David Brin has a well written blog piece entitled How the US saved the world by buying stuff... or Saving the World through Wal-Mart?. It's a good read on a subject I've tried to explain. Being involved in the field of computing I've spent decent amounts of time explaining why I'm more concerned about stagnant job growth, stagnant venture capital, and stagnant creativity than I am about job out-sourcing. The point I usually try to make is tied in with my view of the dot-com bubble. I believe that the bubble was not a fluke, and in fact was both well over-due, and cut short in such a way that some of its primary lessons were lost (ultimately paving the path for a possible second dot-com boom, I would suppose). Basically, to me as an armchair economist, the dot-com boom was the re-evaluation of one of the pillars you learn about in basic economics: Entreprenuership. (The other pillars include Capital and Labor.) The Internet provided a place where suddenly every person could have a near equal voice and what came out of that was that Entreprenuership finally had a truly free market and that talented individuals could now compete directly with the old school Entreprenuers in boardrooms. This in turn gave businesses a need to re-evaluate how much a brilliant and innovative thinker was worth to them. No longer were the innovators of a company restricted to upper management (and thus easily tracked) especially when some of the smartest and innovative could out-compete, from scratch, the biggest companies that weren't paying attention to innovation or Entreprenuership. Jeff Bezos, when the Amazon caught fire, caused many retailers' 60-year-old tenured old school innovators heart flutters and ulcers. Again, I believe that these lessons still aren't completely instilled into people's minds and many companies still haven't caught The Cluetrain. In fact, just watching this current catch up game of Blockbuster's is amusing.
So the truth of the matter is that out-sourcing isn't hurting us. Largely out-sourcing is just part of a larger pattern of spreading the wealth and slowly uplifting society by its bootstraps. The key to this I feel is that you can only really out-source the "Labor" part of the equation. Entreprenuership is something else entirely. Being in a deep Computer Engineering program for three years now, and having skills in design and seeing "the big picture" make me more of an innovator than an BS-trained Computer Science major. All in all, I'm going to be worth more to a company and be much more of an Entreprenuerial asset than a basic Labor asset.
...that is if there enough jobs to go around. Right now people have pulled a lot of money out from under the rug of innovation, and that is what frightens and bothers me. For instance, the current rate of employment is once again on the decline, and I've heard that the number of fresh college graduates without jobs (which in most cases don't even show up in unemployment numbers because most aren't eligible for unemployment benefits) is at an all time high.