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America’s Industrial Gold Rush is Over

I recently read and reviewed Tim Carney’s excellent book Alienated America [1], a sort of combination of the “how we got Trump” genre with the sociological works of researchers like Robert Putnam and Charles Murray. Carney’s exploration of the Trump phenomenon, and his grappling with the timeless question of economic security versus personal responsibility in regard to the formation of virtue, family, and community, are among the best you’ll find. There is a deeper subtext in his book, however, that is not excavated. But first, a quick recap.

As in most treatments of inequality, geographic immobility, deindustrialization, and related issues, Alienated America features the requisite visits to faded old towns with ghostly main streets, and paeans to the blue-collar jobs that once allowed men with high school educations to comfortably own homes, raise families, and retire with pensions.

Through a long analysis, including a fascinating visit to a fracking camp in North Dakota—awash in money but utterly lacking in neighborliness and community—Carney concludes that wealth alone does not produce human flourishing. It is rather community and what social researchers call “civil society” that makes the American Dream possible. Obviously, money helps, but it is not sufficient, nor, in Carney’s telling, even necessary. For much of America, especially less affluent places, the primary institution of community and civil society is the church. While acknowledging that there is a chicken-and-egg problem here, and a problem of reinforcing cycles and virtuous circles, Carney nonetheless deems an economic, or “materialist,” explanation of American civic and family decline insufficient. The revival of the American Dream requires the re-churching of America.

This may well be largely true for places that are struggling; struggling to keep family and community intact in the face of deteriorating economic opportunity and the withering of old community institutions and social norms. But here’s the rub: some of the places Carney visits and alludes to are not exactly “struggling.” This is euphemism; these places are destroyed, ruined, vast swaths of their built environments far beyond the hope of revitalization.

The surfeit of Detroit “ruin porn” [2] and the counterexamples of hipster homesteaders [3] and craft businesses [4] have recently been steering the Rust Belt narrative from one of terminal decline to one of scrappy, unlikely renewal. But the growth of a few Detroit or Youngstown neighborhoods, or the eds-and-meds reinvention of a few towns or inner-ring suburbs, is more like the growing of moss on a dead log than the sprouting of a new shoot. It does not presage comprehensive renewal, and it is not likely to bring the old community back, much less the old way of life.

Carney’s juxtaposition of old industrial towns, once overflowing with family and community life, to fracking camps is fascinating for a different reason than the one he gives: one can argue that many of these places where the American Dream is dead are, essentially, fracking camps writ large. The fact that they once possessed vibrant civil society—ethnic and social clubs, Little Leagues, union halls, tightly-knit public schools—is deceiving. In reality, they were often glorified company towns, with funding or tax revenue from the dominant employer flowing to and propping up these institutions of civil society. In some cases, even housing was built, cheaply, by employers. Gary, Indiana, famous once for steel and now for spectacular urban decline, was in fact founded by a steel company. [5]

While to the passing eye, Gary or Carney’s example of Fayette City, Pennsylvania (in his words, it’s “not a city; It’s barely even a town. It’s a former town”) look like cities, they may be closer to simulacra of cities—unlike New York City or Old Town Alexandria, for example, they never managed to transcend the economic conditions that gave rise to them. Indeed, large numbers of human settlements never do, and never have [9]. A one-dimensional, economically undiversified city is essentially a housing tract for a factory or a wharf or whatever industry drives its economy. What is left when that economic engine breaks down? A company town without a company. This is the fate that has befallen many of America’s declining places, and it is hard to argue that this economic reality doesn’t play a direct role in the decline of the family and of civil society. Is this a “materialist” explanation? Perhaps. But it may also be true.

There are those who admirably hope and work for revival, for restoration [10] in places like Gary, Detroit, or any number of gutted small towns. But many of the buildings in these ghostly, empty blocks, even with their mighty and almost pleasantly timeworn facades, are far beyond the point where renovation is economical. For now, poverty is a sort of preservative. More money, for many hollowed-out cities, would simply mean more demolition.

