Monday, February 04, 2008

Forget about modernizing, let’s restore this old girl to original specs and charge admission

Hidden among the usual knee-jerk denials and standard-issue grumbling about leftist anti-military bias, I found this amazingly honest and descriptive response in a Free Republic thread on Chalmers Johnson’s op/ed piece, “Why the US Has Really Gone Broke,” which argues among other things that “in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources),… we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.”
Where I am, here in the great plains area, do you know what a typical LARGE, still functioning, machine shop looks like?

It’s a 100+ year old building filled with 60 year old machinery. An occasional modern CNC machine here and there. And the whole work crew is 50 year old tall lean blue eyed males with bad teeth and big old busted up knuckles and missing fingers. Many of them speak with slight european accents.

I’m not kidding. It’s like walking into a museum. It’s really scary. What’s going to become of these last remnants of manufacturing when these old guys kick the bucket?

I recently went into one of these old machine shops to offer my recommendations for improving their steam heat system. I was amazed that up until just 4 years ago they had been using the ORIGINAL boiler...a 100 year old coal fired unit constructed of brick and mortar and riveted iron plate!

I was tempted to say “forget about modernizing, lets restore this old girl to original specs and charge admission, then commission Ansel Adams to come in and do a series of black and white photos for a calendar!”

This is manufacturing in America.

It reminded me of the pictures I saw of the old Bethlehem Steel plant right after it shut down. That place was ancient! And when I say ancient, I mean nearly medieval...carbide-lamp-ancient...and blacksmith-hammered-strap-hinges-ancient.
Makes me think of this line from Other People’s Money: And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw.

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