Way back when Britain had a much bigger industrial base than today,
So, when was that?
Agreed, manufacturing used to employ many more people. Manufacturing used to be a larger portion of a smaller economy. But manufacturing output is only a shade off the record levels of the 00s. And distinctly larger than pre-Maggie etc. Like times larger.
Quite sure I saw some statistics on UK manufacturing the other day. One I remember(I think) was being 9th largest in the whole wide world but on the whole the other stats looked quite OK too.
Volume not back to the same level as pre-global financial crisis. Lot lower due to lockdown. ICI taken over in 2008 so I suppose possible he means pre-2008, but more likely he’s thinking of 80s and 90s.
Thats all very well, maybe the UK still makes the very expensive stuff, like jet engines and bits of Airbuses, that sort of thing. What about all the other stuff we use in everyday life? Thats all got made in China stamped on it, when it used to be made here. If Covid has taught us anything, it should be that its pretty stupid to assume that supplies of stuff that we need on a day to day basis will always be available from the other side of the globe. Vast parts of the UK economy would grind to a halt if supplies from China were cut off. Even Rolls Royce might have to stop production because some silly little spare parts or consumables were only sourced from China now. Thats not very strategically sensible, to be utterly reliant on a Communist Dictatorship.
But Jim, it wouldn’t do RR’s share price any good to buy anything but the cheapest parts. Can you imagine what the Wall Street hedge fund managers would do if they announced they’ve decided to spend 0.2% more to have some diversity of supply as insurance against any future CCP decision to stop exporting said parts and insist the manufacturing is instead moved to Chongquing, along with all the intellectual property?
And we all know, in neoliberalistan that risk is merely RR’s to bear. If all its knowhow is stolen by a mercantilist, fascist dictatorship with a state-industrial complex hell-bent on expansionism and world domination, well that’s just the way things work out in a free economy, isn’t it. So we must keep buying Chinese stuff without tarrifs or other hindrances. The fact that soon there will only be Chinese stuff to buy isn’t a cost, it’s a benefit, etc.
Sheesh, at this rate you’ll be demanding agricultural subsidies to insure against our reliance on food from countries that might turn out to be our enemies.
Years back, I worked as an employee for an electronics company. My output was therefore ‘industrial-manufacturing’.
After some years, I went freelance: doing the same stuff for much the same companies, but now this counted as ‘service sector’.
The 80s were a time of massive transfer of GDP from ‘manufacturing’ to ‘service sector’ and I always think back to the bit I saw: same work, added up differently.
Resulting statistics: nonsense.
Take roller bearings. They are crucial to keeping machinery working. If you can’t get a replacement bearing for a broken down machine then you don’t have any output of whatever you are trying to produce. You have a chunk of scrap metal, not a machine. A large proportion of bearings are made in China now. Yes, there are other non-Chinese suppliers, but in an emergency they couldn’t supply the world’s requirements. Like the PPE fiasco, everyone would be screaming blue murder wanting to order supplies, and it just wouldn’t be there. There’s certainly no UK bearing makers. Even Western brands like Timken are manufacturing in China now. It would be interesting to know exactly what proportion of world bearing production is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, and what exactly would happen if they suddenly said ‘No more bearings for you!’
SKF are Swedish but they manufacture in the UK according to their website.
The Chinese did this briefly with rare metals. Sparked a period of investment in alternative sources of supply – Tim W wrote about this when it happened. Causes some short run problems, but goes away thanks to price incentives.
Global supply chains help to reduce costs and increase incentives for countries to get along. Post various disasters (Bangkok floods and the Tohoku earthquake) many companies altered their supply chains to remove single points of failure and diversify supply.
@Tim the coder
Yes, this is a well known measurement problem. It particularly affects value added by industry and employment by sector, both areas where outsourcing and specialisation led to a decline in manufacturing whilst the actual jobs remained the same.
Another thing Tim The Coder has selfishly contributed to the embuggering-up of is the (self-employed) profits vs wages share of the economy…
Well no, actually.
