Sunday, September 4, 2016

Using the future to explain the past; a reply to Barry Lando

Barry Lando has an essay on view at Counterpunch wherein he lays asunder the claim that American manufacturing jobs have been decimated by free trade agreements.

Nope, it hasn't been free trade at all, Lando assures us. It's been robots!

I don't want to dismiss Lando's argument altogether, because he does grapple with an odious truth. Going forward, many manufacturing jobs will be displaced by robots, AI, and so on.

But that's going forward.

That doesn't explain what happened under the original US-Canada Free Trade Agreement or the subsequent North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Hey, I was there waving bye-bye to the jobs, and it wasn't robots taking them.

Here's a story that claims more than 5 million US manufacturing jobs were lost between '97 and 2014. Now I admit the source is perhaps a little too union-friendly for mainstream tastes, but nevertheless that's a lot of jobs lost.

When jobs from Canada or the US end up in Mexico and China it's not because the Chinese and Mexican robots work cheaper than the Canadian or American ones.

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