Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's a Commodity Worker to Do?

A recent post from Raspberry Pi excitedly announces that they will be moving manufacturing from China to Britain (using a plant owned by a Japanese company, no less).

“The initial contract will see the Pencoed plant producing 30,000 Raspberry Pis a month, and creating around 30 new jobs.”

First, I want to recognize that if you have a preference for manufacturing a good in one place over another, that’s fine. You’ll end up paying for it if it isn’t cost-effective, and something like this usually isn’t morally repugnant. I wish to argue that it becomes repugnant when place is combined with a tribal identity that priveleges some at the expense of others.

Even a naive understanding of economics would lead one to note that RP claiming to create 30 new jobs is benefit seemingly without cost. The question we might want to ask is how many Chinese jobs were lost, and how many Chinese citizens equal on British citizen. But, this isn’t a strong challenge and one I don’t think should rightly matter.

Now, creative destruction happens all the time, and arbitrary political borders shouldn’t matter all that much. When The Best Taco Stand in the World ™ moves operations to a neighboring city, leaving behind old employees and hiring new ones, we recognize the negative impact on former employees' lives and the positive impact on the new. But, as a free market activity goes, we can usually find little wrong with it from the POV of efficiency.

As a private (set of) actor(s), I find no reasons to object to RP’s decision. What I object to is the sort of attitude that privileges a set of people born in one arbitrary geographical area over another set of people from a different area.

How should a euvoluntarist looks at the issue of disemployment? I’ve chosen this word for a reason, because it is an action distinct from unemployment, a state of being. One can imagine that if the situation were reversed, with RP moving from Britain to China due to cost considerations, British citizens might tut-tut this as another example of greedy corporations outsourcing to help their bottom line at the expense of their countrymen.

But, disemployment for a British citizen isn’t so bad. We can think of disemployment as moving a worker to their pre-employment BATNA, or the alternative they were considering before consummating the labor contract with the now-estranged employer. Even if that opportunity is no longer available, there are social insurance programs which make the transition relatively less painful. China is improving and getting better all the time, but disemployment is probably worse for the Chinese worker than for the British. Disemployment condemns the worker to their BATNA, or worse.

I think unilateral disemployment is voluntary in the traditional sense, though I think a discussion of this point would be highly entertaining and enlightening. So, disemployment is just, but in certain circumstances, morally repugnant. In the case where prevailing societal attitudes toward the nation-state are the proximate cause for disemployment, and where the counterfactual world without this reverance would not have lead to disemployment, the disemployment is condemnable to a degree modulated by the disutility caused.

In this case, peculiar affectations toward an abstract collective entity bring about injuries reminiscent of naive paternalism.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, it’s not that noble to take these jobs from Chinese citizens. Especially considering the whole situation this country has with workplaces and labor market in general. But they probably had reasons to do this way. I realize the frustration well enough because I was unlucky enough to lose my workplace because of redundancy. Yet soon after I found a new great job (you may use this useful link to learn more) and don’t feel any anger towards me previous employer. In my opinion it all depends on how positive you are.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?