When freelance, I worked as a Limited Company, it being the only form acceptable to HMRC at the time (how times change!).
Hence my remuneration was paid as salary, just as it had been before. Only the company paying that salary changed: which also had advantages for continuity in pensions etc.
So no impact on ‘self employed profits’ as I was never self-employed in the HMRC terminology.
And ‘selfish’? When your employer has gone bust, you take what work you can get, and in the depths of the 80s recession, with ‘peace dividend’, all the bigger companies only wanted contractors, they would not risk being saddled with (yet more) employees, thanks to the 70’s legislation making redundancy almost impossible without insolvency.
So you do what you can, go with the flow: or you sink.
One does have these unexpected pockets of manufacturing – for years I’ve been driving past a big company and seen their lorries in the area, this morning I googled it. Thomas Swan. Their stuff was used in the statue of liberty restoration in 1985 (for your pub quizzes).
@Battery Chicken. SKF do indeed make a few types of roller bearings in an old factory in Luton. Other factories, of various vintages, make other types of bearings in dozens of countries all over the world which then get shipped around.
I understand that in the dim and distant past each factory was theoretically able to make any type of bearing. Things would have been more hands on and labour intensive in those days.
I seem to recall that the Germans had an issue with ballbearings after the Yanks bombed Schweinfurt in October 1943.
I think you mean investment fund managers, Commander Jameson. Not Wall Street hedge fund managers. The rationales are different. But since hedge fund managers, particularly Wall Street hedge fund managers, are the current incarnation of ultimate evil…
Luckily for them, the neutral Swedes were more than happy to support the German war effort while making out like bandits.
@ Commander Jameson
I don’t know about Hedge Fund Managers but when, a long lo-oo-ong time ago, I was a semi-specialist fund manager covering several market sectors including engineering we *did* expect RR to pay more than Ford for components because RR had higher spec.How much is it worth to reduce from 0.0001% to 0.0000001% the chance of a Ford Fiesta engine failure on a motorway? But how much is it worth to reduce the chance of a RR jet engine failure over the Atlantic or a city?
@Tim the Coder
Tongue in cheek there with the “selfish”, sorry if that’s not obvious. Poking a little fun at those who believe other people should organise their lives in a way that keeps the national statistics tidy and comparable.
All sounds very sensibly planned and hope it worked out well for you, though even if you’re not joining me in my quest it seems I’m not alone in using my freelance status to boggle the boffins as to how they should be counting things. Actually since the statistics use a different definition of self-employment to HMRC, perhaps you’ve managed to contribute your fair share of confusion too without realising it…
@jim – manufacturing is diversifying from China. Japan and Korea are ‘re-shoring’; US companies are moving some production to Vietnam. Firms will still use China because of the size of the labour market there, but more and more are looking for alternatives.
Tim The Coder,
“Years back, I worked as an employee for an electronics company. My output was therefore ‘industrial-manufacturing’.
After some years, I went freelance: doing the same stuff for much the same companies, but now this counted as ‘service sector’.
The 80s were a time of massive transfer of GDP from ‘manufacturing’ to ‘service sector’ and I always think back to the bit I saw: same work, added up differently.
Resulting statistics: nonsense.”
On top of that, there’s things where we replaced manual work with software or robots. Look at music. Really expensive music boxes were hand crafted and took hours of work to play a few tunes. Vinyl used less labour, but wasn’t that reliable, so lots of quality control. CDs were more automated and reliable. Digital streaming is almost entirely software. Does it matter that we replaced people making pianola rolls by hand with people maintaining Apple Music?
“Thats all very well, maybe the UK still makes the very expensive stuff, like jet engines and bits of Airbuses, that sort of thing. What about all the other stuff we use in everyday life? Thats all got made in China stamped on it, when it used to be made here. If Covid has taught us anything, it should be that its pretty stupid to assume that supplies of stuff that we need on a day to day basis will always be available from the other side of the globe. Vast parts of the UK economy would grind to a halt if supplies from China were cut off. Even Rolls Royce might have to stop production because some silly little spare parts or consumables were only sourced from China now. Thats not very strategically sensible, to be utterly reliant on a Communist Dictatorship.”
