Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Are An Operating Cost

Suppose they gave an economic system and nobody came because they couldn't even get hired to serve hors d'oeuvres?
The paper [The Wall Street Journal] surveyed employment data by some of the nation’s largest corporations — General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, United Technologies, and Oracle — and found that they cut their workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4 million people overseas.
In a great many instances companies are doing exactly the same things but at a cheaper per-hour rate for labor:
Another question asked of the executives found that the top reason for companies to outsource was to “reduce operating costs” (46 percent of respondents). Only 12 percent of respondents said their reason for outsourcing was “access to world class capabilities.” This means companies are outsourcing to save themselves money, not make better products.
Even where people aren't just allocated, arbitraged, and moved around like toner cartridges -- even if the outsourcing results in the use of better, more durable toner cartridges -- the fact that US companies can so freely go overseas to find "world-class capabilities" entails less and less incentive to see those capabilities developed here. If Americans are terrible at math, science, writing, social studies, and everything else, so what? We don't need any of that, and we don't need schools, to put the Chinese-made junk on a credit card.

It's hard to know what to call this social compact in which corporations are persons and people are fungible onlookers.


Brian Moon said...

I read a defense of the idea that corporations are sociopathic people and it boiled down to, essentially, "but they do so much good!" which wasn't an actual defense in my mind. In fact, the defense sounded a lot like theists' defense of religion. I suspect they had much in common.

(Oh, very well, here's the article I mentioned: Prof. Bainbridge, "Scalzi on corporate personhood")

Dale said...

Brian, I agree -- that they do some good here and there is not telling us much. I'm sure Ted Bundy could have cited moments in his life when he was kind and generous, even consistently so.