Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Don't Talk It Out

It doesn’t happen every day, but the Wall Street Journal has published a column by psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman that is sane, sound and sensible. It repeats some of the arguments that Boardman offered in a previous article, one that I reported in a post entitled: “Less Therapy, Please.”

Considering that our therapy culture prescribes conversation almost as a panacea for all of our problems, large and small, traumatic and not, it is refreshing to read a psychiatrist telling us that talking it all out is not always the best approach.

After all, if you belabor trauma or unpleasant experiences you are likely to conclude- in the depths of your psyche-- that trauma defines you, that it makes you who you are. In addition, the more people know about your misery, the more likely that they will see you as a trauma victim, thus making it more difficult to escape the thrall.

At a time when the culture is being flooded with stories about trauma and when its less enlightened members are claiming that trauma will ruin your life, it is good to read an article explaining that sometimes it is best not to talk it all out.

Boardman’s counsel correlates well with current theories about mental resilience. Researchers have observed that some two thirds of trauma sufferers recover without any therapeutic intervention. 

And we should add the notion, offered in another Journal article, this time by writer Beth DeCarbo, namely that trauma can become a catalyst for constructive change. After all, if you suffer a failure, in love or in business, and you use the situation to reconsider your strategies in life, you might well profit from the failure. 

But then, most people, when consulting a therapist, believe that they are supposed to be discussing trauma. They believe that they are in therapy to ventilate their emotions, to air it all out, the better to overcome the negativity.

It is an occupational hazard, but it does not improve how anyone deals with trauma. In a way, this form of constant complaining makes the trauma a defining experience in your life. If therapy tells you to integrate the trauma into your life history, it has not rendered you any constructive service.

Boardman explains:

If your teenager is upset about something, asking her to recount every little detail to you and perhaps later to your partner—“Tell your dad exactly what happened today at school”—could make her feel even worse. You might be sending the unintentional message that the issue is more serious than it is, or that you believe your child can’t handle the situation.

Here are two other good reasons not to belabor trauma. 

Insisting that it be discussed tells the teenager, in this case, that the problem is more serious than it is. It often happens, when we are suffering a pain, we cue in to our physician’s opinion to discern how serious the problem is.

Second, if we insist on helping, we are also telling the teenager that he cannot deal with the situation on his own. In truth, there are some situations where a child cannot deal with a problem on his own. The issue then becomes whether we prefer that he vent his spleen about the problem, or allow for some suggestions about how to deal with it. The two are certainly not the same.

In addition, Boardman recommends that parents offer children different ways to look at the situation. This involves stepping back and looking at the situation objectively. It does not involve getting in touch with feelings, feeling one’s feelings and so on. 

Too many therapists consider that life is a narrative and that their purpose is to fill in the details, to render it a more coherent story. This is wrong. We would do better to think that life is a game, a chess game, if you will, and that as we evaluate the positions of different pieces on the board we consider alternative ways to make our next move.

Playing a role in a drama is not the same as making a move in a game.

Boardman offers a way into this approach:

Similarly, if your best friend calls you to talk about something that is bothering her, avoid questions that encourage her to revisit every detail. “Start from the beginning. Tell me everything!” will only lead to a play-by-play of what took place and what she was feeling. Consider instead posing a question that might help your friend gain some distance from the situation. I often ask my patients, “If someone else were in this situation, what advice would you give them?” Rather than dwelling on the details of what happened, help the person to generate a plan of action and to capitalize on their strengths.

So, she does not want to hear all of the details. She does not want to help her friend construct a better narrative. She wants to help her friend to gain some perspective, to step back from what is happening, and to consider, dispassionately, what her next move should be.

Please subscribe to my Substack.

Monday, September 25, 2023


Surely, the world needed Thomas Sowell’s new book about the scam called social justice. I have not read the book, but I am happy to report Hannah Gal’s summary in a Quillette review.

As I understand it, Sowell makes two salient points. 

