Saturday, 1 October 2016

Truly Bizarre, This: How To Get It & Yet Totally Not Get It At The Same Time

Hmm, this is a strange one! It's not uncommon to see an article in the Telegraph that's along the right lines; and it's not uncommon to see an article in the Telegraph that's a ball of confusion.

It is, however, fairly uncommon to see an article in which the writer is confused in one paragraph, then in the next paragraph comes up with the answer that explains his confusion, but then goes back to being just as confused as when he started.

His grievance is that:

"Kitchen blenders used to be made in the UK, but now no blenders are made here. All of them, every single one, is imported from abroad, mostly from China. What has gone wrong?"

Err... nothing has gone wrong; this is the nature of trade, and what makes two countries progress simultaneously by mutually beneficial transactions. If China has the comparative advantage in x, y or z, then the purpose of beneficial trade is that we buy x, y or z from China, not the other way round. Our writer doesn't seem totally unfamiliar with this principle:

"This is indeed a sad state of affairs. Kitchen blenders are relatively simple to manufacture. Until the late 1980s Kenwood made its iconic blenders in the UK, before moving its operations to China. But why don’t we still make them? The production processes involved – tool setting, machine minding, assembly, testing and packing – can mostly be learned by a workforce in a couple of days.

You don’t need much management experience to run these kinds of operations; to order the right components, ensure the correct specification and quality standards, to keep waste to a minimum, and to make sure that costs are kept under control.

Making kitchen blenders is not rocket science. So why are none of them produced in the UK today? There is a simple reason: the cost base in the UK is too high. Essentially, it costs far more to produce them here than it does in the Far East. As a result, not only kitchen blenders but thousands of other medium and low-tech products, which could perfectly well be manufactured in the UK, are all imported from abroad, mostly from the Far East."

Ahem, yes - couldn't have explained it better myself - it's because we can get these goods cheaper from abroad that it would be more expensive for Brits to buy them as home grown products rather than as imported goods. It's truly bizarre that the writer appears to get the basics of this so well, yet so abjectly fails to grasp why lamenting the lack of UK kitchen blender manufacturing is so foolishly short-sighted.