The Art of Economic Warfare (Part 6): The Knowledge Economy Isn’t Very Knowledgeable

By | 2017-07-26T22:03:29+00:00 December 13th, 2016|
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Americans have been sold a bill of goods. Coastal elites keep telling them that they must abandon the blue collar jobs that created modern America and turn, instead, toward education, just as so many farmers of yesteryear abandoned the fields in favor of manufacturing jobs. (Although given all of the subsidies the United States government pays out to farmers, it’s not clear that the farmers who moved on to the city made the wise choice.)

But this is not an apples to apples comparison. Regardless of how potent the knowledge-based economy may become, the fact remains that even products created in a futuristic economy require someone to manufacture them. For example, what good is the Internet without a device with which to access it?

While the proponents of “free trade” are more than happy to accept that physical manufacturing will not go away, they are not so apt to admit that many things can be made in America. This is why, for instance, companies such as Apple design their amazing new gadgets in the United States, but outsource the manufacturing and production to China. We are told this is because Americans can no longer do efficiently the work that the Chinese can do.

If that were so, why did Apple CEO Tim Cook suddenly declare that he’s going to move some production away from China and back into the United States—something that the global free traders claimed was simply impossible? Because Donald Trump said he would impose costs on Apple (or any company) for abandoning America.

The orthodox free trade supporters insist that inventions such as 3D printers will further remove the need for manufacturing jobs. This may be true on some level. But who will build those 3D printers? What’s more, the technology they are speaking of is in its infancy with likely many more years—if not decades—of research and development ahead of it before these devices could completely replace what human workers can produce.

Also, this supposed knowledge-based economy has yet to come fully into fruition. Rather than shedding supposedly antiquated manufacturing jobs in favor of higher paying, more creative, “knowledge” jobs, what the majority of Americans got instead was a massive service economy.

Yet again, a handful of educated, bi-coastal elites were taking part in this exclusive global knowledge-based economy and benefited disproportionately from it. The rest of the country, meanwhile, either toils in the slums of those coastal metropolises, or they get along in the small towns across America, doing their best to keep a small business above water as the towns that once supported thriving communities slowly evaporate.

In many cases, those toiling away in the service sector were doing so just to pay for one semester of college—after all, how else could average Americans hope to have a shot at the endless opportunities of this exclusive knowledge economy without an overpriced degree?

But how can America transition from a mostly manufacturing economy to a “knowledge-based” one when America’s production of knowledge is so weak? Does anyone really think that America’s educational system is producing the kinds of innovators and thinkers necessary to maintain America’s economic dominance in this future knowledge-based global economy? Are we suddenly overrun with Steve Jobs clones?

No.

In fact, we’re being smothered by thoughtless social justice warriors who spent their time and money specializing in gender neutrality studies or some such. These people prove very useful in a globally competitive, “knowledge” economy, don’t they? I’m sure the Chinese and Indians are quaking in their boots at having to compete in the global marketplace against the greatly feared American SJWs!

It’s not that I oppose the creation of a knowledge economy, either. It’s that I don’t see any real commitment to creating the infrastructure necessary to building, maintaining, and expanding such an economy in the United States. What’s more, I am dubious of the concept that every American must or even can become a formally educated expert. Historically, a healthy society has a mixture of workers with varying types and degrees of skills.

The only thing that could make America the hub of a knowledge-based global economy would be true school reform; not “reform” of the kind that Leftists and the Democratic Party try to shove down America’s throat under the guise of school reform. I’m talking wholesale reform. But, even if such reform were a real political possibility, it could not come fast enough to provide alternatives for those affected by the jobs losses savaging the heartland of our country.

How many Americans have been told that they have to go to college? How many of those who do, end up with staggering debt and without employment that compensates at a rate high enough to cover their loan payments in addition to living expenses? Too many. Things will not change any time soon, either—not as long as the Left continues to enjoy its vice-grip on America’s education system.

The nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary is a great first step toward real reform, but I am dubious of the kinds of changes that she and President-elect Trump will be able to implement in four years (or even eight, for that matter). As Barry Rubin documents in his excellent book, The Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance, the Left has had almost 50 years to consolidate control over the nation’s education system. Leftists are highly entrenched and are usually protected by unflappable unions and cushy tenure.

Besides, how is it that states like China and India, who are making themselves more competitive in this new global economy, retain not only their knowledge base, but also their manufacturing base? Why can’t the United States do the same?

The argument that America must shed its manufacturing jobs with due haste, in order for more people to enjoy the fruits of the burgeoning knowledge economy is a sick joke perpetrated upon us by a global elite, which is merely seeking to justify poor public policy choices.

Spain and many other “forward-thinking” Western countries have tried to embrace such a New Age model. Look where it got them. When Spain embraced an education-heavy, “green jobs” economy, unemployment went through the roof and did not come back down until the government collapsed a few months back.

Moreover, Spanish entrepreneurial activity plummeted as more people sought safe (but highly competitive) government jobs. Not only were education and unemployment levels high, but so too were burdensome regulations. This, in turn, led to low economic activity which dragged the country down for years.

Throughout Europe and large parts of the United States, the knowledge economy has yet to come to fruition. What has happened has been the rise of a handful of elites getting wealthier as the world is made smaller, while the rest of us toil in multiple, low-paying service jobs.

Let’s bring America’s jobs back. Let’s protect the livelihood of many Americans and let’s rebuild America. Donald Trump’s economic policies will do just that. This is the Art of Economic Warfare, according to Donald Trump. It’s also how most other countries—even within the EU—conduct their economic policies.

About the Author:

Brandon J. Weichert
Brandon J. Weichert is a contributing editor to American Greatness. A former Republican congressional staffer and national security expert, he also runs "The Weichert Report" (www.theweichertreport.com), an online journal of geopolitics. He holds master's degree in statecraft and national security from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. He is also an associate member of New College at Oxford University and holds a B.A. in political science from DePaul University. He is currently completing a book on national security space policy due out next year.