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Noah Smith

Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

Exchanging cheap U.S. crops for expensive foreign cars and computers doesn't look like a winning trade.
This actually does matter.

This actually does matter.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/getty images

Discussions about manufacturing tend to get very contentious. Many economists and commentators believe that there’s nothing inherently special about making things and that efforts to restore U.S. manufacturing to its former glory reek of industrial policy, protectionism, mercantilism and antiquated thinking.

But in their eagerness to guard against the return of these ideas, manufacturing’s detractors often overstate their case. Manufacturing is in bigger trouble than the conventional wisdom would have you believe.