Thinking About "Premature Deindustrialization": An Intellectual Toolkit I
OK. Popping the distraction stack again. The very sharp Matthew Yglesias writes about:...MUCH MORE
: Premature Deindustrialization: The New Threat to Global Economic Development:
In the popular imagination, the old industrial landscape has moved abroad to Mexico or to China, perhaps due to bad trade policies or simply the vicissitudes of changing circumstance... [and] the migration of factory work to much poorer countries has been a boon to those countries' economic development.... [But] 'premature deindustrialization,' in which countries start to lose their manufacturing jobs without getting rich first....[Dani Rodrik:] "Developing countries... have experienced falling manufacturing shares in both employment and real value added, especially since the 1980s.'...Jana Remes... economy-wide productivity growth in Mexico has been dismal... [because] Mexican manufacturing sector has... remained quite small.... The dynamic manufacturing sector, in other words, simply isn't big enough to employ many people. And it's not really growing much.... [Future] manufacturing enterprises will increasingly look more like software companies--where designing, programming, maintaining, and debugging the machines will be more important than staffing them.A country like the United States with a very robust high-tech sector will be a strong contender for those technologically intensive manufacturing jobs, even if there aren't very many of them. Countries that haven't yet industrialized, meanwhile, may be left out in the cold...And:
Let me back up and quickly sketch the argument that manufacturing matters, and manufacturing exports matter a lot for industrialization and economic development in the Global South. And let me make the argument in what I regard as the proper way--that is, dropping far back in time and running through the economic history...Foxconn replaces 60,000 workers with robots. [pic.twitter.com/m2HaceEte5]— Azeem Azhar (@azeem) [May 25, 2016]
I do not, all thing considered, think that, absent the luck and randomness that gave us the British Industrial Revolution, a permanent or semi-permanent "Gunpowder Empires" scenario was the third-millennium likely historical destiny of the Sociable Language-Using Tool-Making Big-Brained East African Plains Ape.
However, this does not mean that the historical destiny looking forward from 1750 or so in the Global South was bright. World population had quintupled in the 2000 years to 1750, carrying with it a notional five-fold shrinkage in average farm sizes, or at least in the amount of land supporting the typical family. The slow pace of technological progress from -250 to 1750 had made up for--indeed, had caused--this rise in population. And the biotechnologies of agriculture were indeed mighty: to 1750 we have the creation and diffusion of maize, of double-crop wet rice, of the combination of the iron axe and the moldboard plow that could turn northern temperate forests into farms, of domesticated cotton, of the merino sheep, and of the potato.
But a human population growing at 10% per generation required more such innovations, lest living standards fall in order to curb population growth via children so malnourished to have compromised immune systems, women who were too thin to ovulate, or increased female infanticide. People in 1750 were as well fed and clothed as they had been in -250. But what would have been the next agricultural miracles? You would have needed a number of them to attain continued total factor productivity growth at 0.02%/year to compensate for the further quartering of farm sizes that would have been inevitable for population growth to continue and human numbers topped 3 billion by 2050. Draft animals are not that much help in a densely populated near-subsistence society: they have large appetites, and the land their foodstuffs grow on is subtracted from that available for people. Only a relatively rich society can afford to replace human backs and thighs with those of horses and oxen....