Chalmers Johnson Interview

By June 13, 2006General

This report filed by our own Carter Wood:

The indefatigable, unflappable Brian Lamb of C-SPAN ranks as one of America’s best interviewers. We’re a big fan, although now and then his non-confrontational approach allows subjects to make grand and foolish misstatements without challenge.

Case in point: This weekend C-SPAN played the Q&A show interview with Chalmers Johnson, author of “The Sorrows of Empire.” (Show transcript here. We admit to not being familiar with Johnson’s work, but his arguments were clear enough: Empires are bad, America is an empire, therefore ….

….Oh, yes, and we’re militaristic, too.

It’s an argument worthy of debate, one supposes, but on the other hand, why would one bother engaging with someone who claims this?

It’s something we don’t want to admit in this country, how dependent we are increasingly on the military industrial complex. We don’t actually manufacture that much in this country any more but without question, we manufacture more weapons than anybody else on earth and we sell them like crazy to anybody who’ll buy them. We particularly like a military situation where we can sell weapons to both sides.

“We don’t actually manufacture that much more in this country.” Right.

Mr. Johnson, in 2005 U.S. manufacturing produced nearly $1.5 TRILLION in wealth, representing 12 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The top manufacturing sector (as of 2004) was food manufacturing (Military-Industrial Complex!). As of May, 2006, manufacturing employed 14.2 million people, paying an average 23 percent more than other industries.

These data are all available in a three-page summary sheet available on the NAM’s website

Yes, manufacturing has declined as a share of the economy in recent years, and total manufacturing employment has slipped. But manufacturing is still the largest sector of the U.S. economy. Which is to say, we still do manufacture things. A lot of things.

Mr. Lamb, you’re a Hoosier, and Indiana is the most manufacturing-intensive state in the Union. It’s OK to stop a subject and say, with a quizzical tone, “We don’t actually manufacture that much more? Really?”