Daily Podcast: As Fall River Falls so Falls Fall River

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Samuel Slater started the industrial revolution in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Slater's 1793 textile mill set-off a manufacturing boom in The Ocean State, which soon spread throughout New England. Nearby Fall River Massachusetts became one of the world's foremost textile manufacturing centers, generating untold riches for its masters. The human cost at the bottom of the social scale was immense. Immigrant labor– including thousands of children– worked in horrific conditions for minimal compensation, with little hope of a better life. No one who's ever fully contemplated the human misery inflicted on these workers would begrudge their right to form a labor union, to protect themselves from heinous exploitation. It's a story that played out across America, in a range of labor-intensive industries; including mining, construction and automaking. And yet, at some point, the balance of power shifted too far the other way. Unions controlled the cost, pace, scale and scope of labor, tying the hands of those who would organize it for commercial survival. As the local labor force became too expensive and unwieldy, the Fall River mill owners abandoned the town. All that's left are dozens of huge, empty mills, now occupied by laser tag, indoor golf and… nothing. It's the same right across America's northern states, the country's former industrial heartland. Could the exodus have been prevented? It's hard to know. Will it now happen to Detroit's once all-conquering automotive industry? It already has.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Brian E Brian E on Sep 25, 2007

    In defense of Honda, at least with their current lineup you can get what you want. They've held the line on the size of their Euro Accord and they do indeed sell it in the states, as long as you're OK with getting it loaded. Regarding column shifters, given that the trend in modern automatics is towards paddle shifters, could we see a change in the PRNDL selector? Jaguar's trying something interesting with the XF, and it looks a lot more usable than BMW's Martian reproductive apparatus.

  • BlueBrat BlueBrat on Sep 25, 2007

    I don't understand why Ford took the shifter off the column in their Explorer series and hogged up very useful space in the center console with a big bulky automatic shifter... Is there really that much of a marketable coolness factor for a center-automatic shifter in vehicles that really don't need that? To quote Hyundai... duh.

  • Fallout11 Fallout11 on Sep 27, 2007

    Well said, edgett. Much the same thing has happened throughout America, not just the old rust belt. Here in the deep South, the same mill owners and their ilk that abandoned Fall River a century agao moved down here and started textile mills that have since closed......textile manufacturing is now done in lower labor cost locations worldwide (i.e. India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc). Those who control the means of production (in this case, mill owners) are always on the move, looking for greater profits and lower costs to exploit, without regard for other considerations. Predatory capitalism at its finest. Thus it can be said that class warfare is alive and well, since such decisions have little to do with unionization or their supposed 'control' over labor costs, for at the end of the day, one cannot reasonably expect to pay an American the same as wages as the average Pakistani due to the higher cost of living found in the US. Robbing from the poor and selling to the rich continues to be the driving force behind such vaunted "entrepreneurialism".