Short Views

The Essential Sector

One of Donald Trump’s signature issues during the presidential campaign was his assertion that bad trade deals had cost millions of American manufacturing jobs, and his promise to do something to reverse that doleful trend.  As with many of Trump’s assertions, these claims brought only scorn from the purveyors of respectable opinion, who insisted either that the economic dislocations caused by free trade are comparatively minor and temporary, or that manufacturing job losses aren’t the result of free trade at all, but of automation, the same automation that is causing American manufacturing to be more productive than ever.  President Obama, ever attuned to the demands of respectable opinion, dismissed Trump, declaring that “some of those jobs of the past are just not going to come back” and mocking Trump for suggesting otherwise.  (It would take a “magic wand” to bring those jobs back to America.)  It turns out, though, that the voters were interested in what Trump was saying.  Indeed, it is doubtful that Trump would now be President if he had not taken up the cause of American manufacturing, since his victory was the result of narrow wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all states formerly dependent on manufacturing.

It also turns out that Trump was right, and respectable opinion wrong.  As Gwynn Guilford notes in an important new article at Quartz,...

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