To urbanist and declinist James Howard Kunstler, it may simply be the case that the national gold rush of petroleum-fueled industrial growth is over [11]. If this is the case, the crisis of declining America is a structural, inexorable economic reality on the order of the Industrial Revolution itself.

It is true that countless dying cities and towns across America were and are “home”—and there is “a non-material aspect to home…that a purely materialist worldview can’t adequately express.” [12] But Gary or Fayette City would never have been home had there not been a purely material reason for their existence. Perhaps cities—like people, like organisms—can die, and should be allowed to. Perhaps, counterintuitively, allowing them to die will also allow us to feel sadness and loss and humility, to acknowledge that technocratic tinkering is not a cure-all for the afflictions of being human in a broken world.

Urban blight along Broadway, Gary’s main commercial boulevard.

It would take a monster not to feel empathy or even vicarious loss surveying the ruins. It is almost necessary to remind oneself that Google Maps’ Street View is not an open-world apocalyptic video game. Perusing Gary’s blighted Broadway, you will find many buildings sporting glass blocks and lightbulb-lined marquees, which must once have given the strip quite a modern and glamorous feel. Occasionally, in neighborhoods like this, one happens upon a stray building that is still clearly inhabited and maintained, surrounded by desolation. Within living memory, these were new, sparkling places, with a beguiling appearance of permanence. No doubt there are people who intended to comfortably retire here, and other people who intended to sell and move and are now underwater.

Can the American Dream be resurrected in such an environment, in a settlement that is essentially a housing tract with no attendant need for workers? Money alone may not translate into community, but we also may have a need for at least a base level of economic and psychological security. Or at least hope for such security. Perhaps the difference between the hardship of the pre-industrial era, and the decaying remnants of the industrial era, is hope. No amount of municipal reform or insightful urban policy or federal funding or urban farming or homesteading is going to turn back the clock on all of America’s gutted main streets, vanishing rural communities [13], or Rust Belt company towns. And most people know it.

This is not a reality anyone should like—or even accept without struggle. It is particularly difficult for a person of faith to believe that faith, community, and other genuine human goods can be mere epiphenomena of passing economic conditions. Yet that may simply be the case. After all, the Gospel makes no promises of worldly affluence, and “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” is not a Bible verse.

The unwinding of rural and post-industrial America is a human tragedy, not to be written off, much less tacitly celebrated. Yet the facts of the post-industrial landscape may not care about remaining working-class feelings. This does not mean that any of these places “deserve to die [14].” But it may well mean that their collapse is beyond the ability of policy—or church—to alter.

Addison Del Mastro is assistant editor of The American Conservative. He tweets at @ad_mastro [15].

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "America’s Industrial Gold Rush is Over"

#1 Comment By Whine Merchant On May 9, 2019 @ 5:06 pm

There was a movement in the US a few generations back – we called it “Urban Renewal”. But Reagan’s minions re-branded it as a hand-out squandered on the “wrong people”, who did not move to [nor were welcome in] the suburbs. So that died along with so many programs that could have been the stitch in time.

I was never a fan of St Ronnie, but only now are we beginning to see how destructive his selfish “never too rich, never too thin, damn the others” policies really were.

Thank you –

#2 Comment By polistra On May 9, 2019 @ 5:25 pm

Well, “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” is not verbatim in the Bible, but it’s a lot closer to Natural Law than Bezos.

Natural Law, especially Sharia, is EXPLICIT about the duty of the rich to EMPLOY the poor. The purpose of wealth is to create more REAL wealth through farms and factories and workshops. Everyone and everything is meant to be USEFUL and USED. A place for everyone and everyone in his place.

The Bezos version is “All chickens in MY pot and all cars in MY garage. If you aren’t ME, you’re a soyboy loser in Mommy’s basement and you need to die.”

This is also the version used by all modern US politicians of “both” “parties”.

#3 Comment By Fazal Majid On May 9, 2019 @ 5:26 pm

The Victorian explorer Richard Burton had a theory that because land is plentiful in Asia, it is cheaper to build anew than to maintain or repair, and that what goes for private buildings also applies to entire cities. Certainly, great former capitals like Susa or Ctesiphon were simply abandoned in a way unthinkable in the denser confines of Europe.

