up with PyGUI!
clifford.wells at comcast.net
Tue Sep 21 23:20:52 CEST 2004
On Mon, 2004-09-20 at 23:00 -0400, Terry Reedy wrote:
> "Cliff Wells" <clifford.wells at comcast.net> wrote in message
> news:1095378815.31957.166.camel at devilbox.devilnet.internal...
> > On Thu, 2004-09-16 at 14:30 -0400, Terry Reedy wrote:
> >> "Alex Martelli" <aleaxit at yahoo.com> wrote in message
> >> > So I was wrong -- it's happening all right, but tends to be disguised
> >> > (perhaps for marketing reasons). Thanks for the info!
> >> Also for political reasons. The US has reactionaries, left and right,
> >> who
> >> reject the idea that all people have a right to participate in the
> >> global
> >> information economy.
> I intentionally restricted myself to one sentence, with one opinion word --
> 'reactionaries', on a topic people have written books about. However ...
> > The main problem a lot of people (myself included) have with the so-
> > called "global economy"
> To me, the global information economy is as real as the global Python
Community certainly. Economy less so. The main reason I say "so-
called" is because the widely disparate costs-of-living and
corresponding pay scales make it unrealistic to assume there is anything
"global" about it. Local economies, while clearly needing to
participate in the global market, are just that: local.
> > is that it mostly benefits the US employer who
> > can pay wages that are far below cost of living inside the US.
> To the extent that all US employers producing similar products have equal
> access to such cost savings, the long-term competitive benefit should tend
> toward zero and most benefit should go to consumers and non-US workers. It
> was Indian software entrepreneurs who pursued US businesspeople more than
> the reverse.
I'm not referring to employers when I refer to the damage done by
outsourcing. I'm referring to the work force in first-world countries.
When a US employer can pay far below minimum wage (U.S. minimum) then
the only option for U.S. workers is to also work for that same wage or
find other lines of work. This is already happening. I know many
programming jobs here in Portland now pay as little as $10 an hour.
Unskilled manual labor typically pays at least that, semi-skilled and
skilled manual labor up to three or four times that. Some of this is
undoubtedly due to economic factors that have nothing to do with
programming per se, but I strongly suspect most of it is the direct
result of skills required to be a programmer being "cheapened" (not in a
disparaging sense, just in economic terms), by low-paid programmers in
countries where the cost of living is far lower than in the U.S.
> > I'm certain there are few people who begrudge others getting work,
> I did not try to quantify in my original statement. However, it takes more
> than a few people to get myriads of job protection laws passed in countries
> around the globe. Dislike of competition for 'my job' is pretty universal.
That's right. But it isn't the foreign worker who is being rejected,
it's US employers who want to pay $5 an hour for skilled workers that
are being curtailed.
> > let's ...have laws that require employers to pay prevailing wage
> The prototype 'prevailing wage' law in the US, the 1930s Davis-Bacon Act,
> was passed and signed by begruding people. It had the explicit purpose
> (and effect) of excluding dark-skinned Americans from participating in the
> American construction industry, especially in northern states, by making it
> unprofitable to hire them. Its negative effects continue today.
Well, that's certainly *one* interpretation of the intent of that law.
Then as now, construction is a time and materials industry. Low bid
requirements on public projects allowed contractors from outside an area
to bid and win work based on substandard wages and helped create the
situation where contractors literally “imported” low-wage workers from
around the country rather than use the local labor force.
Abuses were wide spread in the years preceding the Acts passage. Bacon,
a former Banker, explained the need for the law when he detailed for his
colleagues during debate on the bill how a construction firm from
Alabama transported thousands of unskilled workers to a public project
in New York.
“They were herded onto this job, they were housed in shacks, they were
paid a very low wage, and ... it seems to me that the federal government
should not engage in construction work in any state and undermine the
labor conditions and the labor wages paid in that state.”
The point of prevailing wage isn't to exclude foreigners. It's to
prevent corporations from exploiting local economies (U.S. or
otherwise). What you seem to be missing is that the work doesn't get
distributed, it gets moved from place to place, wherever the workers are
cheapest. That isn't a global economy, it's global strip-mining.
> > (based on the *employer's* country of origin).
> Programmers in developing countries generally are employed by local
> employers who pay them more than the previous local prevailing wage. In
> terms of real economic goods -- food, clothing, housing, internet service,
> and so on -- their pay may be comparable to that of programmers in the
> 'industrial' nations.
I just quit working at a company where Ukrainian developers were paid to
develop products at a fraction of what U.S. developers working on
similar software would have been paid. Were they paid well? Certainly,
by Ukraine standards. I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing that the
company who paid them essentially bypassed U.S. minimum-wage laws that
exist for a reason.
> Their apparent cheapness per comparable output is largely a function of
> exchange rates at least partly distorted by centuries of government force.
Exchange rates? Um, okay. The bottom line is that when U.S. companies
are allowed to hire Ukrainian developers at the equivalent of $5 an hour
they are certainly going to take advantage of that. And when Manila
starts pushing out developers at $2 an hour, those Ukrainians who were
doing so well a minute ago are going to find themselves out of work.
The bottom line is that corporations exploit workers to whatever extent
they are allowed to. The so-called "global economy" is the latest and
greatest method of doing so. Consider the exploits of Nike, Walmart,
Levis, Reebok, et al to get a foreshadowing of what's to come in the
software trade. I was told flat out at my last job that the main reason
the company had any U.S. employees at all was so that customers would be
able to talk to people who spoke English.
> I expect such distortions will lessen as communication makes them less
This may be so. Of course I expect the U.S. job market for software
development will be gone by then (or simply seen as a good first job for
students before they can get a better job at Walmart).
> I also expect increasing numbers of US knowledge/information
> workers with portable skills to take advantage of the distortions while
> they last.
Well, I've certainly considered other lines of work, if that's what you
Cliff Wells <clifford.wells at comcast.net>
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