The Need To Restructure

Photo: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv
As has been noted before, certain themes in economic history have tended to repeat themselves. Economic restructuring is one of them. And it is almost always painful. Many Americans had seen variations on it before: the consolidation of the agricultural sector that went on throughout the 20th century, pushing many farmers off their land; and the massive restructuring of the manufacturing sector during the 1970s and 1980s, which shrank the number of factory jobs drastically, all but depopulating some old U.S. industrial communities. It is an example of the "creative destruction" cited by the economist Joseph A. Schumpeter as the means by which capitalism reinvigorates itself; in the end, the restructured sector may be smaller or different, but it is stronger and more fit to endure the rigors of global competition. Meantime, those lost jobs are replaced by new ones in industries with more potential. In the late 20th century, those jobs were increasingly in such high-technology industries as computers and biotechnology, and in fast-expanding service industries such as health care and computer software.