All of this applies to the US as well.

#4 Comment By hooly On May 9, 2019 @ 6:27 pm

A sober minded and brilliant article.

Americans are the descendants of people who crossed oceans and continents for a better life, why are Americans who live in this dying towns so different? I just don’t get it. They remind me ironically of Native Americans and their fetish for the ‘ancestral lands’ and their stubborn refusal to see the truth of Progress.

#5 Comment By Daniel P. Donnelly On May 9, 2019 @ 6:43 pm

I understand how post-industrial cities like Gary, IN unwind but how exactly does rural America unwind?

Rural America was there before the industrial revolution and is there now and will still be there in the decades to come (unless urbanization spreads across the country).

Small farms may cease to be viable but someone will own the land even if it isn’t farmed.

#6 Comment By Tim On May 9, 2019 @ 6:56 pm

Interesting and probably spot on. It doesn’t take a degree in economics or history to understand how prosperity came and went; a passing knowledge of the 20th century will suffice. Dating back to the ’20s we experienced a classic example of the boom/bust cycle, with the bust of the 30s lasting basically the entire decade. The good times returned with the onset of WWII and continued afterward because we, of all the major combatant nations, actually experienced minimal economic, social, and cultural disruption. The devastation elsewhere was sufficient to provide us a head-start worth a couple decades of strong growth. It wound down around the beginning of the 70s, coincident with the end of the Vietnam War. We retained some strong advantages, though, and they were sufficient to provide more growth – on paper at least – even as today’s yawning income-distribution gap began to open up. The the Cold War ended and the days of free-trade saving the world (aka ‘Globalism’) commenced. It seemed great for awhile but now we’re left holding an empty bag and the rest of the world has sidelined our old industrial workforce through off-shoring for the sake of cheaper labor. Nope, there’s no turning back.

#7 Comment By JasonClark On May 9, 2019 @ 7:57 pm

Best and most well written article I’ve ever read on this site. And there are often very good articles.

#8 Comment By LarsX On May 9, 2019 @ 9:30 pm

“Yet the facts of the post-industrial landscape may not care about remaining working-class feelings.”

Well, somebody sure as hell better care about working-class feelings or Trump will only be act one.

#9 Comment By JonF On May 10, 2019 @ 6:20 am

Re: The revival of the American Dream requires the re-churching of America.

Maybe, but it also requires jobs paying a living wage that offer a reasonable degree of long-term security (It’s the latter is lacking in short-lived fracking boom towns)

#10 Comment By Jhawk On May 10, 2019 @ 7:33 am

Well said. But the counterpoint can be found in the often vibrant communities created by immigrants – legal and illegal – across America, even in some of the declining cities the author cites. Why? I don’t know. Maybe being a ‘stranger in a strange land’ encourages people to join together. Maybe those willing to uproot their lives to find a better life have an affinity for like-minded others. If so, maybe a lot of the rust belt Americans the author describes need to think of themselves as immigrants from the old place to where the jobs are.

#11 Comment By Dan Green On May 10, 2019 @ 8:18 am

Am from the labeled small silent generation born of the Greatest generation. Born in Chicago pre WW 2 then raised in a small town 55 miles NW of the city. Both major employers were then prominent makers of brand name , not too far away was a major Motorola facility. Motorola still exist but the other two are out of business. Point being US corporations don’t last all that long, and when they go down many towns they leave have no chance for recovery. Fast forward to our zeal for globalization and renting Asian labor with no benefit cost along with legally incorporation off shore. Next look at the growth and immigration to Austin Texas compared to what Gary In. has to offer young people. As we know the midwest has been hollowed out save corporate farming for still required commodities. Point being church activity or the VFW, etc. have no chance against this evolution we knowingly chose.The best smaller communities today are populated with retirees for a decent economy. They come from all over the country, usually fleeing high taxes.

#12 Comment By Cererean On May 10, 2019 @ 8:36 am

Is it possible for a city to “fail gracefully”? Rather than going from a city of 100,000 to a city of 50,000 spread out through an urban wasteland, can a city abandon outlying areas and return them to rurality, concentrating its population in a way that ensures they can still afford to provide the services they’ve grown accustomed to? By “city” I’m not talking about the government, either, but the city as a whole.

