On May 25th the Forum section of The Plain Dealer carried an article by Alan S. Blinder, “ Free Trade is not good for you”. Blinder is a professor of economics at Princeton University. His opening words, “I’m a free trader down to my toes. Always have been. Yet lately, I'm being treated as a heretic by many of my fellow economists. Why? Because I have stuck my neck out and predicted that the offshoring of service jobs from rich countries such as the United States to poor countries such as India may pose major problems for tens of millions of American workers over the coming decades. In fact, I think off shoring may be the biggest political issue in economics for a generation”. Professor Blinder’s views and predictions are an eye opener.
Much has been written about the flight of blue collar jobs to countries boasting cheap labor. Now there is an equal threat to white collar jobs and it is the technology that white collar workers created, electronic service delivery, that will bring this about. Per Blinder “ it’s not just low-skill services such as key punching, transcription and telemarketing. It’s also high-skill services such as radiology, architecture and engineering - maybe even college teaching”. This is scary! It will have minimal effect on me or my children .My grandchildren will be impacted more. My great-grandson, however could very well face horrific economic challenges.
This a bit facetious but consider this scenario. Toilets designed by American engineers are being manufactured in China for export to the United States. Factory jobs are lost. Suddenly it’s cheaper to have the new generation of toilets designed by Chinese engineers. Who needs a toilet engineer in the USA. So what toilet job is left for the American worker? Cleaning toilets!
At least its encouraging that a free trader such as Blinder is raising concerns as to where free trade is going. I strongly agree with one of his proposals which calls for more science and engineering and more spending on R&D. Then again, how do we attract young men and women to an engineering or scientific career when there is the prospect that their job may be offshored?