So just a few days after I said “don’t expect regular updates any time soon,” I hammer out a handful of posts… Well, the smart money still says I’m not likely to continue at this pace, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Off-shoring is not a black and white issue.
It’s neither categorically wrong, nor categorically acceptable. In its purest form, off-shoring is simply the international division of labor, and although I prefer to think of things not in terms of nations and borders, the concept of divided labor really is morally neutral: no better or worse than the division of labor between you and your barber, or your butcher, or your ISP or the guy who changes your oil. Smith noted that you could open a vinyard in Scotland, but the grapes would be awful and the wine terrible unless you spent an enormous sum on greenhouses. But why do that when you can grow perfectly good grapes in California, the Loire Valley in France, Traverse City MI, etc.
What about profits going overseas and vice-versa?
On both sides of the aisle people complain about “profits going overseas”. For instance, they don’t want you to buy Toyota cars because the “profits go to Japan”. Hypocritically, many people (let’s call them Republicans) also consider “free markets” the environment in which American giants of industry can continually exploit cheap labor in developing economies while slashing labor in the US. You can’t have your cake, and eat it, too.
There’s nothing necessarily bad about someone (foreign or otherwise) who’s willing to sink millions/billions in to capital investments, creating jobs, infrastructure, and productive capacity. So even if you buy in to the argument that the “profits are going overseas”, the infrastructure, the knowledge base, and the employment is happening here and you need to reckon that. Besides, they created the jobs and opportunities, and so they are entitled to profit (there are serious objections to why we depend upon the grace of a privileged few when it seems we ought be able to provide for our own well-being; these are presently outside of scope). That’s how it works.
But the last I checked, Toyota was publicly traded. If you want a slice of Toyota pie, just call your broker and place an order.
But that’s not how off-shoring really works. Is it?
So far we’ve been talking about off-shoring in its purest form. Actually existing offshoring is quite often another story altogether and this is where we need to start examining those objections to which I alluded, above. A critical examination would fill many volumes.
The reader’s digest version is: transnational companies are able to offshore mostly because of US imperialism and the remnant of European colonialism which basically pillaged the resource-rich countries now known as “the third world”.
When you start peeling back the layers of this rotten onion, what you’ll see (if you can fight back the tears) is a system in which you and I are expendable. On the backs of our labor, Uncle Sam bails out the banks that caused so much havoc. We pay for their mistakes, but don’t profit from their success, instead we chase higher and higher prices caused by inflation. It is a system in which you & I pay taxes to fund a military force which keeps the volatile “third world” safe — safe for the very same profiteering corporations (which our taxes also subsidize) who continue to off-shore the jobs that used to be ours.
We’re paying for (and many of us don’t even know it) an empire which is jeopardizing our well-being, our livelihoods, and our security.