#13 Comment By Bob Hoffman On May 10, 2019 @ 9:22 am

This is perhaps one of the most ignorant articles I have read on this subject.

The author looks down his nose at the industrial heartland and lets his prejudice blind him to the obvious – IF he managed to get out of DC for a while.

The area I live in, Western Michigan, was once devastated by national policies that we had no say in whatsoever unless you count mountebanks like Guy VanderJagt or Pete Hoekstra.

But we have managed to transcend the blight caused by no fault of our own and now the entire area of Grand Rapids, Holland, Spring Lake, Grand Haven, and yes, even Muskegon are now virtually gold fields bursting with opportunities.

Nearly every single business in this town cannot find enough workers. Houses are on the market for less than 72 hours in most cases.

The new industries that have risen are doing very well. Our tourism and hospitality is growing every single day. We also have a coterie of so called “Knowlege businesses” with several businesses doing e-commerce on a significant scale.

Now, with near a billion dollars of construction planned in the next few years, the sky is the limit.

If the people who are blind to both the good and bad happening in places like Michigan and Ohio would at least open their eyes and see, the world could be a better place.

Remember: we created these mess by the policies we enacted. If we change the policies, the outcomes will be changed.

But where’s the profit for the Acela Corridor in that, eh?

I think, in the end, the most offensive part of these “Cletus Safaris” is the ignorance and condescension of the authors.

#14 Comment By Bob Hoffman On May 10, 2019 @ 9:44 am

Where are the comments?

#15 Comment By LouB On May 10, 2019 @ 10:37 am

Having lived in the inner Chicago burbs since the mid 1970’s I have watched Chicago turn from being an industrial powerhouse to a have and have not economy. If you’re working in professional/service sector or part of the management of multinational globalist activity you’re doing reasonably well. What’s swept under the rug is that Chicago and their ilk hide the vast swaths of decayed blight and human warehousing with pretty downtown / privileged few neighborhoods. Most of our once great second city serves little purpose other than to provide housing for the poverty class. So called “Revitalization” only provides window dressing for the parade of the chosen few.
Prior to living in Chicago, my folks lived in a small city in western IL that was a poster child for the small town decay referred to above that Mr. Williamson thinks should die.
The town was famous for their productivity.
Civic pride was evident in most all aspects of community life there.
A major steel mill anchored the economy as well as numerous smaller hardware manufacturers.
The steel mill went belly up, the hardware manufacturers became distributors of Asian made goods.
The gravy train just dried up.
Times aren’t so good now for the town that holds so many fond memories for me.


I guess.

#16 Comment By mrscracker On May 10, 2019 @ 10:55 am

Thank you for your articles. I always look forward to them.

I was watching a documentary recently about Andrew Carnegie & how UK factory mills had made his father’s handweaving business obsolete, thereby impoverishing the family & prompting their move to Pittsburgh. The more things change the more they remain the same…

I looked at the link you provided for Howard Kunstler. I remember reading an article by him awhile back, perhaps on TAC.
I know everyone has a schtick to uphold but I do find it odd that Mr.Kunstler lives in a state with a rapidly growing Amish population-including his own county- but doesn’t seem to write much about that. Or at least not in what I’ve seen online. Perhaps it’s my error in missing that completely though. It wouldn’t be the first time.

New York state has the nation’s 5th highest Amish population. The Amish are buying up & reclaiming farms that were abandoned. They are setting up country stores & fruit stands everywhere up state. One of my children travels through there often & you can’t help noticing the Amish growth.
I think if I was deeply concerned about the future of my community & the deterioration of farming & rural life in America I’d want to explore how folks are successfully overcoming that in my on backyard. But success & growth don’t enable a declinist narrative.

#17 Comment By Kent On May 10, 2019 @ 11:08 am


“Americans are the descendants of people who crossed oceans and continents for a better life, why are Americans who live in this dying towns so different? I just don’t get it.”

