My discussion question for today: In a world with global and highly-efficient transportation and communications…and billions of people who are accustomed to low wages…is it possible for a country such as the United States to maintain its accustomed high standards of living for the large majority of its people?…and, if so, what are the key policy elements required to do this?
Henry Ford did not establish the five-dollar day out of the sheer goodness of his heart. He did it because worker turnover had become unacceptably high: people didn’t like assembly-line work, and they had alternatives. Suppose Ford had then had the option of building the Model T in a low-wage country, say Mexico. Maybe he wouldn’t have needed to bother with the American $5/day wage and the productivity improvements needed to support it. (Although Ford being Ford, he still might have implemented the manufacturing innovations and process improvements even without strong economic necessity to do so.)
America’s premium wage structure has, I think, been historically enabled by several factors: