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Let’s Call it Hot-Sourcing

Mar
22
2004

Sunday, it seems, was outsourcing day at The New York Times.
The front page of the Times bidness section carried a long and very interesting interview with Wipro Chairman Ajit Premji.


Here’s his observation: Americans are unduly worried. “We are not dealing with cold reasoning here,” he said, “but with emotions of Americans whose personalities changed after 9/11 and who feel threatened by anything that hurts their security, their wealth and their jobs.”
The Times Magazine featured a telling interview with CNN anchor Lou Dobbs who’s comments on jobs moving overseas aren’t what you’d call gracious. But they confirm, although he certainly didn’t mean it, Premji’s observation.
“Are you willing to sacrifice 600,000 American jobs and employees to create jobs overseas? “ Dobbs asked. “I love India. I love the Indian people. But the idea that we can sacrifice an American family to create jobs overseas is insensitive beyond belief.”
Insensitive to whom? Well, perhaps the comments up at Dan Gilmore’s web log or this little ditty posted today on Salon give a clue.
[Aside: As an antidote to all this, try Blame India Watch, a web log that seems to be trying to fight back. A little.]
There’s lots that’s bad about outsourcing: it does take jobs away from the U.S and it does pay workers a lot less and, in manufacturing in particularly, conditions for labors, many of them children and women, are horrible. But this country cannot keep the majority of the world’s wealth without expecting that the majority of the world’s people — who are not as wealthy — will quietly wait for their turn at the plate. What’s worse is that neither the current administration and, as far as I can tell, the Democratic nominee, have anything constructive to say on the topic. The result? A series of ugly accusations and counter-claims all pitched at each other during the height of an increasingly tense political year. More and more, outsourcing is looking like a huge, cross-party political fault line.
Outsourcing is an illustration of the gospel of creative destruction that so many fans of the new economy loved – that’s past tense – when it was forcing U.S. companies to hire geeks and coders and programmers. Technology has made those jobs universal; the Internet changes everything. But it’s also advanced coding and programming to the point where what were once creative jobs involving special training and skills are now much simpler. Code comes in modules and you don’t need to be a PhD to write it.
In the hype surrounding the dot.com explosion it became easy for people who made their living from capital – stock options – to look down on the salaried folks who still worked with their hands, not their brains. The shoe’s on the other foot now and it’s not pretty. Ajit Premji’s observations about American defensiveness and its relation to 9/11 shouldn’t be brushed off lightly, they should be taken to heart because in global economics as in international affairs, the Bush Administration’s failure to think in 21st Century terms is hurting everyone, workers here, workers abroad.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:25 PM | Permalink

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