Jobs to where the need is greatest

A letter on offshoring reeking of hope.

Published March 24, 2006 10:20PM (EST)

My post yesterday about offshoring has generated some particularly good, and diverse, letters. I want to highlight one in particular, not because it represents what I think is the truth about offshoring, but because it is a rare example of a reader looking at globalization and seeing reason for hope. Instead of viewing the global economy as a zero-sum, winners-versus-losers dogfight, the writer sees us as all in this together.

Before jumping in, a few caveats: The writer is focusing more on the issue of low-level manufacturing jobs going overseas than on the potential mass migration of high-paid white-collar jobs. He or she may also err a bit on the utopian side by imagining that in 20 years, the average person in China and India will have caught up to the average person in the U.S. And I'm not all that sure our economy is really that highly geared towards "retraining." But be all that as it may, How the World Works savors the positivity.

So here, without further ado, is "shannonr," for your Friday afternoon reading pleasure.

"Can anyone give me one single reason, besides blind patriotism, why I should prefer an American worker having a job bolting Part A on to Subassembly B over a Chinese/Indian/Etc worker having exactly the same job?"

"Because I can think of dozens of reasons why I should prefer the developing country worker having that job. The American worker has other options in a system that is highly geared towards retraining. The American worker also likely has other sources of income in his or her immediate family. The American worker also has a huge services sector that he or she can find work in. A sector that even in these tough economic times, is still screaming for workers."

"The developing country worker has none of these luxuries. And so, hand over heart, underneath a waving flag and standing up for the national anthem, I must say that I prefer the developing country worker having the job."

"That's simply the Christian/Secular Humanist thing to do. The job where the need is greatest."

"And what happens in the long term? Do all 'our' jobs go overseas and suddenly they're calling themselves the United States of East Asia and we're the People's Republic of America?"

"Of course not."

"What happens is that these low-level jobs, over the next 20 years, transform their economies and living standards into roughly what we expect today."

"Then, the biggest 'overhead' in the manufacturing equation will not be wages anymore, but transport costs. And all the jobs come 'home' again, hopefully to be done by machines with smart, educated, well-paid people (the children of the people who 'lost' their jobs to outsourcing and successfully retrained) overseeing that sustainable, efficient production process."

"Peak oil might get us -- outsourcing won't."

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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