Can America Make Things Again?
As manufacturing overseas has become widespread, it’s not uncommon to hear people complain that America doesn’t make things anymore. Yet in many areas of the country, economic creativity remains alive and well; it just faces unnecessary obstacles. In this issue, we examine some bold ideas for overcoming those obstacles, along with our usual line-up of stories about rare, largely unsung, master artisans.
For a brief time in the mid-1970s, a British economist named E.F. Schumacher changed the conversation across the Western world with a daring book entitled “Small Is Beautiful.” Schumacher argued that the push for endless growth was destroying the foundations of meaningful work, and it was doomed to fail. Although Schumacher died before he could develop his ideas, a center founded in his name has tried to continue his legacy. Might his message be even more timely today?
By BRYCE T. BAUER
Now that manufacturing wages in Asia are starting to rise, some U.S. industries have started to bring their businesses back to our own shores. Many others remain skittish, however—of our tighter regulatory environment, of the high cost of U.S. labor, and of the paucity of workers who know how to make things anymore. Can that spiral be reversed?
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
In early 2018, after the release of a positive national jobs reports, some experts said the glowing numbers couldn’t be trusted, and actually indicated a “wage-less recovery.” No wonder. For the last few decades, both the private and public sectors have gradually weakened the support structures that have nurtured the American workforce for generations. Two experts connect the dots on this new dilemma, and look for solutions.
By KRISTIN SHARP and MOLLY KINDER
Other Topics In This Issue
The word artisanal has become so shopworn that it’s almost devoid of meaning. (To wit: we once saw a pizza outlet on the outskirts of a small town in northern France that was fashioned in the style of an ATM-kiosk under the following sign: “Artisanal Pizza.”) In stark contrast to this sorry state of affairs, we would like to suggest a few items for holiday shopping made by some of the masters we profiled in 2019.
By EDITORS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP QUARTERLY
While the United States and other prosperous countries have struggled to keep their honeybees alive, Greece—a country suffering from a decade of intense economic troubles—continues to produce what many consider the world’s finest honey. What’s the Greeks’ secret? And why can’t honey producers in wealthier countries keep up?
By ROB WATERS
While Scottish culture is branded by its famous Highland bagpipes, its neighbor across the water has long made a very different set of pipes that plays a much wider range of music. Our correspondent visits the indefatigable, obsessive masters of the uilleann pipes.
Story by LARRY GALLAGHER
Photography by RUTH CARDEN
Centuries ago, a fleet of rowboats called Whitehalls plied the waters of the San Francisco Bay, helping the chandlers at their helms ferry goods to and from the giant sailing ships working the city’s port. Today, descendants of those early crafts are being built, rowed, and occasionally put to work on the same waters.
A documentary short by WENDY “PEPPER” SCHUSS
Story by TODD OPPENHEIMER