Because there is no longer a place with a better life. People left families and homes because life could be dramatically better someplace else.

An unemployed steel-worker used to making $60,000/year in a $100,000 house isn’t going to find life somehow better making $8/hour as a barista in San Francisco with a $2000/month rent.

#18 Comment By Anthony K Wikrent On May 10, 2019 @ 11:16 am

Anathema to conservatives, but the Green New Deal requires the rebuilding of the world’s economies on a non-carbon basis, and that will require more labor and skills than currently exist. It’s an obvious answer, but conservatives are ideologically opposed because it requires discarding the current version of financialized post-industrial capitalism. Reminds me of Milton’s great line in Paradise Lost: conservatives would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

#19 Comment By LT On May 10, 2019 @ 11:31 am

I see a lot of people saying, “They should just move to where the jobs are.”
1) They would need accurate and defined information about where the jobs are that are looking for their skills
2) They would need some money to get there
3) They would need a place to stay and the rents and mortages are sky high ‘where the jobs are’
4) They would have to be welcome. Two previous mass migrations within the USA come to mind: Black Americans out of the South and the dust bowl migrations to California. They were not welcomed with “open arms”.

#20 Comment By Tick Tock On May 10, 2019 @ 12:09 pm

First let me say that I agree with the author almost 90+%. But I think the author understates the importance of Corporations being Good Citizens and Good Persons. That is clearly what has happened to America. As the son of a former Firestone Store Manager, I can attest that Firestone trained all of their store managers in Akron, OH. My father was selected to go to Akron for training and if he passed the tests and did well in the training he might get a chance at Managing a Firestone Store. He was gone for weeks at a time for this process and was even required to go to Akron for more training after becoming a store manager. My father was an intelligent person but did not have a college degree. But I can see now that Firestone did an outstanding job training their store managers in all aspects of the job. Just think about that for a while. The Company cared what the Company looked like everywhere, not just in Akron, OH. There was almost no turnover in my father’s store of employees. He was finally burnt out from dealing with the public in retail sales but they promoted him to District Manager a job that he kept till he passed away. No employer today gives a crap about any employee or any client. Of course you can’t learn to love someone else till you learn to love yourself. Corporations today hate themselves because its only about the money. I guess the point I am trying to make is this loss of Corporate Responsibility to the Nation and its Citizens was something that did exist but is now long gone.

While some will surely say I am crazy, I strongly believe that a very high progressive tax rate on individuals and corporations would help to change this attitude and at least get money into circulation. We also have to remove the corrupt and criminal group that has taken over the US Corporations and with that the Governments both National and Local or the US is doomed.

#21 Comment By Steve M On May 10, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

All across the West you can find old ghost towns. Towns that flourished until the gold or silver ran out of the local hill. The towns then were deserted.
The similar thing can happen when a major employer runs out of “gold’.
What the article ignores is all of the other reasons towns die.
The schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, liberals get elected and raise taxes, etc.
A town can survive with a big company leaving, but if all of the social factors cause the best, brightest and hardest working people to pull up roots and leave, maybe the town didn’t die, it committed suicide.

#22 Comment By Johann On May 10, 2019 @ 2:36 pm

Spot on Daniel P. Donnelly!

I would much rather rural stay rural and not become urban. There is more to the quality of life than a constant red hot economy. And really, today, many rural areas are more rural than they were a generation ago. Yes, farms are bigger and so there are fewer people on more land and so many small rural towns have dried up. Personally, I love it. More room to hunt and fish, less hectic, more fresh air, and more freedom.

#23 Comment By LFC On May 10, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

“The schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, liberals get elected and raise taxes, etc.”

One only needs to look at Kansas to see that this sentence is flawed. It needs to be changed and re-ordered to properly represent cause and effect.

“Conservatives cut taxes, the schools go to hell, the crime goes way up, etc.”

The days of being qualified for good, well paying work without having more than a mediocre high school are in the past. This doesn’t necessarily mean college because the trades require more education than ever before. Cutting school funding to pay for tax cuts is a loser’s game. Trickle down economics has failed.

