I work at the college library.
So I was at work and my supervisor along with myself were talking about banks and apparently, he tried to stat an HSBC account but was told to call this number only to find out that the woman on the other hand was in Bombay, India. He then decided not to get an account with them because they're letting Indian people "steal American jobs." I kept insisting that it's impossible to "steal" jobs, as that would suggest there is some fixed number of jobs in an economy, but he kept firmly insisting that they are making American people starve because Indian people are getting rich. Pretty much the conversation ended when I said "Well, I'll be sure to find an article on comparative advantage that shows that even though we might be losing jobs to India, we can still gain from that."
The sad thing is, he's definitely not the only person who believes that you can "steal" jobs away from an economy - one doesn't have to try hard to find prominent politicans who claim how Mexicans are "stealing" American jobs (though I don't see too many Americans fighting for the chance to water gardens or harvest crops). Frankly, as many of you readers know, that isn't the case. You can't "steal" a job - in fact, in the case of outsourcing for HSBC, everyone wins. An Indian person, instead of starving, now has a good paying job at a call center. The bank, being able to save on calling center costs, can now offer things like a higher interest rate which encourages people to invest through them or perhaps pay higher wages to other employees or perhaps in the form of higher dividends to stockholders which increases confidence. Even if it goes to "greedy" CEOs, then that should serve as a profit for finding a way to economicly cut their costs.
As for compartative advantage, it's probably one of economic's greatest ideas. In case you're not familar, it's the idea that even if you're a nation that is utterly devoid of resources or skills, you can still benefit from trade as you might be able to do something more cheaply than another more resourced nation. One of the nice things about using mathematics in economics is that you can show that mathematically, in addition to logic, that both nations get more of what they want from trading.
This idea of trade and "stealing" jobs really goes back to Bastiat's idea of What is Seen and Not Seen. Sure, you might see someone losing a "stolen" job at an American call center, but what people need to see is the creation of a job in India, more money that can go to other more useful endevours, and an increase of goods and services to everyone.
Dec 08 2007, 03:05 PM