I've had some slow time to think lately

China's been on my mind since the most recent thing about how they seem to be limiting the export of rare Earth metals now that they've 95%+ of the supply by undercutting everyone else's prices. If they are determined to keep their currency too low, we could correct that by setting an import tax--but that'll only hurt everyone.

I definitely feel it's wrong that they are actively strategizing to take factory jobs from us, but I think that it's right that unskilled jobs should go to where labor is cheapest because we then are all enriched. Basically, why waste Americans in factories when there are entire countries that can do little more than that?

Our economy needs to rebalance to do more of the high-value things that we Americans are good at--doing thinking, creative and intellectual, activities like design, engineering, research, teaching, innovating, inventing, perhaps also managing, organizing, planning, financing, and so forth.

Honestly, China's unattractiveness is much more due to human rights issues than economic friction. If they want to be a country of factories and factory workers for the next few centuries, we should be happy that they want to do the dirty work. If they decide to allow their people to raise prices, then labor will move to the next poor country. For that matter, they just choked the golden goose by frightening the rest of the world into not allowing itself to be dependent on China in the future.

The actual villain is automation and technology is no villain at all. Since the beginning of time, tools have been saving labor and putting people 'out of work' which means liberating them up to do more advanced activities.

As I've probably mentioned before, the US makes more stuff than ever (from here), it's just done more and more by robots with the complicated cheap stuff that needs to be done by hand moving overseas. From those links, since 1970 while the population of our country has grown by about 50% the amount of stuff we make has increased by 150%! We should be as sad as a century ago when candlemakers were put out of business by a handful of lightbulb factory workers.

[Something that's interesting, at least to me, is to imagine the extreme situation of technology: how things would be if hard-AI were developed. That is, robots with mental capabilities that at least match those of a human. Humans would be economically obsolete and scarcity would be largely solved. Initially all the factories would return with robot "workers" as much as permitted by environmental laws to minimize transport cost and time. Time would become the valuable thing to people since we'd have everything but only one life. Costs of goods would drop to approach the cost of materials, which would be dropping as well since robots would be doing the mining, collecting, and farming. I suppose either we'd have to adapt to an economy of consuming each other's art or we'd end up socializing everything. I think then that'd introduce a new issue of whether people need urgency or a conflict to overcome to operate and that if everyone got an allowance and every want satisfied, we'd all get depressed at the pointlessness.]

Back to reality, the trouble in that is that given the spectrum of people I've met so far in my life, there seems to be a non-negligible amount of people who don't want to be intellectual or creative and would prefer to do simple 'doing' jobs. However in the global economy, those jobs aren't in this country.

The challenge is being able to move into the future, whatever shape it takes, while being able to accommodate everyone.