#24 Comment By JonF On May 10, 2019 @ 2:41 pm

Fajal Mazid,
But Susa and Babylon lasted for many, many centuries. We Americans will be lucky if any of our cities reach such an age. Cities were not lightly abandoned anywhere. Some ecological reasons forced their abandonment. Sometimes natural disasters did. In a few cases (e g., Nineveh) they were seats if hated empires and their destruction was deliberate.

#25 Comment By Jeeves On May 10, 2019 @ 3:21 pm

Thank you, Mr. Del Mastro, for cutting through all jeremiads and the insistence that we must somehow be born again into a church-to-be-named-later, putting the spiritual cart before the materialist horse. To “…beyond the ability of policy–or church–to alter” must be added “Trump.”

#26 Comment By Wayne Lusvardi On May 11, 2019 @ 12:34 am

What happened was the eclipse of the local bank and economy. Prior to globalism, banks got deposit from the elderly and lent that money to young families for cars, houses and small business start ups. In turn, young families repaid their loans to the elderly at 6% to 8% returns unheard of today. This was an intergenerational, sharing and virtuous local economy. What replaced it were banks that gave no returns to the elderly and diverted investments into global bonds or stocks. So even mortgages had to be bundled into subprime loans and sold as bonds in the investment markets, which resulted in decimating the working class by foreclosures, bankruptcies, divorces and opioid abuse. The author contends there is no transcending this globalist economy. But the answer might be local credit unions and business banks. Also, I am waiting for an internet pioneer to build local Amazon dot coms where you can shop for goods made locally (not out sourced) in small regions by what is called Printing Technology.

#27 Comment By Jed On May 11, 2019 @ 8:57 am


By all means, let’s offer ourselves and everything we love up on the altar of post-national managerialism. There shall be no gods but the maximization of economic utility. Let’s all move to the big city and be bug-men.

As for the rest, let’s not pretend that this isn’t the result of a host of interests and actors who have promoted and implemented policies aimed at running the US and the world through a chop-shop. Really drives home just how worthless conservatives are at conserving anything.

#28 Comment By TG On May 11, 2019 @ 10:21 am

It’s the demographics.

At the end of the 19th century, America had the combination of vast resources and an exploding industrial base. The rich didn’t like that, because it resulted in high wages, so the rich used mass immigration to flood the market for labor, driving wages down and profits up. The average person fought against this brutal policy, but could not win: yes there was a restrictionist vote in 1924, but it was ignored and by the eve of the great crash of 1929 immigration was still at record levels.

Then came the crash of 1929, and then immigration dropped to near zero. Maybe because the power of the rich had been shattered, maybe because the rich were worried that the country would go communist. After the economy recovered, immigration was held down for an extended time, and wages boomed. That’s the period we all look back to. Then starting around 1970, the rich re-opened the floodgates. Post-1970 policy has added about 100 million to the US population over what would have occurred if the American people had been left alone. Now wages are stagnant and declining, and profits are soaring. Because supply and demand.

We no longer have unlimited resources. Our technology is starting to bump up against diminishing returns. America was not a magic trick, ‘the market’ is not a source of unlimited wealth. As the population ism used inevitably closer to a billion and beyond, things will slowly get worse and worse, and ‘re-churching’ the country will not help.

America was a contest between the people, who have always wanted prosperity, and the rich, who have always wanted to jam ever more people in, to flood the market for labor, to strip the land bare, pave it over, and walk away with fabulous profits. With the swampificiation of Donald Trump, the rich have now, I think, finally permanently won.

No culture, no society, has prospered when the ability of the average person to earn a decent living has been destroyed.

#29 Comment By ZackBissonnette On May 11, 2019 @ 11:57 am

Our fed gov has squandered trillions of dollars on bombing, occupying, and sporadically rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 18 years — under republican and Democrat presidents and congresses alike.

What could we do for our dying impoverished rural and small-city communities with just HALF of that sum?

For one thing, put hundreds of thousands of unemployed and underemployed US Citizens in training in construction and skilled physical trades.