First, that the basis for social justice politics is warped. The notion that all groups should have equal representation at all levels of society and at all levels of success is idealistic mumbo jumbo. It has never happened. It will never happen. 

Second, Sowell argues that the effort to pretend that we must grant degrees, hire and promote in order to make the world correspond to our idealistic vision has merely caused trouble.

Inequality and inequity are built into the system. Railing against them is a fool’s game. 

Gal summarizes Sowell:

“Whatever the condition of human beings at the beginning of the species,” writes Thomas Sowell in his new book Social Justice Fallacies, “scores of millennia had already come and gone before anyone coined the phrase social justice.” And during those vast expanses of time, “different peoples evolved differently in very different settings around the world, developing different talents that created reciprocal inequalities of achievements in different endeavors.” They did so “without necessarily creating equality, or even comparability, in any of those endeavors.”

Those who refuse to accept that people have disparate talents and disparate goals see all inequities as a function of bigotry and oppression.

In large parts of society, it has instilled the notion that human disparities are entirely the result of oppression, exploitation, and discrimination, and that a remedial equality of outcome must therefore be pursued at all costs. But the attractive vision of an equitable future can only be constructed by ignoring evidence and repeating a litany of fallacies.

Gal continues:

“In the real world” he points out, “there is seldom anything resembling the equal outcomes that might be expected if all factors affecting outcomes were the same for everyone.”

It is not just that people have different talents and interests. Different people choose to live their lives differently:

After all, “people from different backgrounds do not necessarily want to do the same things, much less invest their time and energies into developing the same kinds of skills and talents.” He invites us to consider the example of US sports, where “blacks are overrepresented in professional basketball, whites in professional tennis, and Hispanics in Major League Baseball.”

Of course, for decades now we have a multitude of programs designed to overcome the legacy of slavery and segregation. They have all been based, Sowell contends, on the notion that blacks are incapable of competing in the marketplace, and thus, need special consideration and even government charity. These programs have failed. Just because we feel especially virtuous about our proposed solutions does not mean that the solutions are going to produce the desired outcomes.

Gal summarizes a point that Sowell has been making for decades now. 

One of the most persistent social-justice fallacies concerns the legacy of slavery, and the reflexive tendency to hold it responsible for any misfortune that befalls any black person. Sowell objects to this causal reasoning, and argues that welfare policies introduced in the 1960s must shoulder much of the blame for social problems faced by American blacks, particularly the collapse of the family. Although activists seldom acknowledge it, black Americans made striking progress in the decades before the 1960s until “demonstrable harm” was inflicted upon them by the introduction of social-justice policies.

And also,

 “For more than a hundred years after the end of slavery,” he reminds us, “most black children were born to women who were married, and the children were raised in two-parent homes.” In 1963, 23.6 percent of black children were born to single mothers. By the end of the 20th century, that figure stood at 68.7 percent.

As for the pursuit of justice, it too has been an error. Thinking that if white people feel sufficiently guilty for the legacy of slavery black people will naturally begin to overperform is absurd. This singular obsession with a singular solution leads people to overlook the solutions that do work… as in charter schools in minority neighborhoods.

The singleminded pursuit of justice at all costs is not justice at all, Sowell argues, and will often result in injustice. The results sought by social-justice activists are what Hayek used to call “cosmic justice,” and they are not attainable “when there are differences in human fates for which clearly no human agency is responsible.” Sowell agrees that “we cannot demand justice from the cosmos,” and that “no human beings, either singly or collectively, can control the cosmos, that is, the whole universe of circumstances surrounding us and affecting everyone’s chances in life.”

Life is complicated. At times it is even complex. Thinking that there is a singular solution, a magic potion that will right all wrongs and make our world into an ideal, is a very bad idea indeed.

