Saturday, April 29, 2006

nerd humor

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The weird way of the Japanese

Thursday, April 13, 2006

We need new technology, not cheap labor

During the current debate over immigration, how many times have you heard someone arguing that the U.S. economy depends on low-skilled immigrant labor?

Well, don't believe those open-borders proponents - those who argue, in effect, that the United States has to run itself like a Third World country. The vision of a rich elite ruling over a poor mob may appeal to some, but it's not the American Way.

Asked specifically about illegal immigrants, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donahue told USA Today last month, "We absolutely need these workers." A similar view comes from Tom Hensley, chief financial officer for a Gainesville, Ga. factory farm, who tells The Washington Post: "Absent Hispanic workers, we could not process chicken."

Gee, how did people back in merry olde England manage to feed themselves? Where did chicken soup come from, way back when?

The answer, of course, is that our ancestors did it, and they did it more easily as they began to figure out how to substitute technology for labor. That's also how a country moves from low skills and low wages to high skills and high wages.

That's the path America took on its way to becoming a great power. In agriculture, the big breakthrough came in 1831, with the invention of the McCormick Reaper. Mass-produced in Chicago, the reaper enabled two men to cut as much grain in a day as a dozen or more men using traditional reaping hooks. As a result, labor was freed up to work in factories, accelerating the Industrial Revolution - and the American Dream.

Yet, it's noteworthy that the reaper and similar productivity enhancing inventions came to the American North, not the South. In slave-holding Dixie, where labor was free - if you don't count flogging and lynching and putting down bloody uprisings as costs - there was little incentive to develop labor-saving technology. The low-tech status quo seemed quite OK to plantation owners.

But then came the Civil War. All of a sudden those Yankee factories that made farm machinery started making war machinery; the Confederates were overwhelmed by Union troops and their ever-improving rifles and railroads.

The lesson is this: The same technological advances that make a country rich also make it militarily powerful; the engine of prosperity can always be converted into the arsenal of democracy. Moreover, using technology instead of "labor" reduces a country's casualties; one shudders to think about American losses if we had fought World War II without the Higgins boat, the B-17 and, of course, the A-bomb.

So now, back to the present. Those who say that we need open borders so that the country can be flooded with tens of millions of low-skilled workers have a vision not dissimilar to that of past slave owners: Why bother with technology when cheap labor does the job?

But, in fact, four-fifths of the farming in this country is already done with machines. And what of the rest? What of apple-picking and chicken-processing? Well, it's time for another dose of technology. But you needn't take my word for it. Go to the Web site of the University of Illinois and look up the robotics work of Prof. Tony Grift; he and his colleagues have built harvesting "agbots" for as little as $150 each. And that's before mass production.

Many similar programs exist across the U.S., although, of course, they are neglected. So long as labor is cheap, there's no incentive for food producers to invest in productivity-improving technology. Which is to say, for as long as the border is open, complacent agribusiness will want to turn much of America into a Third World country, filled with Third World people. It worked for Mississippi, right?

The better answer is to close the border and upgrade our labor-saving technology. In the short run there will be extra costs, but in the long run new industries will bloom, making us richer and stronger.

James P. Pinkerton's e-mail address is

from newsday,0,1160034.column?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Where I've been

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Every office should have it's own patch

and here's ours.

Monday, April 03, 2006

so inviting!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

U.S. Flag Banned Amid Racial Tensions