Archive for February, 2004
With all the griping out information technology jobs migrating to India and elsewhere around the world, I’ve been thinking about basic economics lately. It to me seemed pretty clear that when a company saves money by redeploying work to a less-costly venue it frees up the money saved for reinvestment in new projects likely to require more intensive supervision in domestic job markets. Well it seems I had ignored the political dustup about comments made by Gregory Mankiw, President Bush’s chief economic advisor. It appears he had the audacity to explain to members of Congress that when goods are produced more cheaply abroad it makes sense to import them. The same applies to services. The Washington Post put it elquently in a Feb. 13 editorial:
“Just as it makes sense to buy cell phones from Finland if they are cheap and excellent, it makes sense to buy call-center services or software programming from India if these are the best on the market. Not only is Mr. Mankiw right, but to argue otherwise is elitist and offensive. It would suggest that it’s okay for blue-collar workers to lose jobs to foreign competition but not okay for white-collar folk to face the same competitive pressure.”
Well now The Economist has weighed in with a more complete treatise on the issue. In “The great hollowing out myth” it points out that outsourcing labor to less costly markets is a very old idea known as the law of competitive advantage.
Remember all those lost jobs — about 2.3 million of them — for which critics blame the Bush Adminstration? Well it seems a good portion of them were simply “bubble” jobs created during the late 90s tech boom which drove the unemployment rate below the 5% “natural” unemployment rate considered healthy for keeping inflation under control.
Another interesting point: “Between 1980 and 2002, the U.S. population grew by 23.9%. The number of employed Americans, on the other hand, grew by 37.4%. Today in 138.6 million Americans are in work, a near-record, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population.”
For American companies handling the politically delicate question of whether or not to send certain kinds of jobs overseas it comes down to this: Send the easy jobs overseas where you can pay someone less to do it. Then you can reallocate that money to pay someone a higher salary to take on more difficult and demanding domestically sourced jobs that require more skills and more direct supervision. The net effect over time is more domestic jobs, not fewer.
Remember companies want to grow and expand. They want to make more money. That means saving money where it makes sense and then reinvesting that money in building new products or services or expanding their geographic reach, and so on. This is what businesses do. And as painful as it may be in the short term for people losing jobs, its a basic force of economics that no presidential candidate of any party can hold back.
If I know Sree then this site is required reading in anticipation of tonight’s New Media Workshop class. So to those of you surfing in from the Class of 2004, greetings.
During my visit last year I had wanted to show off the work of the Class of 1997, only to find it had long gone missing from Columbia’s Web servers. Disappointed by the performance of a server that was named “Dragon” if I remember correctly, and horrified that that result of several months of hard work had disappeared into the ether, I set out with a new mission to reconstruct as much of the work of the 1997 New Media Workshop as I could.
As luck would have it I found a signifnicant treasure trove of information on The Internet Wayback Machine. From there I started copying files like a madman. I guess you can consider it a form of digital archaelogy. The results, such as they are, are still under heavy construction, and it is, as you might imagine, a rather time-consuming and labor-intensive project for one person. For openers, you can go have a look at the entry page. I’ve even recovered Sree’s summaries from the first six classes here.
A note about the links to the projects themselves. Many — if not most links to the projects themselves go to the versions saved at archive.org, and so your experience with download speed and depth of links may vary. Most of the projects were preserved on several different dates, and in different states with each date, so your experiece may vary. A few have been completely lost, as none of the files associated with them have not been preserved at all, which happened with one of my projects, and a few others.
Also remember what kind of tools we were using in 1997: We did most of our production on Macs, and hand-coded our HTML using BBedit. That was pretty advanced for those days. The Web was still largely an experimental medium seven years ago, and when you look back you see how far its come.
Finally, here’s the page that Sree and his pal Andrew Lih used to advertise the class. Sadly, the Quickime movie they recorded for it has been lost.
Lesson: The Web is not a permanent medium. If it’s important now, BACK IT UP for the future.