I often rant against the outsourcing lemmings that insist on chasing low labor costs around the world while not looking inward to find efficiency improvements. Improvements that will often more than offset any labor cost differential. At the same time I also have a major problem with protectionists that believe other countries are sucking manufacturing jobs out of North America and that isolating ourselves from growing markets will somehow increase prosperity. The truth is that manufacturing output in the U.S. is greater than it has ever been, and that job loss is due predominantly to productivity improvements. Just like farming.
Productivity-related job loss is not pleasant, it affects real people and real families, but it’s the price of progress. Our responsibility, as a society not necessarily as a government, is to continually invent new sectors to create new pathways of meaningful employment and provide a support and training safety net to those that get displaced.
However the inaccurate voices of those that somehow believe the status quo should be constant is reaching a crescendo. Luckily there are more intelligent and public heads than I telling the other side of the story. Such as one of my favorite bloggers, Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek, who also happens to be chair of the department of economics at George Mason University. In a letter published in The New York Times yesterday, he takes on the pessimists:
Bob Herbert quotes the observation by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, that Americans today “cannot see where the jobs of the future are that will allow their kids to have a better life than they had.” Mr. Stern adds, “And they’re not wrong.”
But when could Americans of any generation foresee future jobs? Did the blacksmith in 1890 foresee jobs in the auto industry? Did the corner grocer in 1940 foresee his son prospering as a regional manager for Wal-Mart?
Did the telegram-deliverer in 1950 foresee his child designing software for cellphones? Did the local pharmacist in 1960 foresee his daughter’s job as a biomedical engineer?
Our inability today to see the details of the future is no more worrisome than was the same inability of our grandparents.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Fairfax, Va., Dec. 22, 2007
Bingo. Instead of creating barriers to isolate ourselves from a global economy that is growing whether we like it or not, let’s embrace and participate in it and develop new technologiesand industries that create new jobs. Like we’ve been doing for a couple hundred years.