24 November 2010


UPDATED: 01/26/12

Outsourcing! (okay, and now scream!)

With the current state of the US economy, outsourcing has emerged as the most hated word of the year. Yet, outsourcing isn’t actually a new concept.

Outsourcing (contracting work to cheaper labor) has in fact been around since people began sailing the oceans.

Remember Kathie Lee Gifford, Walmart, Nike, and allegations of child labor in distant lands? That was the ugly side of outsourcing, circa 1990s. Go back even further to discover that it was the twisted logic of outsourcing cheap labor from Africa that kept slavery alive in America for her first 100 years.

Because a main goal of Free Enterprise is to maximize profit [and there is nothing wrong with that], outsourcing exists.

In 2010, however, the idea that a company would want to increase its profits by outsourcing labor to Manila, New Delhi, or Johannesburg, is characterized as a fundamental threat to America and its middle class.

But, it really isn’t.

Or, at least it doesn’t have to be.

Slavery was abolished across the United States because it was absolutely horrific, yes. But, what is often overlooked is that the end of slavery also came about because of the Industrial Revolution, when the emergence of machines and technology gradually transformed the American labor force. It is progress that helped to end the culture of slavery.

It is progress that is missing today.

During the 2008 US presidential campaign, we heard all the candidates repeat one phrase, over and over and over: “green-collar jobs.”
"…the hard work of decarbonizing the American economy will actually create millions of new jobs. Someone, after all, will need to produce alternative power, increase energy efficiency and overhaul wasteful buildings.”
However, since the “Great Recession” of September 2008, the focus on transforming lost blue-collar jobs into green ones has all but faded. 

Because of the recession (and our incredibly grid-locked Government), it has become easier, especially for non-thinking politicians who don’t bother with its complexities, to condemn outsourcing – in and of itself – as the central cause of all our ills.

While it can be argued that outsourcing has been abused in the 2000s – with companies getting rewarded by doing so (on both ends) – one should not lose sight of the fact that outsourcing has introduced prosperity to other nations, which in turn brings more stability to the globe. This is a good thing. After all, an emergent “middle class” can do wonders against a despotic regime.

[An aside for you Tea Party people, it was the emergent, educated middle class in Colonial America that managed to toss out the Crown in 1776.]

Now, if we can only get our Government to focus once again on the need for “green-collar-jobs,” we may finally be able to accept outsourcing as the effective tool it has always been.