Please subscribe to my Substack.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Controlling Crime in Urban America

Writing in the City Journal Derek Lux recommends that we try to get control of our national crime problem by shaming criminals. It is, dare I say, a good idea. It is so good, in fact, that I recommended it in my book Saving Face, in 1996. I further elaborated on the subject in my book The Last Psychoanalyst. I have added some pertinent analysis in my new book, Can’t We All Just Get Along:?

We owe the distinction between shame and guilt cultures to Ruth Benedict. Her book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was commissioned during World War II, by the War Department. At a time when we were preparing to occupy Japan, our leaders thought it a good idea to learn more about Japanese culture. They turned to Benedict and received some cogent analysis of cultural differences, although, as I remarked in my book on Saving Face, she was wrong to consider America to be a guilt culture. 

In a shame culture the ultimate sanction is ostracism, expulsion from the group. In a guilt culturethe ultimate sanction is incarceration and imprisonment, along with various forms of corporal punishment.

As I defined the terms, shame involves not doing what you are supposed to do. Guilt arrives when you do something that you were not supposed to do. Shame involves following a myriad of rules, from good table manners to proper diction. Guilt applies when you transgress a prohibition or taboo, when you break the law. 

Benedict argued that America is a guilt culture while Japan is a shame culture. As I replied in my book on saving face, this is incorrect. 

The closest Western equivalent to Japanese shame culture exists in Great Britain. After all, both have formal and ritualized tea ceremonies. A television show like Downton Abbey showed us a shame culture in action. And that does not just mean shaming criminals and other miscreants, but it more importantly involves following strict codes of decorum and propriety. 

We shame criminals, but we also shame people who have bad manners, as we are currently doing to the hapless and pathetic Pennsylvania senator, John Fetterman. In a shame culture people follow dress codes; they follow rules. They do not consider that their attire and other aspects of their appearance should serve the purposes of self-expression.

In a shame culture group membership matters more than individual expression. After all, you cannot dread ostracism if you do not belong to a group. And yet, if you define yourself outside of all groupings, you will be largely immune from public shaming. Which is the point.

Belonging to a group involves conformity and uniformity; it involves following a dress code and having good manners. The result is a cohesive society.

But, it also involves reputation, how others see you. If you do not care about your reputation you do not care if you are considered a pariah by your community.

Of course, Benedict might have been a prophet before her time. Of late, America has lost its way. It has lost its good manners and sense of decorum, replacing them with permanent political psychodrama. The aberrant urge toward multiculturalism proposes that different cultures practice different manners and follow different customs.

The result is social disaggregation; it would be like running an army where each individual had the right to wear his own uniform. 

So, we have largely lost our sense of shame. When people are not governed by their sense of shame, that is, their moral sense, the default is policing. That is, guilt culture.

In truth, our very own therapy culture has rejected shame culture. Freudian theory is based on a guilt/punishment narrative. Therapists routinely tell patients that they have nothing to be ashamed of, that they should let it all hang out, that they should advertise their sexuality, openly and honestly.

Having a sense of shame does not just mean following the dress code. It also means keeping your private matters and your private parts out of public circulation. In a shame culture people do not display their intimate feelings in public. In our culture they are excoriated if they do not do so. If they do not do so they are said to be lacking in empathy.

In a shame culture people take pride in their country. They are happy to belong. In a guilt culture they read American history into a guilt/punishment narrative, one where America is an organized criminal conspiracy, where its victories are crimes that require penance, and where those who failed were really crime victims.

One would like to say that the woke left has a monopoly on the notion that America is a criminal conspiracy, but certain Republicans are promoting the same idea with their notion that elections have been stolen.

People who hate America reject its heroes and its history. They reject patriotism and pride in their  country. They end up joining a faction where their actions become part of a grand historical drama. 

Lux is quite right to suggest that today’s criminal gangs have no sense of shame. He is right to suggest that the only way to gain control of this organized thievery is for community leaders to shame the miscreants. Of course, if people do not care about being proud Americans, they cannot be shamed.