Go and actually learn about what companies do, rather than listening to the sort of pro-autarky lobbyists in the media.
Every company thinks about this problem, were doing so long before Covid. Not just for infectious disease, but earthquakes, strikes, bankruptcy, shipping problems, suppliers being arseholes. You try and use generic parts that everyone can supply, distribute your supply to multiple suppliers, select countries based on security, buy and store a lot of product, maybe.
The word miracle is perhaps a little strong, but the robustness of global supplies has been damned impressive during Covid. I know there’s been a few problems, but you’ve barely noticed them.
Thanks BoM4, saved me having to type much the same.
The big Covid problem was availability of PPE, but that was because worldwide demand was hugely in excess of worldwide production – it soon caught up (the simpler types of PPE being pretty easy for anyone to manufacture).
Any Purchasing Manager who can’t instantly answer the question “What do we do if supplier A has a fire, goes bust, whatever?” shouldn’t be in employment.
It would be interesting to know exactly what proportion of world bearing production is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, and what exactly would happen if they suddenly said ‘No more bearings for you!’
This scenario assumes the CCP can do such a thing without cost to China’s economy, which is something that strikes me as unrealistic. China is the largest exporter in the world, and there is no possible way that economy could withstand a significant reduction in exports… Chinese domestic demand couldn’t come close to offsetting such a reduction.
China exports roughly $500B to the USA annually, and imports $120B. Does anyone really think China sits in the catbird seat in its relationship with the USA with that sort of export/import ratio?
Dennis: I was thinking the same. However the CCP could exert pressure in specific cases without unduly affecting their economy. We’re getting threats in the UK over the decision to phase out Huawei & ZTE kit in telecomms, so that may eventually turn into some kind of economic retaliation. For myself, I hope that Chinese involvement in our Critical National Infrastructure is carefully controlled & mitigated, if not completely banned (that’s probably impossible practically). I would far prefer the French to build our new nuclear power stations until we get some home-grown expertise on new reactor designs (RR has something). I do see a lot of flying pigs though…
The problem with the debate always boils down to the simplistic interpretation that if you cant drop it on your foot it ain’t manufacturing.
Just to add to those blurry lines between manufacturing and services. The company that makes care parts is manufacturing and the company that pulls those parts together to produce the end car is also manufacturing and not only that they are deified by many politicians.
Applying that to my own industry, telecoms. The companies that make the various electronics, boxes for the electronics, cabinets, antennas, powers supplies etc are classed as manufacturing. But what about the telecoms operator who buys all those in and builds their own sites, is that manufacturing? In the car analogy they should be deified.
What about the engineers who plan where those site should go, what equipment should be on them, how it should be configured, how they should be connected, how handovers should be set up etc, are they manufacturing? When I was doing that stuff my time was capitalised. How about when I was doing exactly that same job, overseas but UK based, was I in a manufacturing company or service company?
Sorry, missed the tongue-in-cheek: a ‘:)’ would have flagged, and I like the joke.
Corrupting offical statistics is a public duty. If they give you lined paper: write the other way! 🙂
The whole freelance thing has long since been contaminated with tax fraud (e.g BBC ‘talent’) and Marxist IR35 restrictions, that the whole segment is dying. My current employer finds it easier to hire and fire outside of Europe than risk IR35/Employee confrontations with either the Tax-Smeller Pursuivant or the courts. Either way, the work is exported, another success of our useless Government. Indeed, jobs is one of our biggest export industries.
Now, must get back to the furnace in the Code Foundry, just need to forge a credential…
I think I can play this game.
I used to produce a lot of paper. That was manufacturing.
Now it’s all stuff on a screen that no one ever prints out. More like porn …
Dennis: I was thinking the same. However the CCP could exert pressure in specific cases without unduly affecting their economy.
That is a dangerous game to play, because the USA, for example, could easily respond in a manner that does affect the Chinese economy in a big way. Even if China attempts to play the game deftly (and deft is not a word I’d use to describe the CCP), that does not mean the other side has to respond deftly.
