The Last American Steelworker

So there you are, the last American steelworker standing in the unemployment line in the not too distant future. Close behind you are the metallurgists who worked at your abandoned mill. Next to them are dozens of engineers who managed processes and the facility at which you worked. Further along in the line are the truck drivers who supplied the plant with various material. Appearing a bit lost are the assembly-line workers who built those very trucks. Dozens of electricians are gathered in the midsection of the line. The suppliers of electrical components are mingled among them. The delicatessen owner and his employees who worked down the road and fed the steelworkers dinner are not too far behind. The refrigeration technicians who serviced the deli’s coolers are with them. The food suppliers are mixed in the crowd somewhere too. And on and on it goes.

Does such a scenario strike you as far fetched? Probably not if you are directly involved in the steel industry, but perhaps you run a boutique on South Beach and the last thing on your mind is smelting. Yet, steel and boutiques may be closer linked than you suspect. I will argue in a series of articles cited below that the boutique’s future may ultimately depend on the financial investments of your rich buyers, whose long term prosperity unwittingly rests on America’s industrial base.

To begin to understand the national implications of such a threat, take a few minutes out and read Richard McCormack’s article “Steel Industry CEOs Warn Of A Possible Sectoral Collapse Due To Surging Imports” ( ) in which he quotes Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) as saying the Chinese and others are playing us like chumps. As an engineer who has studied economic theory and history for six years, I would like to suggest that chump-o-nomics only scratches the surface of the matter. Instead, I propose something much more radical to explain the mess we are in: there has never been a sound theory of economics.

Unfortunately, with the respect that academia commands in America, common sense is probably going to prove insufficient to bring an end to chump-o-nomics. To mount a serious challenge to modern free trade theory, one needs a new model and the willingness to step into the minefield of logic on which the impeccable mathematics of mainstream textbooks are built. But such a debate must not be restricted to academia. It must also engage the American public, because the last American steelworker probably does not have the time or passion to take on academia by himself. Sure, his common sense tells them him it was cheap steel imports which ended his 30-year career, took his home away from him, and destroyed his city, but this again amounts to a superficial understanding. Deep below the surface of economic and political ideology where no one dares to dig is a 200 year old idea which has infected the minds of many great thinkers to this very day. More mysterious than the Knights of Templar, and shielded by cryptic sounding theorems such as Hecksher-Ohlin, Rybcyznski, and Stopler-Samuelson, free trade theory will probably never find its way into the national discussion without a whole new approach.

So for these reasons, I have attempted to distill economic theory, history, and a new model into its simplest form so as to give every American a chance to engage in this debate. Though it may appear that I have ventured outside of my engineering discipline, I would suggest when interpreting an economy as a machine, engineers are perhaps more aptly suit to overthrowing economic theory than one might suspect. Why? Because engineers by their very nature think in terms of machines.

In a nutshell, if you want to save your steel mill, boutique, and your country in the process, you will have to arm yourself with an intellectual solution that is more complete and more powerful than your sophisticated opponent’s who is more than happy to send your factory overseas. It is therefore my goal to provide you with the starting point for such an argument so that you may finally understand the roots of your destruction:

The delusion of numbers:

The new model of economics:

Ideology blinds us:

The rich are not immune:

Various critiques of all schools of economics (includes why fair trade is impossible):

More Steel tragedy:

Because I cannot shift the debate alone, I need your help to shape and spread the message. As a result, I welcome critique from all sources. If your critique make senses to me, I’ll gladly stand corrected. If you feel something is not clear or too complex, let me know. If you think I’ve not been unfair in a particular critique of a particular school, again, let me know. The goal is not to nurture egos, but ultimately get to the ultimate truth in economics.

In any case, thank you for taking the time to consider a new idea.

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