“Government favoritism in the form of subsidies, tariffs, and other interventions allocates resources (labor and capital) differently than the way resources are allocated by consumers spending their own money. Ordinarily, businesses—spending their investors’ money—compete for these consumer dollars. Industrial policy rests on the assumption that such market outcomes don’t adequately support higher causes such as national security. If that’s true, it’s all the justification industrial policy needs. Nothing needs to be said about jobs.”
“As Noah Smith reminded his readers in a recent blog post, “Most of the actual production work will be done by robots, because we are a rich country with very high labor costs and lots of abundant capital and technology. Automated manufacturing is what we specialize in, not labor-intensive manufacturing.””
“Be wary of those who push industrial policy as a means of job creation. It’s a short-sighted approach that distracts us from the more important question, which is whether hindering the market allocation of resources is truly justified for national security or other valid reasons.”
“At its heart, industrial policy strives to solve a “classic Keynesian political problem,” says economic historian Yakov Feygin, director of the Berggruen Institute’s Future of Capitalism program: The only way to grow the economy is ultimately through productivity-enhancing investment — but there are enormous upfront costs to building new plants or buying new equipment, especially at the technological bleeding edge, while returns are years in the future if they ever come at all.
If only capitalists get to decide when to invest, they may — rightfully — decide that the unpredictability of future demand and credit conditions make it difficult to justify expanding capacity in crucial sectors even in the face of soaring prices. They fear the “bullwhip effect,” where investors may put up cash for new plants or equipment to respond to higher prices, only for those prices to fall before new production can actually come online.”
“The government, for better or worse, has the unique ability to stabilize the investment cycle and goad risk-averse private capital into making desperately needed, but enormously costly, long-term investments.”
“Biden’s economic team is betting on something Hamilton knew: Long-term investment in the real economy is essential, but private investors might not provide it. That’s where government can — and should — step in.”
“Biden’s industrial policy is, not surprisingly, far more expansive than Trump’s. And unlike the Foxconn facility, which was subsidized by the state of Wisconsin, it has been bolstered by major legislation from Congress. Biden’s industrial policy rests primarily on three pieces of legislation: the bipartisan infrastructure law signed in 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act signed last year. Together, this trio of bills provided hundreds of billions in subsidies, tax breaks, and inducements for domestic manufacturing, with a particular emphasis on semiconductor production and clean energy and transportation.
But these subsidies are already being used as vehicles to pursue unrelated goals: The Commerce Department, for example, recently announced that companies receiving subsidies from the CHIPS Act would have to provide child care for their workers.
In addition, the rules say beneficiaries should try to use union labor and pay union wages to construction workers. Biden, of course, is a self-described “union man,” but these provisions will inevitably drive up costs and make it more difficult to find suitable workers, since, as Cato Institute scholar Scott Lincicome has noted, only about 12 percent of U.S. construction workers are unionized.
Similarly, Biden’s infrastructure plans have been stymied by a requirement to “buy American,” since many of the products needed to build domestic infrastructure are no longer made in the United States.
Domestic production requirements have proven more than a headache for builders. When a Michigan baby formula plant stopped production last year following a bacterial infection, Americans struggled to find a replacement because federal rules make it nearly impossible to import baby formula from Europe. At best, “buy American” requirements raise costs. At worst, they put American lives at risk by making vital goods more difficult to procure in emergencies.”
“As a bevy of experts from the Cato Institute point out in the recent book Empowering the New American Worker, policy makers should pursue policies that make employment more flexible—like remote work and gig employment, rather than make it more rigidly defined. And they should recognize that factory jobs are not the best or only path for non-college graduates: Retail managers increasingly command six-figure salaries. Occupational licensing laws that require dozens or hundreds of hours of training before certification to work in a profession have mostly served as barriers to entry for aspiring professionals. Eliminating state licensing boards and licensing types can go a long way to making the work force more accessible. Ending the Jones Act, meanwhile, would not only lower prices for American households: It would also mean the end of regulation-driven shipping emergencies like the one in Puerto Rico.”
The U.S. Defense Industrial Base Is Not Prepared for a Possible Conflict with China Seth G. Jones. CSIS. https://features.csis.org/preparing-the-US-industrial-base-to-deter-conflict-with-China/ Affordable Mass: The Need for a Cost-Effective PGM Mix for Great Power Conflict Mark A. Aunzinger. 2021 11. Mitchell Institute. https://mitchellaerospacepower.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Affordable_Mass_Policy_Paper_31-FINAL.pdf Ukraine War
“NEPA itself isn’t really the main problem, former regulators say.
While the NEPA process gets the blame for hold-ups, it’s merely a tracking process for all agency and permitting decisions along the timeline of a project, said Ted Boling, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie who represents the companies building Cardinal-Hickory Creek.
Delays are more often a result of agency capacity and inadequate information provided by project sponsors, he said. He noted that Congress used the Inflation Reduction Act to provide $1 billion for beefing up agencies’ permitting staff, but that effort has not yet been realized.
“Everyone’s looking for their bright idea on how to make it all taste better and be less filling,” said Boling, who was a permitting official at the Interior Department and CEQ during both Republican and Democratic administrations. “Everybody is in relentless pursuit of improvements to the point where we’re tripping over ourselves.”
In addition, the vast majority of energy projects nationwide fall outside NEPA, so the changes Republicans are seeking would not affect them.”
“The Biden administration’s rush to engage in more centrally planned industrial policy, particularly when it comes to the production of semiconductor chips and other high-tech manufacturing, has always been framed as an attempt to counter China.”