And yet, certain communities consider that criminal gangs are like factions, doing it for justice. Shaming would only work if the criminals and the communities that spawned them felt like part of the country. Since they do not, it will not work. 

People who believe that they have a right to steal, because they are victims of American bigotry, will not be deterred by shaming. They can only be deterred by force, by incarceration. The fact that the local authorities refuse to crack down on these crimes tells everyone that they are not breaking the laws. They are taking what should rightfully be theirs. Their crimes are not crimes, but are justice. 

It is not so much that these criminals are not considered to be shameful. It is rather that they are not considered to be criminals.

When a Barack Obama tells them to stay angry, he is telling them not to conform to social customs, not to practice decorum or propriety. He is telling them to join the vanguard of a revolutionary elite, and to take what white America has stolen from them. 

Before we try to get a grip on the urban crime wave by shaming miscreants, we need to recover our social cohesion, our sense of belonging to a great nation, our practice of respecting the flag and the nation’s heroes. If such is unrealistic, then the best solution to urban crime is more effective policing.

And yet, even that now seems to be a pipe dream.

Please subscribe to my Substack.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Saturday Miscellany

First, the Republican Party seems to be imploding. Congressional Republicans’ latest follies over the budget seem to have focused a few minds.

The Wall Street Journal brings back a notable quote from Benjamin Franklin. He said:

We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately. 

The Journal update has it:

House Republicans Hang Separately

The GOP is wasting its majority on foolish shutdown threats.

The GOP seems leaderless.

Second, renegade Republican Ann Coulter offered her inimitable wit and wisdom, in an address to the House majority:

You only have a bare majority in one house of Congress, Republicans: This is no time to be hot-shots for causes that won’t get you a single vote.

But you know what would be hugely popular? …  There’s not a corner of this country that isn’t sick to death of “migrants” (illegal aliens) streaming into their towns and neighborhoods. And this horror show, now playing nationwide, is 100% Biden’s fault. 100%.

Perhaps it’s time to focus on who can win in 2024. Making the election about one candidate’s grievance is not going to work.

Besides, the odds are increasing that Joe Biden will not be running for re-election.

Third, on the Biden senility watch, Biden went to the United Nations and pointedly snubbed the president of Brazil, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva. Then Biden walked into a flag. Finally, at a Manhattan campaign reception, he repeated the same story twice, word for word. 

The New York Post sussed out the medical meaning:

According to medical experts, repeating sentences, phrases, and even entire stories — while common in the elderly — may be an early sign of dementia or even an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

What do they mean by “early?”

Fourth, the migrant crisis has become a calamity. It is fast approaching catastrophe level. See this collection of articles in Maggie’s Farm

As you know, the situation in Europe is just as bad, if not worse. 

The Western world is being overrun by migrants. It is suffering an invasion and does not seem to know what to do about it.

And now, one Lyric Thompson touts the new European foreign policy-- feminist foreign policy. Apparently, countries across Europe have adopted it. Obviously, the United States is aspiring to its own feminist foreign policy..

Thompson is thrilled by it all: more charity, more welfare, more sanctuary, less competition, less war. But also, more illegal migrants, more crime, more drug gangs. 

She fails to notice that feminist Europe is suffering through a brutal war in Ukraine, one that a more savvy diplomacy could have avoided. See Jeffrey Sachs’ analysis on Zero Hedge blog. BTW, Sachs is not a zany right winger.

Feminist foreign policy has produced a war in Ukraine and the West’s migrant crisis.

Way to go, girls!

Fifth, if you want evidence that the West provoked Russia into war with Ukraine, by refusing to rule out future Ukrainian entry into NATO-- the Jeffrey Sachs thesis-- Tom Friedman, invariably wrong, says that we can end the war by letting Ukraine into NATO.

He wrote:

“My recent trip to Ukraine taught me that the West’s focus has to be engineering some kind of end to this conflict,” @tomfriedman says of the war in this audio essay. “And it can only come to an end if Ukraine is in NATO and the European Union.”

