Vital Signs

Blood and Iron Pyrite

During the late 19th century, when the star of American industrial power was on the rise, protectionist Pennsylvania Congressman William Kelley declared, “A people who cannot supply their own demand for iron and steel, but purchase it from foreigners beyond seas, are not independent . . . they are politically dependent.”  The 21st century has opened with dozens of bankruptcies in the American steel industry, stretching back to a flood of imported steel that began in 1998.

In response to the steel crisis, Industry Week polled various experts for an article that appeared in August 2001, asking, “Does the US need to maintain a viable domestic steel industry to ensure the country’s national security?”  Several of the intellectuals answered the question in the negative, including former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and former CIA official Edward Turzanski of LaSalle University.  Their reasoning relied heavily on the notion that advanced materials, high technology, and overwhelming military power have significantly reduced the importance of steel to national security.  Martin Anderson told Industry Week,

If we truly got into a war in which all our steel was cut off—try to imagine that very difficult scenario—we could simply recycle enough scrap to make whatever we needed, until we got our bombers and missiles off the ground.

Anderson,...

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