I'd like to turn now from vacation snapshots to the slightly weightier issue of modern capitalism and the free movement of labor. It's a given among liberals that "outsourcing" is bad; companies moving production overseas takes jobs away from Americans who would otherwise be working. But doesn't that view suggest that an American (that is, from the United States) worker is more valuable than a worker somewhere else in the world? Does social justice stop at our borders?
Maybe in an effort to get around this problem, some people suggest that working for US companies actually worsens the lot of the poor benighted foreigners. That strikes me as the subtext of the current issue of Wired magazine. (I can't link to it; it's not online yet. Wired what?) Among many many other things, it has an article on suicides at an Apple factory in China and another one about small companies finding it cheaper to bring manufacturing back to the US. See, not only will onshoring (totally a real word!) improve the lot of American workers and companies, it'll also reduce suicides in China. Which is plainly ridiculous. You could just as well argue that American employees made redundant by outsourcing are better off because they no longer have to work in dirty old factories, but instead can relax and mow their lawns and drink beer in the afternoon. As far as I'm concerned it's just as important for folks in India or Mexico to have jobs as it is for those in Indiana or Massachusetts. Am I missing something?
And as a coda: why is it all the thing to complain about jobs lost due to cheaper production facilities elsewhere, while using technology to get more work done by fewer people (productivity gains!) is roundly applauded? Do we care more about the employment of industrial robots than we do about workers in Vietnam?! In point of fact, no one has argued seriously that we should reduce mechanization in order to spare jobs since the beginning of the nineteenth century. If you were to suggest that public policy in America should be designed to ensure full employment through menial work—or even fine craft work—you couldn't even get a serious hearing. Yet increasing productivity by employing humans—poorer humans who surely need the work—who happen to live elsewhere is somehow beyond the pale? Strange days.