A comment on a piece I did

So I write at The Register on how manufacturing hasn\’t declined. In the comments there is this:

\”I worked here and….\” \”I have a mate who…\” yeah right – your insights are so much more knowledgeable than the blokes who put the original figures together. Post 701196 – we may not make the bullets but BAe (British and the 2nd largest defense contractor in the world) make all the clever things to fire them.

As a percentage of GDP (in 2007), UK manufacturing was 23.4%. France (the country that \’supports\’ it\’s manufacturers) was only 20.6%. Our GDP itself was also higher. I know you will all whine that 2007 (the most recent reliable figures I could find) are before our anglo-saxon created crash. But three years ago you still wouldn\’t have believed it (but don\’t they have Citroen!?) The percentage of our economy that is manufacturing may have been shrinking over the past 40 years (mainly due to the rise of the financial sector), but as the graph shows, the value of what we do manufacture has still increased well ahead of inflation.

My Dad worked in a factory all his working life. It was shit. Given the choice he wishes he had worked on a computer colouring in like I do, or serving lattes in Starbucks to people who make money in the city. Who the f*ck do you people think you are, sat infront of your comfy computer getting misty eyed about factory life like some 21st century William Morris.

Of course we don\’t dig coal anymore. We don\’t need to. It\’s a shit job. With little profit. Let the Chinese kill themselves down a mine getting it out.

Yes, educate children to a higher standard, encourage opportunities for communities that have not adapted to the closure of local industry. These criticisms of policy are valid but please, don\’t try to make me think we want those polluting, life shortening, dull, exhausting industries back.

Only the f*cking middle classes believe the bullshit about a hard days work being any kind of pleasure for a working man. Banging in hot rivets or coding software for banks… which do you prefer? Pricks the lot of you. Give it all up and get on a plane to China and work in a ship builders there mate if you love manufacturing so much.

The recent reports of the UK company that have harnessed quantum physics for a touch screen display show the future of UK industry, much like ARM. Design the tech, license it to far east manufacturers and make more profit per device than they do. Keep innovating and stay one step ahead of the competition. Not look back to some golden heyday when men died at 55 and never saw their kids grow up like my grandad.

There\’s a part of me that would like that comment to replace my article.

Not sending the cheque back mind…..

11 thoughts on “A comment on a piece I did”

  1. “Design the tech, license it to far east manufacturers and make more profit per device than they do”

    Careful… you’ll have Ritchie complaining about transfer price abuse.

  2. My uncle worked down a pit in South Wales. I clearly remember him and his mates being cock-a-hoop about the exciting opportunities stocking shelves and driving minicabs that his pit closing opened up. Not.

    I used to work in factory that made electric drills. It was clean, light work, and unlike working in Starbucks it paid enough to support a family.

    Writing software for banks? I think you’ll find the Indians have got that sewn up. And yes, I did used to write software for banks.

    Produce Intellectual Property like ARM? The risk in separating the design and manufacture is that it’s easier for the manufacturer to get into design than it is for the designer to get into manufacturing. Have you seen how many Chinese study in the USA? You think they’re doing that just so they can make stuff for us more cheaply? Really?

    OK, enough anecdotes. I understand the argument, but I believe a functioning society needs to have most of its people in productive employment. Carrying millions of surplus workers in government non-jobs and on welfare is not viable in the long term.

  3. “it’s easier for the manufacturer to get into design than it is for the designer to get into manufacturing.”

    Not in my trade it’s not. And who wants to get into manufacturing anyway?

  4. Roue:

    You’ve got a fairly solid criticism there, especially as expressed in your last paragraph.

    But, though you haven’t said so outright, I get the feeling that it’s your opinion that, other than slamming nails or operating machinery in an auto plant (or, maybe, operating a combine or thresher), other jobs aren’t really “productive.” Where is it that you draw the line? Would you include ad copywriters, tax accountants, finance guys, shelf-stockers, ambulance drivers, etc? My point is simply that, except for those whose subsistence is dependent on forcible extraction
    by government, everyone else IS “productive,” i.e, produces or helps produce some good (or service) that everyone (consumers) wants and is willing to buy.. You can even extend “productive” to a fair number whose incomes are paid by the state but whose services are obviously (and sometimes less obviously) required to assure smooth functioning of the rest (esp. police and defense but including a certain number of others, whether or not their services might be more adequately delivered through private-sector means).

