The computer software industry in the United States could not have expanded so much and so successfully if most American computer engineers and technicians were tied down with the production of machines that could have been just as easily produced in some other country. Since the same American labor cannot be in two places at one time, it can move to where its comparative advantage is greatest only if the country “loses jobs” where it has no comparative advantage. That is why the United States could have unprecedented levels of prosperity and rapidly growing employment at the very times when media headlines were regularly announcing lay-offs by the tens of thousands in some American industries and by the hundreds of thousands in others.

Regardless of the industry or the country, if a million new and well-paying jobs are created in companies scattered all across the country as a result of international free trade, that carries less weight politically than if half a million jobs are lost in one industry where labor unions and employer associations are able to raise a clamor. When the million new jobs represent a few dozen jobs here and there in innumerable businesses scattered across the nation, there is not enough concentration of economic interest and political clout in any one place to make it worthwhile to mount a comparable counter-campaign. Therefore laws are often passed restricting international trade for the benefit of some concentrated and vocal constituency, even though these restrictions may cause far more losses of jobs nationwide.

The direct transfer of particular jobs to a foreign country — “outsourcing” — arouses much political and media attention, as when American or British telephone-answering jobs are transferred to India, where English-speaking Indians answer calls made to Harrod's department store in London or calls to American computer companies for technical information are answered by software engineers in India. There is even a company in India called TutorVista which tutors American students by phone, using 600 tutors in India to handle 10,000 subscribers in the United States.

Those who decry the numbers of jobs transferred to another country almost never state whether these are net losses of jobs. While many American jobs have been “outsourced” to India and other countries, many other countries “outsource” jobs to the United States. The German company Siemens employs tens of thousands of Americans in the United States and so do Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota.

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