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Question: What will fuel growth in the economy?

Sally Blount: Clearly the service sector is where we excel in the U.S. economy versus the manufacturing and so clearly that’s going to be, and the knowledge-based sectors. Because that’s where we have – still have a leg up in the world in higher education and people who come out with critical thinking skills, so clearly those pieces are going to lead. Finance is already playing a bigger role than any of us thought it would. But I personally, in terms of sort of hopes and dreams, I think that social enterprise is having more, on a small scale, but there’s more vigor in that than I would have guessed five or 10 years ago. And that excites me.

Question: Has the service sector permanently eclipsed manufacturing?

Sally Blount: For the foreseeable future, the service sector has eclipsed manufacturing and a lot of it is a simple cost argument. We cannot manufacture as economically in the United States as you can in developing countries because all kinds of tax reasons, benefit reasons, and things that we require and are good for society.

Question: Is that bad for the U.S.?

Sally Blount: The interesting thing about economics and the markets and the developing the developed world is we’ve never played out this game before in a global scale. We don’t know if there is long-term harm to losing a manufacturing base. Intuitively, it feels very uncomfortable. It’s unclear where certain sectors of our society are going to continue to find employment. When you drive through Detroit, it’s absolutely scary. In some situations... or cities like Buffalo that used to have these manufacturing bases. So I would argue we don’t know the answer to that. But I’m not sure we can fix it right now. Until people are willing to not look for the lowest cost on certain manufactured goods. The developed world will win out, or the developing world, as the jobs base for manufacturing will win out over the developed world.

And in order for that to change, we’d have to change how we buy, and how we consume. And it’s hard to foresee in the near future how that’s going to change. So in many ways I don’t know if we have a choice, we have to play it out and see what happens.

The beautiful thing is, the Internet, for example: We didn’t even know about it 20 years ago and even 15 nobody ever thought it was going to circle the globe as fast as it did. There’s so, and you know, that’s where you get your hope an sense of surprise... is there may well be things that are going to happen that we can’t even imagine that make this service-dominated developed economy just fine. And what we have to do when I get back to education is keep educating the thinkers and the innovators and the critiquers who will help those breakthroughs come to bear because that’s the only hope for human society because at some point the developing world have played out this chain as well. And we will have robots manufacturing everything basic. And the question is what is human life then? What is the marketplace then? How do we find meaning and value and get our needs met and feed our families?

Recorded October 27, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown

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