Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More on outsourcing

I don't have a lot new to contribute on this topic, largely because I don't do the tough work Citizen Carrie does in digging out the news and trends about the movement of jobs overseas and the accompanying smokescreen in the press. Her most recent post, Ross School of Outsourcing, is long but more than worthwhile to read. (This explains why she didn't post for five days, I'm thinking.)

The motivation for her post is a deconstruction of a Detroit News commentary by Robert (Bob) Kennedy, and Carrie does a fine job of going through it (and how she stomachs yet another variation on the offshoring is good, visas are better, American workers are unqualified and lousy, I can't imagine). Kennedy is a University of Michigan professor, something that apparently doesn't require the examination of multiple sides of an issue, especially as he is also the executive director of the William Davidson Institute. This is one of those ostensibly "non-profit, independent, research and educational institute[s]" that has been financed by an "international manufacturer of glass products."

It's not impossible that the WDI began as a place of legitimate inquiry, but it's oh-so-easy to look at who's writing the checks, an international manufacturer that employs a lot of overseas workers, and conclude that the development of a belief that offshoring is socially positive is a good career move. (Whether a public university should accept money to promote the beliefs of the donor under the aegis of the institution is a big issue, one for another day.)

I'm not going to even try to rehash Carrie's post, it's so dense (in a good way) that I couldn't do it justice, but I will follow one of her links, the one to Bob's blog. Actually, the blog isn't totally Bob's, there's another contributor named Lou LaFrate. He is not a staff member at WDI, he's a Director of Business Development in the automotive field. I don't know what company Lou works for, but I have my suspicions.

Anyway, this blog essentially exists as a promotional mechanism for Bob's new book. (To show you the incestuous nature of these matters, at least three of the nine Amazon reviews, which are all 5-star!!, are written by WDI staff - in other words, they work for Bob. Lou's got another, and a few are hard to tell.) You can find it on your own.

As Carrie says:
In an odd way, his site will make an excellent resource for anti-offshoring bloggers who might be looking for something to write about. Kennedy probably has the finest collection of links around that talk about the great benefits of offshoring, outsourcing, and how the loss of millions of manufacturing and higher-level service jobs in the U.S. will ultimately lead to greater prosperity for all.
And that's certainly true. Just catch this item (posted by Lou):
A story in the LA Times reported that employment in the region surrounding San Jose dropped 1.3% late last year. The key reason cited is the lack of "enough skilled workers needed to drive the next decade's innovation". This specific issue is addressed as one of the 5 key drivers of globalization in chapter two of Bob's book.
They captured the essence of the story correctly, then used it to frighten us with the news that students at the Indian School of Business "have chosen to opt for domestic offers over international offers." (The story is simplistic if it thinks the key reason for lower employment in a severe recession is a lack of skilled workers.) The whole blog is like this, that offshoring is not just inevitable (which may be true), but is desirable as well. If it were just another advocacy blog (like, quite often, my own), that would be fine. There's definitely a point of view, as the current political trend is described as:
more and more defensive posturing by politicians introducing “buy American” provisions in legislations, restricting H-1B visas, etc.
That this might not be "defensive posturing," but a principle that American money should go to support Americans, is not something Bob and Lou want to get into.

What is disturbing is that a university and its faculty are supposed to be seekers of the truth. They're supposed to look at all sides of the issue and try to find reality in it.

Bob, on the other hand, has made up his mind and is willing to cherry-pick facts to support his bought-and-paid-for notions. He's done well jumping on the offshoring wave, and he's going to ride it as long and hard as he can.

And mroe power to him. He can advocate offshoring while ignoring every argument that someone might present which points out possible deleterious long-term effects, and it will have no effect on his tenure, his large private consulting business to overseas and multinational corporations, his book sales.

It may just take the maturation of distance learning technology, in which his job is given to one of those Indian School of Business graduates who's staying home, to get Bob to question some of his assumptions. We can only hope.


5 comments:

Citizen Carrie said...

Thanks for the great post, Androcass. Bill Davidson, BTW, owns the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Shock and was part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning at one time. I admire him as a team owner, but as the President and CEO of Guardian Industries, (we all call him the "owner", too) he is an enthusiastic user of H-1B visas.

Red Oak said...

Poking around that blog is fascinating. It's an excellent illustration of the thesis that our globo-class really is a pack of denatured sociopaths. It is now an unquestioned axiom to these people that the nations and peoples of the earth have no purpose beyond contributing to the "competitiveness" of multinational corporations. I don't mean "sociopath" hyperbolically either, but technically. There is no human value - no culture, no bonds, no shared heritage, no social meaning, outside the "ego", as it were, of corporations.

But what I find interesting is this: we know that this sociopathy is not shared by the businessmen, academics, and politicians of the nations who benefit from the mass offshoring and "H1-B-ing" of America's wealth and jobs. They strike me as normal human beings, looking out for the interests of their own, though they're happy to mouth the globo-crap to the eager Western whores selling out their own nations, who probably think they're "one of them", all playing the big globo-game together. For example, one of the links at Kennedy's blog went here, to an article that is pretty much the standard b.s. about the horrors job "protectionism", with an added bit of interest from our friends the sociopath immigration lawyers, warning that "[w]hile some populist sentiment may call for employers to lay off H-IB visa-holders before U.S. workers, experts say such plans are not only shortsighted, but discriminatory. Facing liability for nationality bias is only one problem with the concept." Got that? They're getting all geared up to invoke (or rather, invent) some "global law" to litigate against preserving American jobs in America during a deep recession that may turn into a depression. Behold this bizarro world Magna Carta: the laws of a nation do not exist to protect the interests of its citizens, the laws of a nation exist to promote and protect the interests of foreigners and multinational corporations from the self-seeking of a nation's citizens.

Now this is disturbing, and infuriating, but, at this stage of the game, hardly surprising. But as I noted to myself that these alleged globo-laws against "nationality discrimination" would be wielded only against Americans - the Chinese or Indians would have the good sense and sane patriotic sentiments to laugh them off and tell any protester to stuff it - a question just occurred to me: I wonder what the foreign beneficiaries of visas and offshoring think of the likes of Mr. Kennedy and his ilk (like those helpful native immigration lawyers who are devoted to screwing their countrymen - unless the Americans are the co-ethnics of foreigners they're helping and just engaging in standard ethnic nepotism). Nobody, after all, has any admiration or respect for sell-outs and traitors, not even the people who are using them. Do they just consider them useful chumps, or do they actively despise them? I'm just curious, because I think holding such types in contempt is a pretty basic and pre-rational human reaction.

Anonymous said...

Work visas stop offshoring of high-skill jobs? Work visas stop the offshoring of high-skill INDUSTRIES.

Regards,

- mcfnord

Androcass said...

Carrie:

Thanks. It's good to see your post generating so much interest, it was very good.

Androcass said...

Red Oak:

Thanks for the comments. I wonder if you've ever had occasion to check out Bakan's book, The Corporation. Bakan. a professor at the University of BC, lays out an interesting case that the very structure of a corporation makes it pathological in nature, that it is inherently incapable (if acting "properly") of promoting the common good. The book was written in 2004, and now seems prescient in detailing the implications of the legal construct.

What this thesis makes me think is that most individual people within corporations are not sociopaths (though I have run across a few), but people who are conditioned by their surroundings into taking positions that turn out sociopathic. Obviously, they are gullible, believing the likes of "statesman" Bill Gates as they trash the reputations of US workers, but that's natural of those who thrive in hierarchical institutions. If you can convince yourself that the greater good is being served by moving thousands of jobs overseas, it's easy to overlook the concomitant harm.

As to your point about a nation's laws, it does seem as if we, perhaps out of a sense of guilt about our good fortune (much of which came out of the hard work and sacrifice of our forefathers and -mothers), are the prime movers in a kind of implicit global law. We have to educate the world's youth and employ the world's workers, because we have so darn much. The protectionism of others is understandable, because they have so little; we, on the other hand, have an obligation to look out for everybody else. That we may need to change the rules in response to new conditions is not a popular idea at all.

Your last point, about the way we're regarded by the folks who are profiting the most from our giveaways, is an interesting one. Perhaps, after years of our giving foreign aid and education and citizenship to large numbers of immigrants, they've just come to expect that we'll keep the giveaways coming.

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