredited ;)

I never thought the Chinese in the least bit lacking in aggressiveness. After long experience with the Chinese, my personal opinion - although few seem to agree with me ;) - is that the peculiar achievement deficiency one sees in the Chinese is almost entirely cognitive in nature. Looking at temperament is barking up the wrong tree.    

Ken Condon said...

Gotta han(d) it to you han, your Chinese posts do make for some riddlish reading. At least for those of us (me) who can’t read Chinese. Google translate turns out translations of your posts that appear to be gibberish. Would you care to post your thoughts in English?

Ken Condon said...

What this boils down to in the US is that line/production workers will have to be schooled, skilled, trained, and willing to work very hard. From a very young age. This obviously includes lots of technical training and schooling in math and other sciences. The days of pushing a broom or turning a nut for $30.00/hour with benefits are long gone. Unskilled and technically unschooled US workers will be out of luck with paper hat jobs the only other option if they want to work at all. 



And even that might not be a recipe for job security.



Although my benchmark for “tough times” for US workers is the day when I see white folk doing stoop labor and picking fruit in orchards.



Even the “golden years” for the US economy were short lived and very much an economic anomaly, lasting from about 1948 until the mid 1970’s. During those years the US was a “closed shop”, caring nor worrying little about products made elsewhere as those were either shoddy or non existent. That is why labor unions were able to extract the generous (some would say outlandish) concessions from business and manufacturing they achieved in those days.  European automobiles very not very good and the only Asian automobiles available from Japan were not imported in any great numbers. Also-“made in Japan” was synonymous with “piece of shit.”



Then along came-- Japan. Datsun (Nissan), Canon, Sony ad infinitum. And now comes China and likely the rest of Asia with their hungry and motivated billions. And a culture of respecting learning and working as hard as it takes. Followed by the iron law of wages.

Ken Condon said...

What this boils down to in the US is that line/production workers will have to be schooled, skilled, trained, and willing to work very hard. From a very young age. This obviously includes lots of technical training and schooling in math and other sciences. The days of pushing a broom or turning a nut for $30.00/hour with benefits are long gone. Unskilled and technically unschooled US workers will be out of luck with paper hat jobs the only other option if they want to work at all. 

And even that might not be a recipe for job security.

Although my benchmark for “tough times” for US workers is the day when I see white folk doing stoop labor and picking fruit in orchards.

Even the “golden years” for the US economy were short lived and very much an economic anomaly, lasting from about 1948 until the mid 1970’s. During those years the US was a “closed shop”, caring nor worrying little about products made elsewhere as those were either shoddy or non existent. That is why labor unions were able to extract the generous (some would say outlandish) concessions from business and manufacturing they achieved in those days.  European automobiles very not very good and the only Asian automobiles available from Japan were not imported in any great numbers. Also-“made in Japan” was synonymous with “piece of shit.”

Then along came-- Japan. Datsun (Nissan), Canon, Sony ad infinitum. And now comes China and likely the rest of Asia with their hungry and motivated billions. And a culture of respecting learning and working as hard as it takes. Followed by the iron law of wages.

RKU1 said...

All this is certainly true, but I think America's parasite-load is at least half of the problem.

Yan Shen said...

"And now comes China and likely the rest of Asia with their hungry and
motivated billions. And a culture of respecting learning and working as
hard as it takes."

This observation is certainly right on the mark. I've remarked that one of the most astounding things I've witnessed is seeing hordes of mainstream white Americans, parents and children alike, unleashing a tsunami of venomous hatred against their Asian American counterparts, in light of the disproportionate success of Asian Americans in academics. Very rarely have I heard any white American opine that they work harder in order to better compete. Virtually all of the rhetoric coming from mainstream white America has been to insult, degrade, and dehumanize Asian Americans, painting them as something not quite human, but merely emotionless grinds.

I suggested earlier that unlike black, Hispanic, and white Americans, all of whom seem to bash the more successful groups whenever they are out-competed, East Asians seem to be the only group whom engage in relentless self-criticism. I suggested that if a foreign ethnic group ever out-performed the majority ethnicity academically in an East Asian country like China, Japan, or South Korea, the most likely reaction would be millions of East Asian parents immediately calling out their children for being lazy and unmotivated and millions of East Asian children taking that criticism to heart and working even harder than before.

Grouping up, I remember that my mom and dad always told me that a person needs to be able to 吃 苦, a term which literally translates into "eating bitterness". White Americans on the other hand expect the world to be handed to them on a silver platter, which is why you see so many unproductive dregs in this country doing nothing more than demanding handouts from the state.

Ken Condon said...

This is indeed a problem. And a difficult one to address politically.

Bobdisqus said...

Mr. Ju I think the history is we made that climb to economic dominance on a decidedly mercantilist trade policy. I am not yulva suggesting some kind of 100% tariff.  You can shout Smoot-Hawley all you want I am not afraid.  There is lots of precedent for the low across the board tariff I suggest.  

