When ‘creative destruction’ also destroys families

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Starting today, I will be writing a regular column for The Week (no need to worry, you can still find my rantings and musings right here on a daily basis!).

My maiden column focuses on President Obama’s admission during Tuesday’s debate that “some jobs are going, and won’t be coming back.” (My thoughts on this topic exceed the space limitations that any column could afford, and so, here are the things left on the cutting room floor.)

In fairness to Obama, he argued these jobs will be replaced with high paying, high skilled jobs, but as I noted: “[T]here’s an obvious point he did not state: Many Americans will be left behind in the process. As the world changes, some people simply can’t — or won’t — adapt. And the president’s vision leaves those Americans behind.”

To be sure, some will argue that — rather than accepting this fate — America should change policies in order to reverse this trend.

There certainly are things we could do. We could institute protectionist trade policies and put tariffs on imported goods. We could build a fence to keep immigrants (who will work for low wages) out. We could, as Rick Santorum proposed, provide preferential tax rates for domestic manufacturing. Or we could pass rules outlawing the use of any new technology that results in fewer employees …

The problem is that most of these “solutions” are silly — and would likely result in America losing any chance of competing in the global economy going forward. It would be the economic version of burying our heads in the sand.

Having said that, I think we need to acknowledge that some people — good, hard-working Americans — are paying a price. And this will take a toll on our culture and our society.

The world is changing — and change always leaves some people behind. As W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm wrote in a 2008 column, “Americans benefited as horses and mules gave way to cars and airplanes, but all this creation did not come without destruction. Each new mode of transportation took a toll on existing jobs and industries.”

I recently ran across a New York Times story about golfing great Ben Hogan that puts a face on this phenomenon. As the Times’ notes, Hogan’s father, “a blacksmith put out of work by the spread of the automobile, had committed suicide, shooting himself while 9-year-old Ben looked in horror.”

We are likely witnessing the 21st century version of this right now. President Obama’s policies — indeed, the policies pursued by all modern presidents — comes equipped with its own set of consequences. And collateral damage.

Read my whole column here.

Matt K. Lewis