“To defeat China, the argument goes, the U.S. must adopt the tactics of the Chinese Communist Party, at least when it comes to high-end manufacturing.
How’s that going on the far side of the Pacific? Not so great, actually.
“China is pausing massive investments aimed at building a chip industry to compete with the U.S.,” Bloomberg reported last week. “Top officials are discussing ways to move away from costly subsidies that have so far borne little fruit and encouraged both graft and American sanctions, people familiar with the matter said.””
“China might be relatively new to this game, but industrial policy has a long, mostly ugly history in other parts of the world—including right here in the U.S.—and there’s little reason to think that this time will be different.
China’s shift away from industrial policy seems to be driven, according to Bloomberg, by the strain that COVID-19 has put on the country’s economy and fiscal policies rather than by any sudden rediscovery of the benefits of free markets. Even so, there’s a certain irony to the Chinese government changing course just months after U.S. policy makers decided that we had to copy China in order to compete with it.”
“The Bloomberg report says Xi is becoming frustrated about how tens of billions of dollars dumped into the semiconductor industry in recent years haven’t produced major breakthroughs that allow the country’s domestic chipmakers, like the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, to compete with the world’s top producers.
America’s foray into high-tech industrial policy seems to be on the same trajectory. The New York Times, for example, reported last week that “new chip factories would take years to build and might not be able to offer the industry’s most advanced manufacturing technology when they begin operations.” Meanwhile, everything from federal permitting requirements to America’s broken immigration system is creating huge hurdles for the semiconductor manufacturers that are planning to expand their capacity in the United States.”
“When it was passed, the law provided subsidies for the construction of a domestic shipping industry, while imposing various employment rules and other shipping regulations. It has been amended in the century since, but it continues to prohibit foreign-flagged ships from traveling between U.S. ports, and many of its wage and labor regulations are still in effect, making it beloved, almost obsessively, by unions.
In at least one way, the Jones Act has served at least part of its intended purpose: It has benefited the domestic shipping industry by shielding it from foreign competition. But it has done so at considerable expense to everyone else.
By restricting and regulating shipping at America’s ports, the Jones Act considerably raises the costs of transporting goods, which in turn raises prices on everything from food to electronics to textiles. In good economic times, the Jones Act is a cost borne by the majority to bolster the fortunes of a few. In periods of global economic instability and high inflation, the Jones Act makes supply chain problems worse and drives prices even higher. On a daily basis, it is a force for impoverishment. ”
“Just about any time one finds a politician taking credit for specific business decisions by specific companies, one ought to be skeptical, worried, or both. In this case, the proximate cause of much of Biden’s factory-jobs campaigning is the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, a $52 billion package of industry subsidies Biden signed into law in August. Manufacturers who stand to benefit from these subsidies have played along, with Micron’s leadership saying that its facility is “the first of Micron’s multiple planned U.S. investments following the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act.” Micron, however, was publicly teasing the possibility of new manufacturing facilities as early as October 2021, long before the CHIPS Act became law.”
“Just as the Jones Act ends up distorting the shipping industry, shaping it in ways that make it less flexible and less responsive to genuine consumer demand, we should expect the CHIPS Act to push the semiconductor industry into labor and production decisions intended to satisfy politically determined subsidy requirements rather than genuine market needs. Subsidies are more likely to incentivize inefficiency and dysfunction than genuinely useful production, inflating prices in the process. When subsidies are driving decisions, that means subsidy programs, not end users, are the true customer. “
“It really looks that we had as much technological change and progress between 1870 and today as we had between 6000 BC and 1870 AD. We packed what had previously been nearly eight millennia of changes in the underlying technological hardware of society, which required changes in the running sociological code on top of that hardware. To try to pack what had been eight millennia worth of changes before in 150 years is going to produce an awful lot of history.
Before 1870, most of history is how elites run their force-and-fraud, domination-and-extraction mechanism against a poor peasantry so that they, at least, can have enough, and so that their children are only two inches shorter than we are, rather than five or six as the peasants are. It’s about how the elites elbow each other out of the way as they eat from the trough. And it’s about the use they make of their wealth for purposes good and ill, of civilization and destruction.
But if you’re enough of a Marxist, like me, to say that the real motor of history is the forces of production, their changes, and how society reacts for good or ill to changing forces of production, then yes, [1870 to 2010] has to be as consequential because there’s as much technological change-driven history as there is in entire millennia before.”
“you look worldwide and you take my index of technological progress, and it [grows by] less than half a percent per year from 1770 to 1870. That’s based on exploitation of really cheap coal and also on the productivity benefits of falling transport costs that gather all of the manufacturing in the world into the place [the United Kingdom] where it’s most productive and most efficient, because it’s the place where coal is cheapest.
I was struck by a line I came across from the 1871 version of John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy: “Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toll of any human being.”
Say you have some slowdown in global technological progress after 1870 because the cheapest coal has already been mined and the deeper coal is hard to find, and say that you have some other slowdown because you don’t get the boost from gathering manufacturing in places where it’s productive. We might well have wound up right with a steampunk world after 1870: a world with about the population of today, but the living standards of 1870 on average.
That’s what the pace of progress was, except that we got the industrial research lab, the modern corporation, and then full globalization around 1870. The industrial research lab rationalized and routinized the discovery and development of technologies; the corporation rationalized and routinized the development and deployment of technologies; and globalization diffused them everywhere.”