I'm going to try to execute a double play today, so first: this note of caution on using PEX tubing. From Dave Fenn, in Curtis Washington:
"I know a couple plumbers that say there is at least one problem with the new plastic - mice like it."
This is true - don't use where vermin can get to it.
And now back to Robert Blain from last week and our fixation on manufacturing jobs. One of the reasons we consider them so wistfully is psychological. Producing physical stuff - a car, or a truck full of soybeans provides immediate and obvious proof of your hard work.
This is not the case with what are now called mind workers. Taking care of patients, negotiating a contract, or driving a bus does not leave much physical evidence of your effort. This sense of accomplishment is very important to our satisfaction in life. It is also why this segment is being recorded in a woodworking shop.
Making tangible things scratches a deep-seated itch for many of us.
Oddly to me anyway, many of the attributes of factory jobs we now look back on fondly were not viewed that way at the time. The idea of an unvarying 40-hour week doing the same repetitive task was one factor motivating many of us through college.
What we have discovered since is that management strategies like flexible hours or on-call jobs exact a serious stress toll on workers. As fewer manufacturing jobs involve unions, much of the long-term security of work has evaporated as well.
Unions had their own problems but added considerable value at least to the workers they covered.
Most of all, I think factory jobs constituted a legitimate career path for those without college education. This way of life was common to many around you so it provided a community of peers that gave validation of your lifestyle.
I do not know how these contributions to life satisfaction will be matched by jobs in the future.
But it is clear to me from the consumption patterns of younger generations that the demand for physical stuff from refrigerators to recreational vehicles is being displaced by demand for experiences from video games to Facebook.
Judging from the enormous self-storage industry, Americans have more stuff than room.
Maybe we don't need as many people making things because we simply have plenty of things already.