This article – "How to Make an American Job" should be required reading for everyone concerned about the state of our industrial commons. And many are (see this terrific post and related Harvard Business Review article by Gary Pisano). The line that most caught my attention from Grove's piece was this:
"You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work — and much of the profits — remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work — and masses of unemployed? "
Grove's solutions include applying a tax on foreign labor and applying the funds raised to create grants for companies to scale their operations up in the United States. In addition, providing selective support to high-promise areas that right now suffer from under-investment.
This is a classic problem of the "commons" – the longstanding realization that if everyone does what is good for themselves alone, the net result is bad for the greater good. It's a pattern that played out in Jared Diamond's epic Guns, Germs and Steel in which civilizations literally ate through their stock of large animals. It requires real leadership and only government can provide the mitigating power to force people to do things that are not in their indiviudal short-term interest but in which society has a vital stake. So rather than slavishly believing that free markets will cure everything, why not take a page or two from the example of Asian countries or even Germany and re-commit to making things again?