Then get them back to meaningful, good-paying work for a decade: repairing, modernizing, or replacing the aging bridges, streets, schools, hospitals, and libraries in these towns.

Moreover, we could give a major, long-term boost to a hundred dying American towns without spending more money than we do now: close some of our military bases abroad (perhaps not relinquishing bases near the choke points / straits of world shipping) and bring the troops home. Station them in new bases here. That would save taxpayers money, as it’s more expensive to garrison troops for abroad than here.

Billions of dollars could be had for our much needed infrastructure projects OUTSIDE the big cities, by taxing transactions that send cash out of the country, i.e. remittances to recipients abroad. Keep that part of the money here and spend it putting Americans back to good paying useful work restoring our rural and small-city backbone.

#30 Comment By Mark Thomason On May 11, 2019 @ 3:56 pm

A company town that has lost its company is an infrastructure ready made for another company. Much of what was built was very expensive to build, and was not company-specific. It filled the needs of the community that grew around the company.

Other companies going somewhere else have it to do all over again. Or they could re-use what has already been done rather well.

Will there be another company? Yes. The economy is not shrinking, it is changing but growing.

That growth can be shaped and encouraged to be economical and efficient.

#31 Comment By JonF On May 11, 2019 @ 5:02 pm

Re: At the end of the 19th century, America had the combination of vast resources and an exploding industrial base. The rich didn’t like that, because it resulted in high wages, so the rich used mass immigration to flood the market for labor

Except that mass immigration had begun happening well before the end of the 19th century (the Irish and Germans came flooding over en masse in the 1840s) and there’s no evidence that rich engaged in sort of conspiracy in regards to immigration– as opposed to conspiracies creating monopolies and suppressing unions by brute force and legal action.
Immigration plays only a small, small part in the loss of decent jobs for the working class. automation and the wholesale offshoring of factories is the much bigger story.

#32 Comment By William Gordon On May 12, 2019 @ 10:45 am

I was going to comment on Steve M’s partisan hackery, but LFC already did so.

As much as Republicans (all you conservatives vote Republican, thus a difference which makes no difference is no difference) refuse to accept that their policies have played no role in this decline, nothing will change.

#33 Comment By JeffK On May 12, 2019 @ 9:16 pm

@JonF says:
May 11, 2019 at 5:02 pm

“At the end of the 19th century, America had the combination of vast resources and an exploding industrial base. The rich didn’t like that, because it resulted in high wages, so the rich used mass immigration to flood the market for labor”

100%. There are two types of inflation. Asset Inflation and Wage Inflation. People with Assets (the wealthy/stocks, houses, real estate, etc) strive for Asset Inflation, which is what you have when stocks and real estate go up in price. This creates Asset bubbles, which periodically burst. Those with financial expertise do very well in this type of environment.

People without many assets require Wage Inflation to live better lives, since Asset Inflation makes houses economically out of reach and increases the cost of rent, which without a good way it is difficult to pay.

Since the 1970’s laws/policies encouraged Asset Inflation. When Asset Bubbles burst speculators get hit hard. But wage earners get hit even harder since the correction often increasing unemployment, costing them their jobs.

At this point in time the concentration of wealth is about what it was before the crash of the Great Depression. The title of the Fortune article linked below:’Income Inequality Increases to Pre-Great Depression Levels’.

In the 1930’s the Federal Deficit was 40% of GDP. Now it’s around 100% of GDP. (metrocosm link)

Trump is antagonizing China. Reuters reports “Top foreign holders of Treasuries like China and Japan have shrunk their portfolios of U.S. government bonds this year, and a recent barometer of participation in Treasury auctions suggests overseas buyers have not been showing up in force, according to Treasury Department data.”

China is positioned to teach Trump, and the US, a hard lesson. If they quit buying T Bills then interest rates will rise, investment will pull back, and real estate and stocks will fall. The cheap money fix will end.

When this debt bomb goes off it’s going to be a doozy. And we won’t have the capability to borrow cheap to pump up a recovery.





