My assertion is that we don't want them to come back. If there continues to be a path to financial security in low-skill manufacturing, then our children will continue to drop out of high school and take that path. NPR did a story recently on the dichotemy of jobs in modern factories. There were still a few low-skill positions, but the future was in NC mill programming and similar high-skill positions. I have a ten-year old nephew who has very good spacial imaging skills. I would much rather see him develop those skills rather than take a job pushing a button on an assembly line.
There are different cases here. Germany is different from the Apple case. In Apple's case, very few jobs were sent to China. Prior to using China Apple had highly automated plants making its machines in California. Robots (and their makers and maintainers) lost their jobs to cheap assembly in China, partly on price, largely on agility to make different products or changes, and then eventually on supply chain. If those jobs come back to the USA it will not be as assembly jobs in the 10s of thousands. It will be when some robotics company makes agile assembly lines which create a few hundred really well paid jobs. The larger process is the increasing efficiency of production, currently detoured through south China but probably not staying there for very long.
The larger question of what business the USA is in and how we structure our society to be mutually supportive and fulfilling is not going to be solved by targetting low wage assembly jobs in developing countries. It will be much more about what we do with the high end jobs, and how we educate people for them, and deal with the fact that such industries naturally have an elite structure which tends to be winner take most and will not directly employ many.
Germany is actually a great example of a high value exporting nation. Everyone thinks of well known brands like BMW but what they don't typically know is the strength across the board. Consumer to them is not so important, but they are world leaders in the machines that equip manufacturing growth (outside Germany). Who cares if Germany are world leaders in machines that print newspapers ? Add many more sectors and you have a powerhouse.
There is no "self regulation" in a feedback system. The regulation comes from the feedback parameters themselves.
If your argument is that there is an "invisible hand" in the economic system that regulates it. Well we as engineers need to remove the obscurity of this "invisible" parameter and quantify it's parameters. Otherwise we leave it to the fortune tellers and "economists" to screw up our children's future.
All economic theory is just that -- theories.
Economists would have us believe they more than the rest of us but they can't prove any of their theories are correct.
They just experiment with people's lives until they screw up (e.g. Greenspan and deregulation of Banks).
From raspberrypi.org (thanks LOBo):
"it’s really, really tax inefficient for an electronics company to do its manufacturing in Britain, and it’s one of the reasons that so much of our manufacturing goes overseas."
Substitute Britain for US and same applies. Tax policy is the main problem.
I agree, Bert. My father worked for ARMCO Steel, now AK Steel, the result of a limited partnership between ARMCO Steel and Kawasaki Steel. In the 70's, the company hired nearly 10,000 workers. Today, it hires around 2,500 workers and produces twice as much steel. During a union lockout in 2004, it was operated at full capacity by 1,800.
The bottom line is that, at least in the steel industry, around 80% of the jobs that were necessary in the 70's simply are not needed any longer. Those jobs were not outsourced. They simply ceased to exist, no longer needed due to improvements in automation over recent decades.
It is not possible to compare workforce levels that were outsourced some years ago to the number of jobs that would be created NOW by bringing them back. It is most definitely not a 1:1 relationship.
We should also take care that we don't get what we wish for. Is it prudent to force manufacturing jobs back to the US when many of those jobs will likely cease to be necessary in a decade or two?
Several years ago a German colleague told me he paid 56% personal tax. Sweden and other European countries have much higher rates than the US, but big money hates unions or compliance. China also has a huge vested interest to keep her people employed. Rather a billion plus people beavering away to keep manufactured goods cheap than rattling war machines or looking for the next oil rich nation to pick on. Imagine if the US spent more money on non-defence electronics. You might then be able to buy a US made camera, printer, LCD etc. Right now a PT100 lists in the US at $100, more than a much more complex printer. Don't believe me, just take one apart when the ink runs out, as they charge the same for ink as for a printer with ink. A real eye opener. Not even cheap labour, freight offsets, low tax etc justifies this. Maybe their CEOs and investors are less greedy than Westerners?