The imminent collapse of the American automotive industry and its ancillary businesses has inadvertently revealed an uncomfortable truth no one is quite willing to say aloud: in its current phase, the U.S. can longer afford its own manufacturing infrastructure. Although the automobile is a distinctly American creation, other countries have learned how to design, develop, build, and market cars better and cheaper than we can. So except for a few die-hard buy-American types, everyone buys foreign. Free marketers say, “fine, let U.S. companies fail.” We can’t operate that industry profitably anymore, so we should seek other opportunities.
That is the American myth: the land of opportunity. For 150 years, the U.S. has been in the vanguard of scientific and technological development, and as a result, the list of American inventions that have transformed the world is disproportionately long. Some chalk it up to a wellspring of creativity borne out of the melting pot; others assert that the U.S. is a magnet for creative, risk-taking, entrepreneurs. Whatever the cause, it’s undeniable that creative ferment has fueled an impressive array of innovations in the U.S.