China’s economy lives and dies on exports. In the short term there is no ‘Plan B’ for them. That limits their leverage.
@Tim the Coder
I hoped the “embuggery” would make the tone clear but there’s indeed great communicative power in a couple of misused punctuation marks 😉
Oddly I’ve done a fair bit of freelance work the other way round, generating export revenue for the UK while mailing off contracts to Asia and Africa. In practice, regardless of the formal legal regime, I suspect my rights are the square root of diddly squat – I recall one contract where I acknowledged in the event of any dispute I would have to sue them in Beijing, fat chance of that. And goodness knows what Chinese equivalents of our labour laws, self-employment definition, tax and NI are. The whole thing is basically skipped over.
Re the official stats, I think the ONS is primarily interested in the economic substance and knows this doesn’t match the silly buggers that get played with the taxes etc.
Yes, also related to the enviropanic over how we need to stop economic growth now or else somehow we will run ouf of Stuff that we can Make Things With. Can’t have infinite growth on a finite world! Without really grasping it’s about value, and a particular configuration of Stuff may have greater value despite consisting of less Stuff (or indeed even because of it – wouldn’t want to drop an early 90s brick of a phone on your foot, compared to today’s).
When thinking about the industrial might of China it’s worth reflecting how much of the value chain they’re grabbing and which bits. In terms of the everyday stuff that Jim rightly points out they dominate in, how much does it matter that my pencil sharpener or phone case was Made In China? When it comes to telecoms kit, different considerations apply of course..
SKF Kugellagerfabrik in Schweinfurt
Wonky Moral Compass
a Swedish subsidiary, was hardly going to cease production until the cessation of hostilities.
Another point about those local lockdowns and banning multiple families getting together – just by coincidence those areas are predominately Muslim and its Eid Mubarak. Just saying.
Tim the Coder “My current employer finds it easier to hire and fire outside of Europe than risk IR35/Employee confrontations with either the Tax-Smeller Pursuivant or the courts.”
‘New’ IR35, which puts the PAYE risk on the contractor rather than sub-contractor is turning out to be the economic shambles predicted by everyone except the fuckwits who introduced it. Contractors are blanket defining everyone as inside IR35 because they are risk averse and lazy. Sub-contractors are going elsewhere.
Why would they stay? All the tax disadvantages of being an employee with none of the perks such as paid holidays and sick pay.
“This scenario assumes the CCP can do such a thing without cost to China’s economy, which is something that strikes me as unrealistic. China is the largest exporter in the world, and there is no possible way that economy could withstand a significant reduction in exports… Chinese domestic demand couldn’t come close to offsetting such a reduction.”
Who would collapse first if the Chinese pulled the plug on anything coming out of China, them or us? Western society runs on ‘just in time’. It doesn’t have any fat built in. It wouldn’t take long for shortages of crucial parts and materials to build up and for infrastructure to start falling apart. I saw it on the farm with covid. It was only a few months, but spares suddenly became hard to get. The part you need doesn’t have to be made in China, maybe the machine that makes it was, or the lorry delivering it has broken down and needs a part made in China.
Yes a cessation of trade would hurt the Chinese, but I reckon they would survive better than us. If food doesn’t hit the supermarket shelves every few days, the UK would descend into anarchy rapidly. We have gotten ourselves into a situation where the continued existence of our society is dependent on the kindness of strangers, which seems a pretty piss poor management to me.
“We have gotten ourselves into a situation where the continued existence of our society is dependent on the kindness of strangers, which seems a pretty piss poor management to me.”
Perhaps “self-interest” rather than “kindness”?
Remember – its not how big a slice of pie you get, its how much bigger your slice is than everyone else’s that’s important.
People chose this. What’s your solution? Round the country up with a wall and shoot anyone who tries to import anything? Then all you’ve done is import the dictatorship.
