Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Outsourcing. Everything?

A funny thing struck me tonight as I was getting undressed (ladies, take it easy--I'm happily married). I happened to look at the tag on my sport coat: Made in India.  And it got me wondering, "How much of my clothes are made in other countries?"  And, so,with my wardrobe today, I dissected where my clothes were made.  Know what I found?
sport coat: India
dress shirt: Indonesia
slacks: Hecho en Mexico
dress shoes: Brazil
belt: proudly made in China
tie: Made in the USA!!!! (Horray!!)  Except it was made with imported silk.*sigh*
 **Full disclosure--I did not inspect my socks--I wasn't going in there without being prepared for WWIII, and since the house was a bit cool when I got home, I did not go so far as to evaluate the country in which my skivvies are made.  However, I would be surprised to find anything here that was drastically different than the rest of my attire for today, which by the way, is not top-of-the-line clothing.  This outfit is from an average, every day line of dress clothes that can be found in most any department store.**

And then, I shuddered. Not from the chill in the air and me being as close as I could be to wearing my birthday suit in November, but because for some reason, I didn't like the idea that everything I was wearing was manufactured in another country.  When unemployment is so high in our country, but so much of what we buy is made elsewhere.

I understand Dan Pink's argument of the most basic, left-brained, automated tasks being left to laborers who are less skilled than others and that we should be educating students to be more big-picture, creative thinkers.  And I am all for that.  But what if our country becomes so dependent on other countries for all of the goods we purchase?  I mean, what if the production and manufacturing of all the goods we buy is outsourced to other lower wage countries.  All of it.  What happens?

Now, I'm not an economist (even though I did play one on TV); nor am I versed in the way of world currency, trade, GDP's and imports/exports (even after staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night).  So, even if the scenario above couldn't truly happen, then just consider this nothing more than a thought experiment.  How would your life be different if everything you bought, with perhaps the exception of certain foods--produce for example--was manufactured, assembled, produced, or processed in other countries.  Would that be a bad thing?  Would that create more of a job crisis than we have now?  Would we have more unskilled in the workforce looking for ways to help their families pay their bills? 

Or, would this open up more opportunities for our society to spend time and effort looking for the flavored toppings to place on the vanilla ice cream that is the global marketplace?  Would outsourcing everything allow us to teach our citizens the right-brained tasks of finding the value-added features in this worldwide economy and allow other, more routine jobs, to be sent elsewhere?

I guess the only thing I know is that I'm not smart enough to have any of those answers.  And if I did, I would still want to make sure my Brazilian-made shoes, and Chinese-made belt looked good, even if I'm spending my time getting undressed and being cold while looking at the tags on my clothes.