A tiresome cliche, heard every time some lowly non-progressive human complains about losing his good solid decent job in manufacturing: "Well, buggy whips had to give way to automobiles, so your job has to give way."
It's an evil trick, a misdirection to blame "the inevitable march of technology" for unspeakably evil decisions made by demons. "We're not doing this because we enjoy watching you starve! No, no, no, we're not doing this because your suffering enlarges our bonuses! No, no, no, we're forced against our will to implement the Inevitable And Unstoppable Law Of Globalization. Time Marches On, and we must follow. This hurts us more than it hurts you!"
But what about the precise metaphor? Were buggy whips the main casualty of automobiles? I suspect the unspeakably evil metaphor-makers would acknowledge that they really mean horse-drawn carriages.
So let's look at carriages vs autos. Again pieced together from the 1915 Chicago Tribune almanac:
Data from 1909, when the Model T was just
starting production. Horses and streetcars were still dominant, and would remain so until 1920. Already automobiles (85K employees) had outpaced carriages (82K employees). But this wasn't a displacement. Carriage makers were actually subsumed
into the auto industry. Studebaker switched directly from buggies to cars. Billy Durant was a buggy maker when he bought Buick to start GM. Many other carriage-makers turned into auto body makers like Fisher, which later became part of major auto companies. In other words, the buggy industry became
the auto industry.
The real loss was railroads, not carriages.
A quick comparison from 1909 to 2011. The categories have changed. I assume whips are part of "manufactured leather goods", and I assume that the handful of carriages still produced for horse racing and parades are part of "other transportation", which cites golf carts as an example.
1909 whips 2k / 2011 leather 12k
1909 railroad rolling stock 400k / 2011 railroad rolling stock 27k
1909 automobiles 85k / 2011 "transportation equipment" 1.2M
1909 carriages 82k / 2011 "golf carts, etc" 12k
Where's technology in all of this? Present but complicated. Yes, autos were a new technology, but they expanded
the carriage industry into a new form. They didn't kill carriages. They did kill passenger railroads, but freight railroads are still a huge industry, still successful with 1940's tech.
So tech is NOT the primary force in the buggy-whip story, and these sectors are NOT the real losses to American manufacturing anyway.
The real losses are clothing, appliances, electronics and household supplies. And in those sectors technology was a REVERSE force. American workers were replaced by Chinese and Pakistani workers using LOWER technology, solely because America-based corporations are treasonous mass murderers who enjoy slaughtering an entire nation to improve their share value.
I wonder what the 'beta' is? The coefficient of slaughter? How many millions of lives need to be destroyed for a one dollar increment in share value? I'm sure Goldman has a well-calibrated equation.
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Sidenote: You'd think that gasoline engines (directly or via motorcycles) would have been a major source for the automobile industry. It happened that way in Europe and Japan, but NOT in the US. Only one gas-engine maker went into autos with any success. Maytag had started building engines to power its washing machines, and branched out into making an auto buggy. It didn't sell, so they gave up; but Maytag's engineers, the Duesenberg brothers, went on to make less prosaic machines.
Labels: 20th century Dark Age