Mr Lud… Legal porn is my Megan thrill at the moment
By the way, it’s great to hear from Jussi again we need the bloke from Finland
With all this foolish yellow peril stuff going on at the moment I wouldn’t be surprise if China decided to implement a punishment embargo on one of the sabre rattlers. Not the USA, but maybe the UK. Like, “you want to keep slagging us off? Fine. Two can play at that game.” and suddenly we can’t get any bearings, capacitors or substandard LED lights that want to kill you.
What I find amusing in a Spockish eyebrow raised kind of way is that the argument is that we can’t trust Huawei so we should buy stuff from them. The conclusion being therefore that we are relying on trust for security. Which means nothing is secure. If you can’t independently audit the security of your IT, you haven’t got any. Just the hope that whoever you did buy it from “wouldn’t do that would they?”
Anyway, regarding the main argument, there is a reasonable case that making a much smaller proportion of a much larger economic sector is a cause for concern, even if it hasn’t shrunk in absolute terms. The same output from farming as in the 1600s would be quite a worry, for instance.
“Who would collapse first if the Chinese pulled the plug on anything coming out of China, them or us? Western society runs on ‘just in time’. It doesn’t have any fat built in. It wouldn’t take long for shortages of crucial parts and materials to build up and for infrastructure to start falling apart. I saw it on the farm with covid. It was only a few months, but spares suddenly became hard to get. The part you need doesn’t have to be made in China, maybe the machine that makes it was, or the lorry delivering it has broken down and needs a part made in China.”
Who says that western society runs on “just in time”? JIT is about mass manufacturing. When you’re making 1000 cars a day, holding stock is a big expense. It’s worth spending the money to employ people to manage the supplier relationships that trickle parts in so that you don’t hold stock, which saves money and storage.
And we have fewer and fewer of those companies. We don’t mass manufacture toys, phones, vacuum cleaners or TVs. It’s really more about niches, or a service/craft/manufacturing combo. If you’re only making 50 units per day of something that’s high value, it’s not worth having a team for JIT. It’s cheaper to just put a few weeks of stock in a warehouse.
“People chose this. What’s your solution? Round the country up with a wall and shoot anyone who tries to import anything? Then all you’ve done is import the dictatorship.”
Western governments have chosen this, the people didn’t get a say in the matter. Western States have spent the last 30 years making it harder and harder to do business in their countries, particularly of a manufacturing kind. The whole Green bollocks has driven vast amounts of economic activity overseas, to places that don’t give a stuff about CO2 emissions, or what gets dumped in the nearest river. Yet all those goods produced in such places have been allowed in the country with not a so much as a sideways glance. Why do you think we have an economy completely unbalanced with its obsession with buying and selling houses to each other at ever increasing prices? Because its impossible to make money at anything else. Why try and start a business that creates real wealth when all the State will do is try and close you down at every opportunity? Far better to scam people out of their lifes savings by selling them ‘private pensions’ and the like. Western economies are basically spiv economies, everyone trying to make killing at the expense of everyone else, because creating real wealth (making stuff) can only be done abroad.
Yes. Yellow peril indeed. I’ve even seen recently the whole “the Uighars are why we’re blocking Huawei” even though they’re not banning iPhones.
“What I find amusing in a Spockish eyebrow raised kind of way is that the argument is that we can’t trust Huawei so we should buy stuff from them. The conclusion being therefore that we are relying on trust for security. Which means nothing is secure. If you can’t independently audit the security of your IT, you haven’t got any. Just the hope that whoever you did buy it from “wouldn’t do that would they?””
Absolutely spot on. The politicians are fucking morons, quite frankly. Esther McVey is a former blonde autocue monkey, not an expert in telecoms security. I suspect most of them are hoping for a few extra jobs in their constituencies or a few bribes from manufacturers in the shape of non-jobs when they quit being MPs.
Who knows best about network security? Who is most interested in this? It’s the telcos. They don’t want customer information leaking out. I’m pretty sure they’re going to audit whatever is delivered.