If Tom Friedman thinks that NATO membership is the solution, you can be confident that it is the problem.

Sixth, speaking of feminist heroines, consider the case of the former prime minister of New Zealand, one Jacinda Ardern.

You recall that feminists praised Ardern’s resolute leadership during the pandemic. She mostly shut down her country, an exercise in futility.

In fact, the people of New Zealand were so impressed by her feminist leadership that, in their next elections, they willl be choosing a prime minister between two men called Chris. I read it in the New York Times, so it must be true.

Now, Ardern came to the United Nations this week to declare that, in order to save the planet, we need to suppress free speech. Yes, indeed, the young feminist is an aspiring totalitarian despot. Who would have guessed?

Seventh, New York City’s City Council does not know what to do about the migrant crisis, so it is hard at work proposing that the city tear down statues of America’s heroes, from George Washington to Peter Stuyescent to Christopher Columbus.

Will the stupidity never cease?

Eighth, meanwhile, in Lahaina, Maui, we now learn how inept local officials allowed a fire to consume the village. Firefighters mistakenly thought that the situation was under control, so they took time off for lunch. Here is a report:

It was 2:18 p.m. in Lahaina on Aug. 8 when a crew of firefighters that had been monitoring what appeared to be a dead brush fire for about seven hours decided to take a break. 

The team of five was one of several that had spent the day making sure the blaze that started early that morning a mile from the downtown waterfront didn’t reignite and spread. They flooded scorched grass with about 23,000 gallons of water and built a containment line. 

It appeared they had succeeded, according to two firefighters who were on the scene that day. There was no smoke. No flames.

“It didn’t spread for the few hours we were there,” said Aina Kohler, one of the two firefighters. “It didn’t rekindle.”

With power lines down across the island and the winds from nearby Hurricane Dora growing, the firefighters figured they would be deployed to more incidents that night. So no one objected when the captain of the last remaining crew on scene ordered them to head to their nearby station for a late lunch. 

Kohler, who was on that crew, said she had barely polished off a pork lau lau—a steamed packet of meat wrapped in leaves— when the alarms rang at 2:54 p.m. Less than 40 minutes after they left, a fire was burning at the site again. 

Great job, guys.

Ninth, no one has been covering the story, but it is worth noting that the University of Pennsylvania is actively promoting anti-Semitism. Since the promoters are not white people, no one cares.

A Palestinian literature festival that will be hosted at the University of Pennsylvania this week is coming under fire for featuring speakers who have made “antisemitic” comments, including “Death to Israel,” and someone who has worn a Nazi-style uniform.

Penn will host the Palestine Writes Literature Festival from Friday through Sunday at various locations on campus.

It’s sponsored by school groups that include the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, Kelly Writers House, and the Middle East Center, according to an event page on Penn’s website.

The event is billed as showcasing “dozens of writers, artists, publishers, performers, and scholars to explore the richness and diversity of Palestinian culture.”

Tenth, Leor Sapir reports on his Twitter account on the state of American medical education. It is not encouraging.

I speak to many doctors in my line of work. They come from across the political spectrum and from a range of specialties. One of the most sobering things I've learned from them is the extent to which medical schools do not always teach students about the principles of evidence-based medicine. Few of those I speak with knew, for instance, that a doctor's expert opinion, though valuable, is lowest on the hierarchy of information in EBM. I've heard doctors say they were never required to learn how to read a scientific research paper. Another, and related, troubling insight I've encountered is the extent to which DEI requirements and instruction have displaced traditional medical education, including units on biology and chemistry. DEI has also led to lower standards in admission, testing, and graduation. Med schools are very concerned about "identity representation," even when this comes at the expense of rigor and merit. There is a real generational divide within the medical field right now, with older doctors, liberal as well as conservative, expressing concern about the entry of young, ideologically-driven, not-always-competent physicians into the field and remolding it to mirror a university social justice seminar. This is bad for patients, bad for the medical profession, bad for hospitals, bad for insurance companies, and bad for the integrity and trustworthiness of science.

