While I found the entire discussion interesting, if you want to hear a great summary of why American economic dominance in manufacturing is not what it once was, go to 66:20 at the video of historian H.W. Brands at the Pritzker Military Library on November 4, 2010 where he spoke on his new book, American Colossus.
For those of you who lack the patience, here's an excerpt:
No special virtue? An anomaly? What happens in a world of trading party equals?
I think we're beginning to find out.
Of course, it's Dr. Brand's view of history . . .