On top of that, is this really relevant when everyone uses VPNs and HTTPS? The whole thing with those technologies is assuming that the various routers between you and your host are insecure, so you encrypt the traffic and no-one can read it. Yes, China could get your incriminating photos with a couple of cheerleaders by brute force calculating the private key, but really, it’s easier to just send two blokes with a knife after someone and threaten to kill them if they don’t put their finger on the back of their phone.
You chose to allow that to happen. You chose to buy the products made outside of the country.
But putting that aside – you’re complaining about governments forcing this on people but then what? Have the same governments forcing something different on people? Its still coercion.
Exactly the same comment I make when people go on about “oh, Sheffield doesn’t make any steel any more”. Sheffield makes more steel than it has ever done, it’s just that now it takes one man and a dog. The man is there to watch the controls, the dog is to bite him if he tries to interfere.
Making “stuff” isn’t the only way to create wealth… there’s more than one way to add value, and they don’t all involve things that hurt when you drop them on your foot.
Ever heard of the physiocrats, early school of French economists? They reckoned that agriculture was the only source of true wealth, and all this namby-pamby town-dwelling crafts and manufactures lark was just worthless make-work for people who could no longer contribute in the only place that really mattered – the fields.
If they’d had someone open their minds so far as to accept that actually manufacturing is as valid as agriculture, but it’s those namby-pamby town-dwelling services workers who were doing nothing of value, they would still be wrong.
Mind you, if you’re a country that specialises in the culture and entertainment industry, pharmaceutical research, financial services and IT, and doesn’t do anything else whatsoever, you could probably do without getting yourself bogged down into any big wars or having your transport routes shut down by some natural or man-made disaster. It wouldn’t be the most resilient of places, and that has value too. Overall though Britain’s a surprisingly complex economy that does a little bit of almost everything. Have a look at this interactive diagram of UK exports (not sure if the link preserves all the settings, you may need to switch Imports to Exports) then change “UK” to Norway / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand / Russia / Slovakia (big car exporter) to see what a less diversified economy looks like – it’s really quite dramatic. Also quite fun are Iceland, Greenland, Mongolia, Madagascar, Mauritius and Nigeria … they’re all pretty guessable if you know something about the place.
(Somewhere in the back of my mind I think there’s a site with a similar visualisation but where the categories get broken down further, e.g. “Metals” is split up into the different metals that are produced, but I can’t seem to find it. If anyone knows/remembers it, that would be great.)
Does Sheffield produce more tonnes of steel than ever? Could believe it producing more £ worth of steel, since it’s specialising in particular high-value niches.
https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicoutputandproductivity/output/articles/updatedthebritishsteelindustrysincethe1970s/2016-01-18 is a few years out of date and is for all the UK, not just Sheffield, but the quantity produced nationally has definitely been trending down, albeit not as dramatically as the employment levels (like you say, far more automated now).
What I know about manufacturing ball bearings you could write on the side of Guy Gibson’s dog and still have room for the Magna Carta.
However I notice that well within my lifetime almost all Chinese made a very poor living wallowing around in pig sh!t following in the wake of a water buffalo. Now they are a major producer of steel – and, as some have said, ball bearings.
So if the Chinese chose to cut off of the West’s supply of ball bearings or rare earths or pagolin dumplings or whatever, it would not take long for a new industry to spring up somewhere – maybe Vietnam or Indonesia or even Sheffield – so supply us. After all the Chinese did it in two shakes of a lamb’s whatsit and so obviously it can be done. Maybe not in the length of time it takes to win a World War but by most standards, really a blink of an eye.
Thank you the fuck for America. I’m sure if I was a resident, and lived somewhere in the USA I couldn’t legally rent my body out, or gamble, or take drugs, or hire someone based on merit then my view might be different. But I’m not, and have never been there but the fact that the Union States of America exists, and fracks, and does GM, and hires Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding to build aircraft carriers with actual planes and sells amazing communications software stuff that makes Eurocrats think digital sales taxes are possible, and all that being out there restrains the governments here from disappearing up their own eco-friendly sphincters.
Fuck yeah. America. Still the greatest ever.
