Export Jobs or Import Workers?
Every year, the Shell Corporation sponsors an essay contest. The essay question for 2005 was: Export Jobs or Import Workers? The premise was that those are the only two options for a corporation in a global economy. The winner of the contest, Claudia O'Keefe won the contest with an essay titled "The Traveling Bra Salesman's Lesson". Basically it was a rehash of the buggy whip story (i.e. when cars replaced horses, buggy whips were no longer necessary and they went out of business). The pathetic thing about this woman's essay is that she either doesn't realize or doesn't care that the buggy whip in this case is our country and American citizens.
The following was my entry. Obviously it didn't even get an honorable mention because I like our country and I like our citizens and I don't believe that we are obsolete.
Export Jobs or Import Workers?
Pick your poison; will it be arsenic or cyanide? Will it be the hangman’s noose or the firing squad? These are the choices presented to us by corporations today. The quest for ever-greater profits supposedly driven by the tyranny of Wall Street is the force behind the question. But are these really questions that should be asked by corporations and answered by economists?
From the nature of the question, it is clear that we have entered the era of the dark side of capitalism. Capitalism has been so successful that it is threatening the very body and system that gave life to it - the United States and our democratic republic. We have reached the stage in which, as each corporation makes decisions that are in its own best interest, it draws the life out of the body whole and it weakens the system.
Importing workers or exporting jobs has impacts outside of a corporation’s business operations. It affects citizens, communities, our nation and the world. How we deal with this era of darkness will set the tone and the direction of the world for centuries to come. The choices we make now will either move us forward in the progress of mankind or we will regress to a feudalistic state with all of the accompanying human suffering and turmoil.
At its most fundamental level, capitalism is a game of King of the Hill. In the 80’s there was an expression that captured the essence of it. “He who dies with the most toys, wins”. If anybody thought to ask, “What do we win?” it never made it to a public forum for debate. The irony is that while we are self-congratulatory for our high moral principles of democracy, the sanctity of life and progress through education, at the same time we discourage philosophical thinking and intellectual discourse on any topic that does not revolve around mindless consumption and quarterly profits.
The marketing of capitalism as a philosophy of the purpose of life has been extraordinarily successful for a few. There are 587 billionaires - including some double-digit billionaires - in a world of over 6 billion people. As wealth concentrates in the hands of the few, the opportunities in the marketplace both for new business and new ideas are diminished at best, crushed at worst. The Kings of the Hill are compelled to destroy competitors. It doesn’t matter if a King is philanthropic either. The decision of allocation of resources is still concentrated in the hands of a few rather than being circulated in a competitive marketplace of ideas that determine the best use of those resources.
A world in which capitalism is the goal rather than a means to the goal, is a world of perpetual war, oppression, deceit, and fraud. It is a world in which moral principles are marketed but not lived. The proof is in the question, “Import Workers or Export Jobs”? It may well be asked, “In what way do you want to destroy your country?” Do you want to overpopulate it, increase world pollution, pave over pristine wilderness and treat people as commodities - tossing out American citizens like used Kleenex and importing indentured servants to replace them? Or would you prefer to lose the economic basis that provides the revenues that are necessary to survive as a first world country and a leader among nations?
The world is too small, there are too many people and the resources are too limited for ‘Greed Is Good’ to reign supreme. While this philosophy works well at the microeconomic level because it causes people to strive to succeed, as a driving principle behind mega-corporations with no countervailing philosophical balance of consideration for the common good, it is an evil force and ultimately a destroyer of all that is civilized and good.
Opening markets and making profits in developing countries need not come at the expense of developed countries. If capitalism were working the way that is beneficial to the world, the markets in the developing countries would be centered on providing for the needs of the people in the developing country rather than simply as producers and suppliers for the developed countries. Progress is a bottom up proposition, not top down. To perpetuate the notion otherwise is a marketing fraud.
A failure of leadership has brought us to this point of debating the method by which capitalism will destroy the United States. It will be the test of our times how we respond to it. We can choose to allow global laissez-faire capitalism to dominate with all of its inherent destructive and oppressive propensities or we can choose renaissance taking the time to allow our wisdom, intellect and humanity to catch up with our technology.
Rich or poor, we are all on this planet for an infinitesimal period of time. Our success or failure will not be measured by our individual accumulated wealth; rather it will be the legacy we leave future generations as measured by our vision, our character, principles and values. Let’s hope we have the courage and the strength to make the right choices.