#34 Comment By The Village Atheist On May 13, 2019 @ 1:07 am

Fact is, technology is evolving at an ever increasing rate and no political/cultural/religious institution can do anything to alter its course or consequences. One thing for sure, every political attempt to soften the blow of change, in the long run, is a waste of money. “Creative Destruction”, if you have a truly free market system, is an inevitable part of that economy. The American people have never really wanted to live in such a system. That is why everyone (urban/rural/agriculture/industrial/liberal/conservative)looks to the government for financial assistance when the going gets tough. This has been true since the beginning of the Republic. A politician who says “I won’t help you, it’s not the government’s responsibility” will soon have a new title, unemployed.

#35 Comment By Thomas Midgely On May 13, 2019 @ 5:12 am

The last thing the world needs is more religion and the US would benefit from a lot less of it. I’m astounded by the obscene wealth almost cheek by jowl with widespread poverty when I’ve visited the US. You’ve got plenty of great and successful industries still. The power of your country is continual reinvention. Your shame is the terrible amount of poverty, a third world health insurance system and death rate of black by their own and police violence.

As mentioned above you squander astonishing amounts of blood and treasure on foolish, illegal and counterproductive wars. Do yourselves and the world a FA our and close most of your bases, bring your troops home to their families and spend the money on a proper health system and infrastructure – especially a total renewable energy economy.

#36 Comment By mrscracker On May 13, 2019 @ 10:13 am

Thomas Midgely says:

“The last thing the world needs is more religion and the US would benefit from a lot less of it.’
In what ways do you think the US would benefit?

#37 Comment By Ed On May 14, 2019 @ 5:48 pm

Whine Merchant says:

There was a movement in the US a few generations back – we called it “Urban Renewal”. But Reagan’s minions re-branded it as a hand-out squandered on the “wrong people”, who did not move to [nor were welcome in] the suburbs.

Seriously? The Urban renewal that bulldozed whole neighborhoods for the benefit of wealthy developers? That urban renewal? The urban renewal that gave us Pruitt-Igoe and other disastrous high-rise projects? It was a good thing? Read Jane Jacobs.

Areas that are hurting now, were hurting 50 years ago. The decline has been ongoing and can’t be laid at the blame of Ronald Reagan. There is enough blame to go around.

New York City is actually doing better now than it was in 1980. Detroit seems to have bottomed out some decades back and is now on the upswing. But no thanks to urban renewal for that. It did little or nothing to offset industrial decline and may even have contributed to it.

#38 Comment By Stephen M Stirling On May 17, 2019 @ 12:11 am

Ah… there is no “deindustrialization”. None. Zip, nada.

US industrial -production- continues to rise.

US industrial -employment- is much smaller than it used to be.

Because, eg., we make about as much steel… but do it with 1/25th of the number of workers.

A DRI plant with an iron nodule production of 1.5 million tons opened in Louisiana not too long ago. It has about 600 employees, most of them white-collar.

Anyone care to venture a guess on how many employees a 1.5 million ton pig-iron plant using blast furnaces would have had in 1969?

#39 Comment By spatrick On May 17, 2019 @ 12:26 pm

This is a very good article and the author is exactly right, many of these places were in fact “company towns”. Some of these are in my home state of Wisconsin (West Allis = Allis-Chalmers, Case = Racine, Kohler = Kohler, and in Milwaukee – North Side breweries and A.O. Smith, South Side – steel plants and Allen-Bradley). And when the company dies or downsizes, the town suffers.

Carney talks a lot about churches are source of renewal and that’s a nice thing. But sadly a church as a both building and organized structure can’t exist without a community which supports it. Go to these “company towns” and you’ll find lots of churches. The only problem is, there’s nobody in them.

Bottom line, if “conservatives” wish to save these towns then they have to agree to a level of socialism, because it’s the only way. The pure free market has no use for the Gary of today. Only government intervention in some form against monopolies or terms of homesteading subsidies or other economic devices can save them. For all the talk about socialism, the situation would even worse if it wasn’t for two socialist devices: Social Security and Medicare. Many little towns and such really would be depopulated without them.

You can either have cultural renewal or free-market economics but you cannot have both. That was the ultimate failure of Reaganism. Reagan voted for Roosevelt four times for a reason.