Eleventh, as I watched Bret Baier’s interview with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the following thought passed into my mind.

We recall that serious thinkers have been arguing that the war between Russia and Ukraine is a civilizational clash, between autocracy and democracy. We are told that we must keep funding it because we want democracy to win. Among those who are touting this argument is Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh.

And yet, Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a rapid and very successful modernization, and if you ask whether its success will enhance the reputation of democracy or autocracy, the answer is not even ambiguous.

Twelfth, meanwhile in 13 Baltimore high schools, no students were proficient in math. That’s none, as in zero. Ask yourself how the teachers’ unions managed that one. 

Are they underfunded? Not at all. Baltimore City Public Schools have the fourth largest spending per pupil in the United States. 

Thirteenth, from Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. 

Commenting on the suspension of the United States Senate dress code, in order to allow the brain-damaged senator from Pennsylvania to feel more comfortable, and adding a comment on the cases of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and aspiring porn star and candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, one Susanna Gibson, Noonan wrote this in her Journal column:

We want to be respected but no longer think we need to be respectable.

We are in a crisis of political comportment. We are witnessing the rise of the classless. Our politicians are becoming degenerate.

This has been happening for a while but gets worse as the country coarsens. We are defining deviancy ever downward.

Mr. Schumer apparently doesn’t know—lucky him, life apparently hasn’t taught him—that when you ask less of people they don’t give you less; they give you much, much less. So we must brace ourselves.

Please subscribe to my Substack.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Requiem for a Dying Auto Industry

It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. Auto companies have been making handsome profits. Company executives are being handsomely compensated. On the other side, workers can barely get by on what the companies are paying them.

Ergo, by a certain type of logic, profits should be redistributed, from stockholders and executives to workers. 

Naturally, the issues are far more complex than media reports suggest. So, for your edification, here is some analysis, from Greg Ip and Clifford Winston at the Wall Street Journal.

As noted on this blog, at some point salary levels must reflect productivity. If your labor adds a certain amount of value to a product, you deserve to be compensated appropriately. If not, not.

And yet, as Greg Ip points out, American workers, by and large, have not been more productive. 

Pay is ultimately tied to productivity: the quantity and quality of products a company’s workforce churns out. And here, American manufacturing companies and workers are in trouble. The issue isn’t with labor-intensive products such as clothing and furniture, which largely moved offshore long ago. Rather, it’s in the most advanced products: electric cars and batteries, power-generation equipment, commercial aircraft and semiconductors.

The issue is going to become: can American workers compete in the global marketplace. Also, as Ip will point out, productivity also involves the way a company organizes production. 

For all the talk about onshoring manufacturing, America is not doing very well in competition:

President Biden might be celebrating a manufacturing renaissance based on new factories, but the share prices of former manufacturing icons Ford Motor , Intel, Boeing and General Electric  suggest skepticism is warranted about the durability of this renaissance: All are at a fraction of all-time share-price highs.

Yes, American companies still lead the world in design and innovation, but the resulting products increasingly are made abroad, especially in Asia. Biden, like former President Donald Trump before him, wants to reverse this, through tariffs, subsidies and other government interventions. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and especially China certainly intervened plenty to help their manufacturers. 

One has been told that it’s just a question of government policies. Once we have more tariffs and more sanctions; once we remove China from the World Trade Organization; all will be well and American manufacturing will recover.

Ip disagrees:

But attributing manufacturing performance to government policies alone is dangerous; it underplays how far Asian manufacturers have come in cost and quality and how far their American counterparts have slipped. 

Since 2009, manufacturing output per hour in the U.S. has grown just 0.2% a year, well below the economy as a whole and peer economies in Europe and Asia, except Japan.

