Offsetting the Rhetoric Against Offshoring
The past few years have seen mounting trepidation over job losses in the US, particularly to developing regions such as India and China.These have been accompanied by sporadic outcries againt outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, which the ravages of the current financial crisis will only accentuate. With large banks collapsing and General Motors, once the mightiest corporation in America, sending out frantic distress signals, the crisis has brought the unthinkable to pass. These traumatic events are hardly likely to make Americans –whether government, intellectuals or the public - more tolerant to the steady outflow of jobs from the economy.
Now come two substantial new arrivals - a book and a study - that should go a long way towards allaying any backlash that may be brewing in the ateliers of the protectionists.The book is a thoroughly researched, eloquently argued and highly persuasive piece, titled The Venturesome Economy - How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World. It's central thesis is that technological innovation is a complex, multiplayer game in which America still leads the world by a long way. American scientific, technological and economic pre-eminence are thus not going away anytime soon. The book goes on to argue that "neo-protectionist" fears are unwarranted, and shows how they will probably undermine America's economic might in the long run.
The book comes with impeccable credentials. It is authored by Amar Bhide, the Lawrence D. Glaubinger Professor of Business at Columbia University. Prof Bhide is also a co-researcher of Edmund Phelps, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economics who is an authority on, among other things, the relationship between investment in education and research on the one hand, and economic growth on the other.
And Prof Bhide could hardly have chosen a better time to weigh in, as anti-offshoring rhetoric can be expected to rise over the next few months. It must be noted that the primary purport of the book is not to support outsourcing or offshoring,and I am sure nothing could be farther from the author's mind than to be painted as a torchbearer for the outsourcing brigade. Nonetheless, the arguments presented therein can be read as making a substantial case for a more liberal approach toward outsourcing.
The author marshals an astonishing array of evidence in supporting his thesis, stitching together data and information from diverse disciplines. He presents data to show that protectionist fears in the 1980s that the US would soon be overtaken by Germany and Japan, which focused on rigorous planning of their scientific manpower, proved baseless as the US prospered while the ostensible aggressors largely floundered. He says things are no different this time, with China and India.