In 1917, baseball player and shoe salesman Chuck Taylor took the already popular "All Star" canvas shoe design used by Converse and created the Chuck Taylor All-Star.
The shoe fit comfortably to the foot like typical converse shoes but also gave much needed support and stability to the ankle. These new shoes were an instant hit and during World War II the United States military used Chuck Taylors for all combat training due to their low price. In 2003, however, Nike bought Converse Shoes and after numerous bankruptcy filings, began to produce the shoes in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The means of production have shifted in most other areas of our economy as well. The former computer giant IBM has sold off its commercial manufacturing business to the Asian company Lenovo. This quantity of jobs lost by Americans is not a sign of what has happened in our country during our economic boom and bust, but rather a shadow of the future showing a time where there are – simply put – less jobs.This conclusion is also held by New York University journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, who stated on Aug. 5, 2011 that our national recovery from the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression will not just be jobless, but will result in less jobs overall for our nation. The idea is simple. Technology increases efficiency and increased efficiency means that fewer employees are needed. This then ripples down through the entire economy.
Many economists and politicians would shudder and choose to forget that last paragraph. For many, choosing not to acknowledge that many jobs – such as those in the print industry – will never be coming back is not an option. Any job replaced by a blog, robot, computer or even fewer people will never exist again. With that said, the only remaining option resides in how we as a nation look at that fact and move on. Moving on, however, isn't nearly as hard as you may think.
It's a matter of simply doing what we Americans have been known for since our nation's founding. We must embrace not our ability to produce real tangible products, but instead produce the ideas behind the products and then find a way of marketing them to the world. China doesn't design the next iPhone or Dell laptops, American engineers do. The biggest grossing websites on the Internet – Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Yahoo! – were all created by American entrepreneurs. Mac OS and Windows were both created by Americans. Are any of these things tangible? Nope. But they are incredibly valuable and world changing.
It's time to recognize that we as a nation are not going to be the largest producers of any physical products. Both China and India's overwhelming population will surpass us in terms of producing physical goods for the world.
We will, however, own the companies and the ideas for the products that are made. Isn't that enough? If every unemployed American stopped looking for a job in the economy and instead created one for themselves by working hard at improving something in our society, be it a product or a service – high tech or low tech – they themselves can create labor and market their ideas to the world.
The time is nigh for self-motivated individuals to create too. With services like kickstarter.com to help raise funds for an idea and a large proliferation in Do It Yourself expertise via Make Magazine, Instructables and community fabrication workshops, anyone with a thought can take that idea and make it into a reality. Anyone can be a 21st century Chuck Taylor.