Cheap Labor and Cheap Quality


From the NYT:

They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To

Inferior Products and Labor Drive Modern Construction

By Henry Petroski, June 26, 2014

… Workmanship has declined in parallel. There continue to be expert craftsmen — carpenters, roofers, painters — who work with precision and pride, but they are increasingly being pushed out by cheaper labor with inferior skills (which is, of course, why the labor is cheaper). I have had paint jobs that blistered within days and had to be redone — at my expense. And I have heard and read of many analogous experiences.

This is not the fault of homeowners, but of the industries whose practices favor the use of inferior products and labor that drive modern construction: the developers, lenders, builders and Realtors who, to make quick money, have created a stock of domestic and commercial infrastructure that is a waste of resources and will not last.

I can’t help but think that this experience, multiplied by those of millions of homeowners, affects how we as a country view our public infrastructure. We have seen short-term fixes and shoddy workmanship at home, and we see our bridges and roads the same way.

Henry Petroski is a professor of engineering and history at Duke and the author, most recently, of “The House With Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship.”

There are obvious parallels and connections between cheap construction and the policy of winking at cheap labor provided by the illegal immigrants who put up the poorly made exurban McMansions during the subprime bubble.