The situation is that we don't have a major jobs and economy paradigm easily understood like the past move from i) agriculture to ii) manufacturing to iii) service/finance. Some may think that technology has always been driving in the past few decades but I believe a difference needs to be understood so that progressing forward is possible. For example, government funding and support of science has declined in the past 8 to 12 years.
First, let's define some technology areas to frame our thesis:
• Electronics, which includes broad based usage as well as miniature hardware products
• Energy production and transmission
• Manufacturing processes (excluding energy)
• Medical applications
• Financial management
Second, we should recognize that in the USA; a) low labor cost has always been a big factor in siting plants; b) plants -- new and expanded -- relocate because they need more space; c) plants gravitate to low taxing areas; d) plants are located where the environmental needs are lowest. Our major corporations and plant design books know these criteria quite well. They were first applied in the USA by moves to the West, then to the South and now Overseas.
We need to address the above list now to find ways to minimize the overseas driving forces with new technologies not even dreamed of but also with innovative laws and regulation.
One aspect is the technology consensus, that currently and recently - "the USA has been driven by electronic advances re: devices and computers-". However, at the moment, much new technology moves just as fast to places outside the country and very few new jobs or businesses are created that will grow within the USA. The reason is that a new inventor can hire an accountant and an attorney and outsource everything else, i.e. become a virtual company. This consensus covers the aspects of miniature products like I-phones, cell phones, PC's, etc. and is the same for large or small companies.
Another aspect involves process technology like electrochemistry, batteries, existing plant modernizations, etc. But this aspect especially needs help from (you guessed it), the government.
A third aspect lies within "Infrastructure". It is not just the correction of old roads, bridges and buildings, it is the need to change these and improve them with the latest and newest technology. To be first with a powerful infrastructure as in the past is no longer sufficient to carry the USA; we must be the best.
The solution lies within two words that are often considered a dreaded approach, i.e. an "Industrial Policy" for the USA. An Industrial Policy does not necessarily make the USA a Socialistic or a Communist country. It can just mean that we should do formally some of the things we did by evolution in a "step by step" methodology for many years. Just because the Soviet Union didn't do 5-year planning to a successful long-term conclusion does not mean that American ingenuity will be as careless. Do you recall anti-trust legislation, regulated banking, helpful environmental laws, import duties, tax regulations? It's all a matter of degree, not kind.
So how does the USA get started with an "Industrial Policy"?
1. Advertise the idea and just say we will do it by establishing study groups within our existing framework and structures such as Chambers of Commerce, International Corporations, Business bureaus, groups like Common Cause, various Think Tanks.
2. Wake up Congress by letters, calls, and e-mails until they get the numerous Committees involved.
3. Get the remaining Unions in the USA involved.
4. Get immigrant groups involved.
5. Pay all U.S. citizens for patents that make it through the U.S. Patent Office.
My expectations are:
• We will need import tariffs to establish a level playing field
• We will need a change in some of our patent laws
• We will need to tax overseas profits more
• We will need to give tax breaks to USA manufacturing businesses
• We will get a loud yelling and screaming from certain international corporations who now make their money overseas and their ideological backers
• We will get opposition from both liberals and conservatives and neither will make sense.
In the end, we need to create a level playing field in the USA for business and jobs. I remind you that we did not have a level playing field in the first 150 to 200 American years; we had a field that was greatly to our advantage over the rest of the world because of resources and geography, newness and freedom. We have less of the initial factors but we still have freedom, the main driving force to progress.
As experienced and accomplished professionals, we must speak out for technology enhancement by our government so we can define and move on to a unique 21st century paradigm.