Globalization’s Trade-Offs

As a result of economic globalization, goods and services—whether tax returns, x-rays, math tutorials, or credit card or airline reservation-related phone calls—are being digitized and then sent via coaxial cables under the oceans back and forth to India, China, and other developing countries where people are willing to work for far less than Amerians because the cost of living in their countries is considerably less.

Additionally, just like in major league baseball and the NBA, labor pools are much more international. Recently in the U.S., we’ve hired lots of nurses from South Africa and the Philippines, computer scientists from India and Pakistan, and according to Bureau of Labor statistics, in 2009 there were 185,234 foreign born doctors working in the United States representing 127 countries. Twenty-four percent of all medical school classes include foreign-born students.

If national borders are fences of sort, the fences are coming down.

At the same time, U.S. citizens are increasingly angry and outspoken about outsourcing and the exporting of American jobs, a sentiment exacerbated by politicians, including the president, playing to cameras. All you have to do to understand how wildly inconsistent most people are on this topic is visit the closest Wal-Mart. Few U.S. citizens have connected the outsourcing, global economic dots.

They want their jobs protected from foreign competition, but at the same time want continued access to inexpensive toys, clothes, and toothbrushes from China and other developing countries. One study asked U.S. homeowners applying for home equity loans if they would like their loans processed by a U.S. firm in twelve days or a foreign firm in ten and the vast majority opted for the foreign firm.

Arizona’s anti-immigrant law is another case in point. Many undocumented workers are willing to work difficult, minimum wage jobs that few U.S. citizens are, thereby lowering the cost of living for everyone.

Advocate for protectionist economic and more strict immigration policies if you must, but be honest about the economic costs and also insist that legislators pass a 15%-20% insourcing VAT.

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