July 1, 2012

We Won't Bury You; Americans Have Buried Themselves

Below is a comment I wrote on the Street Prophets' diary, Christ, Nessie, and teaching children to love lies.

We need to figure a way to educate our children to function in a crowded and challenging world.

I really wanted to write a facetious answer at first, but I'll play this one straight. A friend recently wrote on Facebook:

Outsourcing is outsourcing, Mitt Rmoney, not 'Offshoring'. 'Offshoring' implies the paychecks are made out to Americans. They aren't. In fact outsourcing is taking a paycheck that once went to an American, and giving away to someone else in another country.

To which I originally responded:

To which we all in Asia say "Thank you!" ;)

Naturally, he was a little miffed at that answer, so I responded:

I'm not a fan of outsourcing in general and I do sympathize with American workers, but... Outsourcing is not simply due to lower wages in other countries. In fact if I were to list all the factors that I thought contributed to the reasons why American companies outsourced jobs overseas, I'd rank lower wages compared to American wages down near the bottom of my list, especially with respect to Asian countries.

One of the factors that has helped spur on the growth of outsourcing is the fact that educational systems outside of the US are frequently superior to that of the American system. These jobs don't just go to people in other countries simply because of lower wages, they go because these other people are qualified to perform that work. They have the education, the skills, the experience to get the job done. In fact, because of the large numbers of qualified applicants, competition for jobs can be quite intense and not very easy to succeed in getting if you don't have the requisite qualifications, no matter what they are. (Here's a LinkedIn discussion in which I had to tell a younger guy how he was going to need to upgrade his language skills because, otherwise, he was going to lose out on job opportunities in which a second language is vital for getting jobs in Singapore.)

The world is crowded and challenging, and other countries are benefiting from stupid American attitudes with respect to the educational system because /we/ don't make those same mistakes. We don't have an attitude of "let's break the public school system because it offends our sensibilities." No one homeschools here. And what we do do is send our kids to enrichment classes during the evenings and weekends so that our kids can compete better, whether it's with other Asian children or American children. (I, a white American man, have a three-year-old daughter who's learning her third language - Chinese - and my wife suggested this morning that we get her into a second weekly class in that language so that she can improve faster. On a program about India that aired the same day I wrote the above comments to my friend on Facebook, there was a segment where the host interviewed some street girl, about 13 years old, in Calcutta - who spoke perfect English. He asked her what her favorite subject was, and she said physics. Why? Because it's her easiest subject. She wants to be a physicist. How many American kids would say that?)

The fault for outsourcing and a declining economic situation in America is not the rest of the world's. It is America's fault, for its backwards attitudes and lack of competitive drive in its people. I almost feel like Nikita Khrushchev now, except it's not "We will bury you!" but that Americans have buried themselves.

Good luck with that.

1 comment:

George Carty said...

America (and other Western countries) not being buried by their ordinary people, but by their naive politicians who freely permit imports from China and other mercantilist countries. They falsely believe that mercantilism is self-defeating because it will result in inflation and/or currency appreciation in the mercantilist country, but this does not happen if the mercantilist country (like China today) uses the money gained from unbalanced trade to buy up assets in the victim countries.

What is needed is a tariff levelled at such that total tariff revenue equals the trade deficit with that country (so that for example, if the US imports $500bn of goods from China and exports $100bn to China, the tariff would be 80%).

Balanced trade is mutually beneficial, but unbalanced trade resulting from mercantilism benefits the mercantilist nation at the expense of its victims.

The Scaled Tariff: A Mechanism for Combating Mercantilism and Producing Balanced Trade