Manufacturing productivity growth 2009-2022 (annual average)Source: U.S. Labor Dept. (U.S.); OECD (U.K., Germany, France, Italy); CEIC Data (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan)

And, of course, the existence of labor unions seems to reduce productivity. Unionized plants are less efficient than nonunionized plants.

Ip explains:

The Detroit Three—Ford, General Motors , and Stellantis, owner of Chrysler—have been losing market share for years, to other brands and to nonunion U.S. plants. They account for just two of the 10 most dependable brands ranked by J.D. Power and just one of the 10 best cars picked by Consumer Reports. In electric vehicles, they are far behind Tesla, whose highest-output plant and main export base is in Shanghai. 

Detroit auto manufacturers excel at output per employee. Unfortunately, the cost per vehicle is among the world’s highest.

That’s why Detroit is recoiling at the UAW’s demands. While their output per employee is among the highest of 11 global manufacturers ranked by consultants AlixPartners, so are their costs per vehicle. The lowest cost: China’s. 

And then there is the problem of skilled workers. We have noted it on occasion on this blog, but America, and especially its educational system, is not producing enough skilled workers. 

Labor presents problems other than just cost, such as the shortage of skilled workers. “They find desirable candidates, they hire them, they train them, they don’t retain them,” said Jim Schmidt, an automotive expert at consultants Oliver Wyman. “A lot of the younger workforce doesn’t want to do that type of work.” For some, absenteeism is another problem.

Ip continues, pointing out that America has problems that go well beyond the automobile industry. Consider the airplane manufacturing competition between Boeing and Airbus:

The U.S.’s manufacturing problems go much further than autos. Since its top-selling 737 was grounded by crashes in 2018 and 2019, production problems have left Boeing far behind Europe’s 

Airbus , which delivered three times as many aircraft last year and twice as many this year. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has been plagued by quality defects. Since the pandemic, Boeing has experienced “a crisis of loyalty among its workforce” with high turnover compounding supply chain problems, said Michel Merluzeau of AIR, an aerospace advisory firm. 

The story regarding the government policies that promote the building of semiconductor plants in Arizona, is similar. We do not have the skilled workforce to do the job:

Even constructing a fab’s clean room involves pouring the concrete and welding the pipes in just such a way to avoid tiny imprecisions that ultimately reduce yields, Lin said. It’s why TSMC is seeking to bring several hundred workers from Taiwan to Arizona to aid in the construction. Local trade unions have objected, saying this contradicts the Chips Act’s goal of creating local employment. 

Unions need to accept they’re not yet up to the job. “Everyone loses the skills they don’t practice,” Kevin Xu wrote recently on his China-focused blog, Interconnected. Xu, who once worked with unions to get former President Barack Obama elected, says unions need to be told “that they are not the best, but they can be if they stay humble (and) soak up all the know-how and skills from workers elsewhere.”

If that does not suffice, Clifford Winston argues this morning in the Journal that government interference has doomed the automobile industry. Tariffs on foreign automobiles prevented Detroit from improving its products. Refusing to allow the companies to go bankrupt rewarded inefficiency. Regulations imposed unrealistic and costly requirements. Ergo, American automakers could not compete effectively.

During the past four decades, Winston explains, Detroit’s automakers have lost more than half of their market share.

And also,

Government policies that have reduced auto makers’ competitiveness include inefficient safety and environmental rules and mandates. Regulations mandated installation of various safety devices, such as shatterproof windshields and energy-absorbing steering columns, that raised auto makers’ costs but didn’t reduce overall highway deaths. Legislation required auto makers to install air bags on both sides of the front seat by 1998, increasing costs and risking the safety of smaller passengers. Corporate average fuel economy standards enacted in 1975 continue to increase, raising auto makers’ costs and consumer prices with uncertain benefits to the environment. And state and federal mandates to increase dramatically the share of electric vehicles on the road are pressuring auto makers to transform their production processes.

For the record, Winston works at the liberal Brookings Institute.

Please subscribe to my Substack.