The Efficient Destruction of Flyover Country

–SNIP– Then disaster struck. We were about 25 miles away from Galesburg, Illinois. Galesburg has good interstate-highway access on I-74 and is a major hub for the BNSF. The town of about 12,000 people had Knox College, a large Maytag factory and warehouse facility, and a factory for Butler Buildings. Thanks to NAFTA, GATT, and, to a much lesser extent, labor unions, Maytag closed down. Butler Buildings was bought out by an Australian concern, which announced that, because of productivity issues at the Galesburg plant, it was to be closed. In a short time, 4,500 decent-paying jobs had been lost. Then firms that depended on business from Maytag and Butler Buildings, or from their employees, folded. Gates Rubber also cut back its workforce. Gary Goddard, the Galesburg city manager, watched as his several decades of work to build up his town evaporated. Many people in my town commuted to Galesburg. People would work full-time in Galesburg, and farm full- or part-time. Now, an economist would say this happens because of inefficiency, and the failure of manufacturing is all part of the “creative destruction” that is an essential engine of capitalism. But what I have seen here in the heartland of the United States is only the destruction; the creation takes place offshore. Making a god of efficiency denigrates the much more important goal of effectiveness. Efficiency (as Peter Drucker writes) is doing the thing right, while effectiveness is doing the right thing. Of course, ideologues firmly believe that effectiveness is purely automatic: Progress is inevitable! But that is not the reality I have seen.

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