Why We Need to Make Things

Susannah Black
Susannah Black received her BA from Amherst College and her MA from Boston University. She is an editor at Mere Orthodoxy, Plough Quarterly, Postliberal Thought and its journal New Polity, and The Davenant Press. Previously, she was an editor at Providence and Fare Forward. She's a co-founder of Solidarity Hall and The Simone Weil Center, and is on the boards of the Distributist Review, The Davenant Institute, and The Simone Weil Center. Her writing has appeared in First Things, The Distributist Review, Solidarity Hall, Providence, Amherst Magazine, Front Porch Republic, Ethika Politika, The Human Life Review, The American Conservative, Mere Orthodoxy, Fare Forward, Postliberal Thought, and elsewhere. She blogs at Radio Free Thulcandra and tweets at @suzania. A native Manhattanite, she is now living in Queens.

Dear friends,

We don’t make things in the United States—but we need to start.

Remember this time last year when we all started making bread and sewing masks? The bread-making was one thing: always a good idea to get back into baking. The mask-sewing was another. We sewed masks because for a long while there, masks were unavailable; PPE is still in radically short supply in many hospitals. I remember a sense, and a fairly intense one, that what the pandemic revealed was that the goods we need in order to live are not guaranteed to be available.

It’s all very well to plant a COVID garden or to start cooking a lot more of your own food. But what we need, claims Anthony Barr in this week’s essay, is a post-COVID industrial policy that will prevent us from again being in the position we’ve been in this past year, as we experienced firsthand the fragility of our hollowed-out industrial capacity.

He presents this in terms of geopolitical rivalry: it’s not my natural way of thinking. But what is clear, from the biblical parallel he makes—it was Joseph’s sound industrial policy that brought Egypt through seven years of famine—is that taking care of ourselves is what allows us to be hospitable to others, both as individuals and as a nation.

My best regards,