@Jim July 31, 2020 at 9:56 am
Bearings: SKF, Schaeffler and more would strongly disagree
Indeed though they’re heavily reliant on the Chinese market and have factories there.
@TMB. I was referring to the parent company, Svenska Kullager Fabriken, in the port city of Gothenburg.
There is, literally, no place in America where you can do all those things. I don’t think there’s any place here where more than two of those things are legal at the same time.
“Perhaps “self-interest” rather than “kindness”?”
Mr Shithole’s self-interest is in controlling the entire world. A bit of transient domestic economic pain would be a very small price to pay for that. Come on, this is a regime that thinks nothing of starving tens of millions of its own people to death in the name of getting what it wants.
Known, in the industry, as “rubber hose cryptanalysis”. There is, as usual, a relevant xkcd:
Which is why the tories are never getting my vote ever again, even before they inflicted coronapanic on us.
I’ll probably just vote for whichever party Nigel or Tommy is endorsing.
@ Bloke in Wales
IR35 was introduced by – no prizes for guessing – Gordon Brown as an anti-avoidance measure with the impact on the genuinely self-employed viewed either as “collateral damage” or as a welcome side-effect (the self-employed are naturally opposed to rule by the TUC).
John, that is true. But it was limited to the public sector until this year, when it would have applied to everyone in the private sector too (except it has been delayed for 12 months, one of the few good things to have come from the panic.)
“Mind you, if you’re a country that specialises in the culture and entertainment industry, pharmaceutical research, financial services and IT, and doesn’t do anything else whatsoever, you could probably do without getting yourself bogged down into any big wars or having your transport routes shut down by some natural or man-made disaster. It wouldn’t be the most resilient of places, and that has value too. ”
Exactly. Being wonderful at making F1 cars or coding computer games might be creating ‘wealth’ of a sort, but F1 and Call of Duty are not essentials for life. When the shit hits the fan we don’t need them. Nor do we need all the hospitality trade, as covid has shown. We need food, energy, water, transport and the like, and the infrastructure to make and sustain those things. The UK doesn’t have that. Its can’t sustain the basics of society from within its own resources, and as such its fucked if the people who do control those resources say ‘Bugger off’ suddenly.
I doubt that there are more than a handful of countries in the world that can sustain themselves entirely from their own resources. But (as has been pointed out several times) it’s diversity of supply that matters. If the EU suddenly decided they won’t sell us any more cheese, other cheese suppliers would be very happy to step into the breach. If everyone in the world suddenly stopped selling us stuff, we would indeed be in for a very rough time – but that’s an unlikely contingency.
“But (as has been pointed out several times) it’s diversity of supply that matters. If the EU suddenly decided they won’t sell us any more cheese, other cheese suppliers would be very happy to step into the breach.”
There isn’t much diversity of supply though is there? More and more world trade is split up into blocs, if the bloc (or the big player in the bloc) decides that you are persona non grata then no country from that bloc will dare supply you.
And of course we are talking about more strategically important things than cheese. If something like bearings is in short supply globally finding a new supplier is going to be difficult, everyone is going to be looking for the same. You can’t even trust your so called allies, as we found out with Macron and the PPE supplies he stole as they passed through France to the UK. You can agree whatever contract you like with Bearings Inc of Uzbekistan, if the lorries delivering the goods get impounded on the way to the UK there’s bugger all you can do about it. Might it not be sensible to have at least one bearing manufacturer in the UK that you can rely on, and a steel industry that can supply the required steel?
I don’t think ‘bearings’ are a monolithic thing. I doubt the same factory that produces bearings for ships propellers also turns out the ones for (say) electric shavers. So you’d have to identify which bearings you consider critical to national survival and then set up enough factories to satisfy demand.
There are people in (or paid by) government who are gaming these things – whether you should trust them to do a good job is another question.
@Jim August 1, 2020 at 4:22 pm
As has been pointed out, there are many bearing manufacturers in UK. Mostly high tech steel, alloy and plastic bearings. Many will quickly make one off bearings to your spec too
They can make mass market bearings and would if RoW cut us off