Integrity Matters
April 21, 2004

Businesses balance outsourcing against corporate profits

Question: (E-110)

Dear Jim:

How can American companies claim to have integrity when they are sending U.S. jobs overseas?


Jobs are going overseas because the costs of labor there are less. Demands for corporate profits remain high. Jobs are going to other countries because the American work force demands a more costly lifestyle. What would be considered luxuries in most of the world are considered almost necessities among members of the work force of the United States. Housing expectations, clothing demands, transportation requirements and a whole host of other benefits -- provided by these same companies themselves -- are looked upon as extravagant to a significant segment of the world's population. A tried-and-true statement seems appropriate: "We want to have our cake and eat it, too." American workers want to maintain an incredibly complex and expensive lifestyle while seemingly depending upon the rest of the world to sit by (passively) and not compete effectively. With instantaneous communications, 24 hours per day, the whole world can see what is happening in more prosperous nations and then seek to participate, much more aggressively.

The economic engine that has driven business in America has depended upon innovation.

For the last couple of hundred years, the United States has sustained prosperity not simply because of low-priced labor -- but rather because of creativity, education and management skills. Today, the global economy is the reality. We will not build walls along our borders and cease partnering with those around the world. When the automobile replaced the horse, the demand decreased for those making buggy whips and increased for those skilled as engineers. Education and retraining were important before, and they are again. Re-invention is not a slogan for the classroom; it is a self-renewing demand for those who will rise to the occasion of opportunities yet to be discovered.

A long time ago, we sang a hymn at our church, and the words ring true again: "New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth." It is important to remember that we can adapt. We can learn. The system is not broken; it is changing -- and we must understand it, appreciate it and accommodate it. Our own integrity demands for us to remain productive participants.

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