Getting the Connection

Today we learned that five Canadian shipyards are scheduled to meet with the National Shipbuilding Procurement Secretariat. The five shipyards will be invited to participate in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

Canada will establish a strategic relationship with two of the yards. One will be selected to build combat vessels while the other yard will build non-combat vessels – creating jobs in various regions of the country.

What a great idea! Why didn’t we think of that? Creating jobs by building ships, huh? Has that ever been tried before, do you suppose?

Truth is, it’s been done on a number of occasions, and quite successfully. In past commentaries we recalled the economic growth that took place in countries such as Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the British Empire and Japan. Those empires saw economic growth because their shipbuilding industries turned out huge merchant fleets. And way back, ancient history tells us how Helen of Troy’s face built a thousand ships, and how even the Phoenicians ruled the waves for a while.

It was widely known in each of those empires that, “He who builds ships builds worlds.” One still hears that expression being used today but, strangely enough, most folks don’t seem to understand what’s meant by those words. Even more strangely, not too long ago we in the U.S. were forced to rely on our shipyards to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, and the effort successfully ended the Great Depression, as well as the Great War, and it brought us enormous economic gains.

But we didn’t know when we were well off. Paul Kennedy cited “the erosion of the American shipping and shipbuilding industry” and connected it with “the massive long term decline in American blue-collar employment.” Not many acknowledge that connection, however.

By building ships emerging nations are gaining positions of prominence. As we pointed out in Vol. XV, Art. 35, “First post-war Japan, then post-war Korea, and now China and India, each in turn recognizing that a strong maritime presence inevitably leads to national wealth. And in happier times wasn’t it our enormous merchant fleet that enabled us to become an economic superpower?

“But of course we can’t build a new merchant fleet. We’d have to pay the hired help too much. Somehow … somehow … the honchos running this country came to the conclusion that it would be to our advantage to allow the overseas competition to pick up all the marbles. We’d let them build all the container ships and we’d just pay them for whatever services we needed. That’s right. We decided to pay their workers rather than our own shipbuilders. We now know that this asinine strategy has put us in a hole that’s getting deeper by the day.” –

Canada now sees the merits of shipbuilding, but how is it that they can afford to build “non-combat” vessels, and we can’t? The answer is simple – it’s not a shortage of money, it’s a shortage of brains.