Looks like most of the Linkedin discussion tended against government support for manufacturing. The rush to overseas manufacturing seems to have slowed in recent years for a number of reasons -- rising labor and shipping costs as well as production and supply difficulties. There's also a recent trend toward keeping manufacturing closer to the end consumer. High volume, low mix products, however, will probably continue to go to the cheap-labor markets. Not much would stop that.
Alex, I am really enjoying the free course in Game Theory currently being offered by Stanford. Their initial overview describes the optimization of behavior of both Predator and Prey in the standard Predator/Prey model. In all cases, both Predator and Prey benefit from being active -- moving around, looking for opportunities and avoiding pitfalls. In all cases being inactive and staying put gets a low score. Recall the advice given to wilderness trekkers in the event they get lost -- stay put and the rescuers will find you. When the search party is a Predator, that is precisely the wrong advice.
Government involvement in technology can benefit Exploration in the form of No-Strings-Attached Grants: Gifts to enable innovators to move around Steven Johnson's "adjacent possible" and explore. All other forms of Government involvement, such as loans, tax-credits, and especially regulations, have the effect of controlling behavior and restricting "movement" within the arena of ideas. Regulations are particularly onerous, as they force both Predator and Prey to stay put. In the model of free-market capitalism, that simply means both Predator and Prey are now susceptible to attack from more agile Predators -- a role presently filled by overseas competition.
Bill, a very cogent explanation of the process in play here. Games theory offers a great way to analyze these things. As you indicate, the predators are roaming free. The thing of which I dispair is that, regardless of your opinions on regulation, the "prey," as represented by our legislators, are unlikely to ever to anything to address the intrinsics of the problem. At times they will pass laws and regulations, but they'll be disconnected from other laws -- i.e., no coherent overall strategy -- and they'll often be introduced/passed more for show than for any effect.
Alex: I believe our country gets long-term benefits from, as you've described it here, funding of research, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I get worried, though, when our government officials start picking winners in private industry. As Jon Titus points out, their track record with Solyndra and Ener1 would suggest that they're not particularly well-qualified to be doing that.
Right now, the prime predator is China. Flooding the U.S. with inferior goods. Especially in machine tools. Features are often so inferior, they cannot be considered "agile manufacturing". Deliberate attempt to cripple U.S. industry at all levels. From home workshop to the biggest corporations. Management of U.S. companies dealing with China do not seem to see the inferiority of the Chinese tools or just don't care. Not useful to those in business or those at home trying keep things running. Some protection from bad Chinese products and underselling of U.S. business is in order.
Yes, we have to keep options the open. Free or open market is a good for all sort of business, especially in an economic slowdown time. This may help the companies to make use of maximum benefits and hence in turn a superior quality product at an affordable price.
Patrick Dixon has it right. The government should protect our rights and property. In so doing this, the present government needs be a better watchdog by keeping the politcal and financial playing fields more level. The rest should work itself out.
I agree, ChasChas, but keeping the playing field level when we're competing with countries that receive heavy assistance from their governments. There is now way a democratic system like our would ever be able to match the government involvement of non-democratic countries such as China. So the playing field in many ways will never be level.
Rob, I respectfully disagree. The playing field can be leveled, or at least close to by having the non-technical goverrnment politicians get the heck out of the way of american manufacturing. I live in California where the effect of too much government is obvious. People and manufacturing simply move away. The federal government needs to get a clue from this. Interfere too much and ANY company will go off-shore. Monitor an industry but don't interfere and production will return. I have personally seen a repetitive job leave a manufacturer I was working at durring the 1970's. It went to Singapore. That same manufacturer brought the job back to the US to have a more responsive manufacturer and make less scrap! Now it is likely that the return would not happen because of stifling goverment regs. Bill J
As energy efficiency becomes more and more a concern for makers of electronics devices, researchers are coming up with new ways to harvest energy from sound vibration, footsteps, and even electromagnetic fields in the air.
The government wants to study your brain, and DARPA wants to use similar information to give robots true autonomy beyond any artificial intelligence developed to date. Sound like science fiction? It's not.
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