David Foster commented on a recent post, coming to my defense over my blathering about Ivy Leaguers, saying "I don't think the problem (at least as I see it) is specifically with Ivy Leaguers, but rather with the excessive worship of educational credentials–a worship that is manifested in the strongest for in the case of Ivy League degrees in general, and graduate degrees in particular." I appreciate the help, and he is absolutely correct. No doubt there are plenty of intelligent, practical thinking Ivy League grads; and there is no shortage of theoretical weirdos holding degrees from other schools. The difference seems to be whether they actually know anything from first hand experience – or if manufacturing and economics exist soley in theory – a theory they learned at an elite school.
In railing against the Ivy Leaguers, I certainly am in the wrong by painting everyone in the Ivy League with the same brush. And I miss a great number of Ivy League wannabes teaching at other schools parroting Ivy League-type nonsense.
When I slam the Ivy League, the image I have in mind is Robert Reich. You will recall he is the former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration. A Dartmouth grad and Harvard prof, he then went on to Brandeis and is now vomiting his particular load of nonsense on the unsuspecting at Cal-Berkley.
"I recently toured a U.S. factory containing two employees and 400 computerized robots. The two live people sat in front of computer screens and instructed the robots. In a few years this factory won't have a single employee on site, except for an occasional visiting technician who repairs and upgrades the robots."
"What happened to manufacturing? In two words, higher productivity"
"And stop blaming poor nations whose workers get very low wages. Of course their wages are low; these nations are poor. They can become more prosperous only by exporting to rich nations. When America blocks their exports by erecting tariffs and subsidizing our domestic industries, we prevent them from doing better. Helping poorer nations become more prosperous is not only in the interest of humanity but also wise because it lessens global instability."
The factory with 2 people and 400 robots? Either some bio-tech freak of the manufacturing world or a figment of a fertile imagination, but it is an abomination to represent this as mainstream manufacturing, or even as a sign of things to come in any of our lifetimes.
His two words: higher productivity — my two words: bovine scatology. It strikes me as incredible that of all people, a Secretary of Labor should not know how hopelessly inaccurate the productivity measures are. He should read The Hollow American Economy, but the likelihood of a Dartmouth-Harvard-Cal tech guy reading anything a University of Cincinnati guy wrote are pretty dismal.
"They can become more prosperous by exporting to rich nations" Really? Which nation has actually become more prosperous by having their low wage people export to rich nations, Bob?
Reich opposed the GM bailout because he opposes manufacturing as a matter of principle. " The answer is not to bail out GM. It is to smooth the way to a new, post-manufacturing economy."
So where does this convoluted nonsense come from? The enlightenment that naturally results from Mr Reich having been born and raised on the coast. Says Mr. Reich, "New ideas and reform movements start in coastal areas." Because the east and west coasters have greater access to the rest of the world they come up with all of the great ideas. Us rubes in the heartland are slow to get the drift of things so we tend to be a little backward. Mr. Reich and his colleagues benefit from "mixing of ideas, nationalities, and new perspectives on coasts". I, on the other hand, am "more parochial, and stay that way longer."
Mr. Reich, if he ever bothered to leave the enlightened coast, would no doubt be surprised to find that, not only did the Wright brothers fly an airplane in 1903, an entire industry sprang up and there are now non-stops flights from hick towns like Chicago that fly to China every day. I know that for a fact because I flew on one of them eight times last year. Not only that, they fly to London, Frankfurt, Zurich and Vienna. You can take my word for it because I was on one them seven times. You don't have to live by the ocean to know what is going on in the rest of the world, which would apparently come as quite a shock to the boys from Dartmouth and Harvard, who, I guess, go down to the dock every day when the ships come in to get the latest news from overseas.
In all seriousness, why would the perspective from the rest of the world carry so much weight? We live in the greatest nation the planet has ever seen. We have the greatest economy ever. We live in the most culturally diverse, most liberated and most giving country the world has ever known. There is nothing in the history of man to compare with the Unted States by any significant measure. Who is it these guys look to for inspiration that is so much better, and why are they so dismissive of the Americans steeped in the ideas that made the United States so great?
And if they are so great at finding the world's most wonderful ideas and feeding them to the rest of us, how come they completely missed the essence of lean when it originated in Japan. The best idea they have come up with from their superior global viewpoint is to have the most impoverished slugs they can find in third world countries make all of our stuff for us. That's it? You and the boys from Dartmouth and Harvard studied the globe and came to the startling conclusion that there are poor people out there who will work cheap – and you packaged that keen insight in multi-syllabic white papers and built an entire economic philosophy around it? And Presidents listen to you and trashed American manufacturing ??? Why on earth do the unions support you and the Democratic party? Robert Reich and his ilk are the American working man's worst nightmare.
No, I cannot condemn the Ivy League as a group, but I certainly have a few bones to pick with heir poster boy, Robert Reich.
Why should we care? Reich is a regular Sunday morning television expert commentator, was named by Time magazine as one of the ten most successful cabinet members of this century, he was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of our ten top business thinkers, and was a member of Obama's economic transition team. He is viewed as a grand wizard of business and economics. So long as this guy passes for genius manufacturing – and the USA – is in big trouble.
Here are the links to a couple of very interesting related posts David Foster has written: