Caught in a Pickle

Bob Herbert of the New York Times writes about globalization and the "exportation of jobs".

We've already witnessed the carnage in manufacturing jobs. Now, with white-collar jobs at stake, we've got executives at I.B.M. and Microsoft exchanging high-fives at the prospect of getting "two heads for the price of one" in India.

It might be a good idea to throw a brighter spotlight on some of these trends and explore the implications for the long-term economy and the American standard of living.
Globalization may be a fact of life. But that does not mean that its destructive impact on American families can't be mitigated.

I have no big quarrel until he gets to the part about government getting involved.

Trade agreements and tax policies should be examined and updated to encourage the creation of employment that enhances the quality of life here at home. Corporate leaders may not feel an obligation to contribute to the long-term well-being of local communities or the nation as a whole, but that shouldn't be the case with the rest of us.

It sounds so harmless. Who could be against the "long-term well-being of local communities"? Why wouldn't we want to "encourage the creation of employment that enhances the quality of life here at home"? The motives are fine. My problem is that he's inviting a bully to solve the "problem". It's that he doesn't ask how we got here. It's that he's chastising corporations for dealing with reality, but not government for colluding with corporate contributors to create that reality.

When he voices concern that American corporations are increasingly looking to foreign workers for their labor needs, he forgets that American consumers are increasingly looking to foreign corporations for their consumer goods. Is he thus asking us to "buy American", or is he asking Uncle Sam to close the door to foreign products?

Does he want Uncle Sam to force products on us that we wouldn't otherwise choose? Why should more force solve a problem caused by force? Did forcing American corporations into choosing between benefit-entitled American workers and cheaper foreign workers work? Did forcing small American companies to adhere to complex and costly regulations work to keep them competitive with the behemoths he now admonishes?

OR does each stroke of the legislative pen cause so much more turmoil? Does each prod to behave push more and more jobs away? Does each opportunity to sell legislative influence further corrupt incentives and remove choice?

A solution was proposed long ago - or rather a framework for a solution. The U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights was written to restrict the powers of government, allowing individuals to be sovereign. Small government can't collude with corporations to bully individuals, and limit choice. Small government can't force one-sized "solutions" to "problems" that only it is free to define. Small government can't tie the hands of an individual that seeks the long-term well-being of his local community. Small government can't impede the creation of jobs.

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Jobs in the US flee overseas

Jobs in the US flee overseas for three reasons he neglected:

1) Cost of taxes.
2) Cost of regulation.
3) Cost of lawsuits.

But those are all unequivocally good things, right?


And don't forget that

And don't forget that government action has helped to keep labor cheap in those countries they're exporting capital to. Transnationals like to locate production facilities in countries with authoritarian governments that know how to keep labor docile.

Don't forget, also, the number of authoritarian governments that owed their very survival to their good buddy Uncle Sam.

So government is busy on both sides of the pay and benefits equation, not just the domestic side.