Sunday, June 03, 2007

Lack of Hand Skills

Instapundit has been leading a discussion bemoaning the lack of hand skills in us young'uns (well, OK, maybe not me-- the crowd he's talking about is around 10 years younger than me). I have some theories as to why today's youth lack hand skills. I blame foreign trade.

My husband's an "old-school" kind of guy. He grew up playing with broken electronic devices, taking them apart to see how they worked. When he got out of the military, he went to work at an audio/video repair shop fixing VCRs TVs, and DVD players. But he didn't actually fix most items, just took them apart to see what was wrong with them. That wasn't because he was incapable of fixing it-- it was because it wasn't cost-effective to fix. Most of the electronic equipment that came through his shop was cheaper to replace than to order a $10 part and pay him to install it. With DVD players on the market that cost less than a shop's minimum labor charge, there's no point in fixing anything anymore.

Myself, I have the ability to make over a dress, taking it apart down to its component parts and re-making it into a different dress. Back when dresses were not cheap, this was a valuable skill. Not so much anymore, when you can go down to the dollar store and buy spangly knit things off the rack. Who would pay me a couple hundred dollars to make over a dress, when for half that they could have a new one? And who would even want to make over a dress for their own personal use, when wearing such a dress would result in them being the object of scorn?

I agree, I think it's ridiculous when people can't use a screwdriver or hammer to put a drawer pull back on or hang a picture. But our youth, following in the footsteps of their parents, are foregoing the use of hand skills for... whatever it is that today's youth specialize in. (I'm not sure what that is, but it's gotta be something.) I think that if you are unabashedly for free trade, you can't turn around and decry people letting those with hand skills in foreign countries use their comparative advantage-- and losing our local hand skills in the process.

Perhaps some protectionism is in order here.

UPDATE: OMG (or should that be OMH* since I'm in Utah?) I got an Instalanche! And I thought it was exciting when Pejman linked to me that one time... Wow!

* In Utah they say "Oh My Heck."