Made in the USA: An Urgent Call to Save American Manufacturing

"Manufacturing is not a relic of the past; it is the heartbeat of a thriving economy, pulsating with innovation, job creation, and societal well-being," declares Smil.


In the thought-provoking book “Made in the USA,” Vaclav Smil takes a deep dive into the complexities surrounding American manufacturing, challenging the prevalent belief that the decline of this sector is an unavoidable consequence of progress.

Vaclav Smil presents a compelling argument against the prevailing notion that manufacturing is a relic of the past and that the loss of American manufacturing is an acceptable shift toward a pure service economy. Smil contends that a thriving, innovative manufacturing sector is indispensable for the prosperity of any advanced economy and the livelihoods it sustains.

Smil’s analysis forces us to reevaluate the significance of manufacturing in the context of economic, strategic, and social well-being.

This blog post delves into Smil’s powerful rebuke, exploring the historical significance of American manufacturing, its rise to dominance, its role in societal development, and the critical challenges it currently faces.

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Made in the USA

Organized into six compelling sections, plus an enlightening Introduction and insightful References and Indexes, this book is not merely a narrative of the past; it’s a roadmap to understanding the present and navigating the future of America’s economic landscape.

(1) Why Manufacturing Matters:

In this foundational section, Smil lays the groundwork for the pivotal role manufacturing plays in shaping the destiny of nations. Through a lens that transcends economic theories, he unravels the significance of manufacturing as a fundamental force in creating and advancing the economic might of the United States.

(2) The Ascent, 1865 – 1940:

Embark on a journey through time as Smil recounts the ascent of American manufacturing from the aftermath of the Civil War to the eve of World War II. This section serves as a historical canvas, painting the picture of a nation on the brink of economic transformation.

(3) Dominance, 1941 – 1973:

Witness the zenith of American manufacturing prowess during a period of unparalleled dominance — from the brink of World War II through the prosperity of the post-war era. Smil meticulously dissects the factors that propelled the nation to the forefront of global economic leadership.

(4) The Retreat, 1974 -:

The narrative takes a sobering turn as Smil navigates through the challenges and setbacks faced by American manufacturing from the mid-1970s onward. Explore the complexities that marked this era, revealing the forces that contributed to the retreat from manufacturing prominence.

(5) The Past and the Future:

In a reflective juncture, Smil bridges the historical narrative with a forward-looking perspective. What lessons can be gleaned from the past, and how do they inform our understanding of the present and future? This section invites readers to contemplate the trajectory of manufacturing and its broader implications.

(6) Chances of Success:

In a thought-provoking finale, Smil addresses the critical question of the chances of success for American manufacturing. What strategies can be employed to rejuvenate this fundamental sector, and what are the odds of reclaiming manufacturing prowess?

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The Historical Tapestry of Made in USA:

Smil begins by unraveling the historical tapestry of American manufacturing, highlighting its rapid ascent at the turn of the twentieth century.

At the core of Smil’s argument is a robust challenge to the prevailing belief that manufacturing is an outdated relic. He questions the desirability of a shift towards a service-oriented economy, emphasizing the indispensability of manufacturing in sustaining a balanced and thriving society.

Smil raises a crucial question: Is it acceptable to have a society with a small population engaged in high-value-added work while masses face unemployment?

The sector’s journey includes phases of consolidation and modernization between the two World Wars, ultimately becoming a linchpin for mass consumption in the post-World War II era. Manufacturing, Smil argues, was not just an economic force but a driving factor behind America’s social and global dominance.

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Challenging the Notion of Obsolescence of Made in USA:

The book’s historical trajectory emphasizes the multifaceted importance of manufacturing, rejecting the idea that it belongs to a bygone era.

Smil questions the wisdom of prioritizing high-value-added work over mass employment. He contends that a thriving manufacturing sector is crucial for maintaining a balanced and robust economy.

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True Measure of a Nation’s Prosperity

The author challenges the notion that a nation’s wealth is solely measured by financial metrics. Real wealth, the book argues, comes from creating tangible value, producing from nothing, or harnessing concentrated energy from diffuse sources.

The book explores the idea that a nation’s wealth goes beyond virtual finance, often detached from standard citizens’ daily lives. It suggests true prosperity is measured by a country’s ability to sell what it produces, emphasizing the importance of sustaining high salaries through productive economic activities, rather than focusing solely on corporate earnings.

Oil Production

The narrative explores a crucial turning point in the American dream, aligning with the peak in oil production. The book argues that high Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) from oil was key to widespread wealth distribution. However, a shift to lower ERoEI values transformed the American welfare, leading to a decline in wealth overflow.

The author parallels historical income inequality in 18th-19th century England with the contemporary situation in America. Notably, both eras saw dominance by nobility and wealthy merchants in the political sphere, prompting questions about implications for today’s landscape.

Evaluating Proposed Solutions for Made in USA:

In addressing the current manufacturing crisis in the United States, Smil meticulously evaluates various suggested solutions. From the contentious issue of corporate tax rates to the imperative of investing in research and development and the pivotal role of enhancing public education, each proposed solution is scrutinized for its potential to revitalize American manufacturing.

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The Urgency of Action for Made in USA:

In a world filled with political noise, this book redirects attention to critical factors shaping the nation’s future. It’s more than a historical narrative; it’s a powerful examination of root causes behind America’s economic challenges, a call to action.

Smil outlines America’s economic ascent and delves into recent decay. The image of container ships arriving with goods only to leave with waste highlights a stark reality. A $500 billion trade surplus, financed by government debt, raises questions about sustainability and economic health.

This book serves as a call to action for those who seek a deeper understanding of America’s economic challenges. It challenges us to move beyond surface-level political discussions and focus on the root causes that underpin our economic realities. The author reveals a narrative of economic decay. Readers are urged to reflect on the urgency of addressing shifting dynamics. These dynamics threaten the very fabric of the nation.

For anyone concerned about America’s future, this book is an indispensable guide. It urges us to reassess our priorities. We need to have meaningful conversations about the nation’s economic foundation. Together, we must collaborate on solutions for a more sustainable and equitable future.


“Made in the USA” emerges as a compelling call to action, urging stakeholders across the spectrum to recognize the intricate web of challenges surrounding American manufacturing. Smil’s detailed exploration of historical context, current crisis, and potential solutions provides a nuanced understanding of the path forward. Preserving and revitalizing American manufacturing is not just an economic imperative; it’s a cornerstone for sustaining a balanced, prosperous, and resilient society. The time to act is now.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
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