China has built a big exporting machine that has helped them tremendously from Deng onward in their climb out of their recent dark age.  Germany has to a lesser extent done the same though even in the ruin & ashes of the war I don’t think you could say they went through a dark age except perhaps morally.  They are not yet ready to replace their export machines with internal consumption.  Consumption being one of those areas we Americans have had the audacity with “foreign devil's little skill” to excel in.  They ride the tiger by the tail and will have all they can manage for some time to come just hanging on. That leaves us lots of room to maneuver when it comes to trade policy.

Don’t get me wrong, I welcome China’s rise from their recent dark age and wish them luck in their endeavor to put the middle back in middle kingdom.  To move a population the size of our whole nation from utter poverty to middle class by world standards is a feat with no precedence I know.  RKU1 speculates about US/China median incomes and when the lines might cross. I would point out that as steep as their rate of change has been these trends don’t tend to go to infinity. I wish that we give them a good run for their money to make them work hard to do so if they ever do.

Ju Hyung Ahn said...

My point is the across the low across the board tariff is already there.  It won't even solve much of the problem.  Apple products made in China are subjected to same tax that Samsung & Sony products made in China experience.  It won't give comparative edge to U.S. economy.  It needs to be significant one that actually causes corporations to build factories in the U.S.  Large protective trade wasn't practiced in the '50s-'70s.  The rest of the world has just caught on.

Al_Li said...

Another good article
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/07/china-makes-the-world-takes/5987/?single_page=true

Bobdisqus said...

Yes a return to the average tariff rates of the 1950s is just what I advocate.  Just like previous waving of the big stick got the ball rolling on foreign auto plants here in the US.  We can use it now to help remind China and others that while the “foreign devil's little skill (old Uncle Sam ain’t to smart) , but his temper is not small (but he can get cranky when pushed).”  Reminders that he still knows where to find the stick are often enough alone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariffs_in_United_States_history
“Presently only about 30% of all import goods are subject to tariffs in the United States, the rest are on the free list. The "average" tariffs now charged by the United States are at a historic low.”

http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/tariff_profiles11_e.pdf

ytrewq123 said...

"Very rarely have I heard any white American opine that they should work
harder in order to better compete. "

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/28/10/47571423.pdf

The Mexican work ethic seems superior to the East Asian work ethic, so perhaps that ought to be what Yan Shen should be advising Americans to follow.

Also, effort is of course not equal to productivity - see Japan's poor productivity relative to America despite their higher mean IQs.

I can see why most Americans are pissed that the solution management offers seems to be getting  blue/white collar worker to work more hours lest their jobs be shipped abroad. It is the stick management uses to squeeze workers even more. 

"Steve Hsu mentioned earlier that in traditional Confucian culture, there
is a tendency to under-promise but over-deliver. "

May be at the individual level.

http://silkroadintl.net/blog/2009/08/27/over-promise-under-deliver-and-the-realities-of-the-chinese-market/

You should probably spend some more time in China to recalibrate your
views about that country. They're laughably simplistic.

spandrell said...

I can help: 
"Foreign devils (white dudes) 's biggest problem is that they have little skill, yet they have a big temper. They only know how to talk big. They are obviously less intelligent, but they insist on being on top in terms of income".
Second: "I wasn't writing for you, if you can't understand it it's ok."

我作为洋鬼子告诉你:再英文博客成心让人看不懂,说明黄色人最大的问题:你们心里还是小孩儿. Google上搜 Neoteny. 你们长不大。

Ken Condon said...

This thread to too interesting and important to drop right now so I will add a few thoughts.

Another difficulty I see in all of this (at least for the US) is that there is a sort of Moore’s Law going on in manufacturing itself where exponentially more and more (sorry) labor is being done by highly sophisticated machines. Even medical decisions will soon be aided by or decided by machines. Witness IBM’s Watson.

When I was a teen I remember reading about the coming automation of many manual jobs such as robotic painters and welders for automobiles. Some thought it would be a great idea to have all these repetitive and sometimes dangerous jobs done by machines (and it was) but I remember thinking at the time what this would mean for the average working stiff. We can see the culmination of this in Davidson’s article-and it continues to compress. Even financial investing decisions are ever more being decided by sophisticated computers and their associated programs.  And it will continue on--in the US and Europe at least.

But this also poses many difficulties- not the least of which is what are all these unskilled people supposed to do? Not everyone is designed nor capable of being an engineer, chemist, physicist or skilled inventor. And I have a hard time envisioning a world where every working human is a top notch scientist or mathematician and all the rest of all every remaining tasks are performed by sophisticated machines. What am I missing? Is this scenario even possible?

I don’t see this being a problem for a long while in countries such as China or India with vast labor pools but it certainly looks to be so for the West. Although at this point perhaps the US government could be vastly improved by having a computer program make ironclad decisions. Watson reprogrammed for politics;) Or at least used to rewrite the tax code.

Bobdisqus said...

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/02/14/apple-report-proview-seeks-china-export-ban-on-ipads/

Apple gets the shake down in China.  I hope they take a big slice off the top.  Where matters!

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