    When you boil it down, you’ve indicted socialism as the villain; but the only way to reduce negative effects on the larger society is to convince enough fellow-citizens of that connection and to reduce, by democratic means, both the intrusion of the state into nearly every aspect of existence and, concomitantly, the need of the state for so many to carry out those intrusions (and thereby, shrink the numbers of those whose efforts are not only
    unproductive but anti-productive).

    It’s a tall order but worth efforts of various types to address. (And it’s an effort that accounts, in the main, for the existence of this very blog.)

  5. Gene B.
    I think ‘productive’ has to exclude all who work for the state…The only maybe’s are those working in state owned industies that OUGHT to private. The problem with state workers is that they have the right to vote. We have precious few (any?) companies where the workforce has the opportunity to vote for the most pleasing bosses. This Newlabour board have the right idea in that the more workers/voters they have on their payroll the more worker-votes they’re gonna get. Whoever heard of a workforce voting themselves out of a job?
    One of the reasons Dear Maggie is so reviled by the left is that she ‘disenfranchised’ all those rotten boroughs in the unions. Equally one only has to see the stealthy re-emergence of the Red Barons in these more favourable times.

  6. Gene,

    I have no beef against estate agents, ad copy writers, bankers, etc. By productive, I just meant not tax funded, so we are in complete agreement.

    Kay Tie,

    You sound exactly like the commenter Tim is quoting. “Who want’s to get into manufacturing?” Gee, let me think. How about, anyone who wants to support their family? Work’s work, you do what you have to do to pay the bills. Maybe you, personally, wouldn’t like to work in manufacturing, but I enjoyed it and would be quite happy to do it again, if the opportunity arose.

    My point being, if you want your civilisation to run for centuries to come, and I hope we all do, you cannot have a sizable minority, perhaps even a majority, dependent on the taxes of others. We can already see where this is going, career claimant ghettos and bloody minded bureaucracy. This wouldn’t be happening if everybody had real jobs, adding real value.

  7. When I hear our politicians, who generally have never had a ‘proper’ job, talk about reducing the 16-24 unemployment with apprenticeships, I wonder where they are going to find these since they have destroyed our manufacturing industry. When I hear them talk about old industrial areas as ghettos of unemployment, I wonder where these people will work when all the manufacturing industry jobs have been destroyed.

    Manufacturing is good; it employs people. Okay the jobs are often sh*t, but it employs people – lots of people. I started out in a factory: Leyland Motors, later British Leyland. We had hundreds of people in menial jobs making tea, sweeping up … but we also had hundreds of engineering apprentices including me.

    Okay shoot me down because BL was inefficient and went bust perhaps because it did employ too many people and made rubbish vehicles. But I think you can see what I’m getting at. If we want to rid ourselves of systemic unemployment, and we have copious quantities, manufacturing is the key.

    Final word goes to my 25 year old son: “The government has to do something about creating jobs.” (He has worked as a chef since 16.) He was amazed when I ranted about entrepreneurs like me creating jobs and not governments. And even more amazed when I got stuck into successive UK governments taxing and regulating jobs out of existence.

  8. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    I have just finished a contract in the Redcar Steelworks, where I worked as a programmer on the process control computers.

    The plant was rather effective and productive, but whatever levels of efficiency we achieved, we could not manage to produce steel at a competitive price, as the world price is about £250 per ton, and we have to pay about £100 per ton in carbon tax.

    Naturally Mr Tata has closed the steelworks in Redcar as he doesn’t have to pay any carbon tax to make steel in India.

    So about 2,000 people in Redcar have been sacked because we can’t make steel for £100 a ton less than the rest of the world. In other words, we have been taxed out of our jobs.

    Justification, please?

  9. seems simple. as far as possible we need everyone doing the most productive thing they can. If it turns out for example that there are ten million unemployed who are only capable of pushing a broom- then there should be no square inch unswept. If there are people capable of designing aircraft- they should be designing away.
    Rather than decide that such and such a sector doesn’t matter any more, and leaving behind the ones who can’t manage advanced tasks, just make the best use of the available talent.
    I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to bring this about.

  10. Pat, there’s no point paying people to design aircraft if no-one wants to build them, and no-one wants to buy them. No square inch should be unswept as long as someone cares enough to pay sweepers. If the most productive thing I can do is to make daisy chains, I should be learning new skills, not getting paid to make daisy chains.

    A friend of mine was in Oman in the 90’s. No-one there was unemployed because the state was so rich it could afford to pay them to wash the crash barriers on the motorways. That’s not job creation, it’s job invention, and we can’t afford it here.

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