This is a comment I posted on Brad Setser’s blog.
The problem with arguments regarding moral calculus and economics is that the people making the moral arguments often have obvious self-serving interests that cause their arguments to fall apart. A job goes from a factory worker in Michigan to a factory worker in Sri Lanka. How is this immoral? This only works if you argue that the factory worker in Michigan somehow has a greater moral claim to income than the one in Sri Lanka, and that is hard to argue if you aren’t from Michigan. Eighty percent of the world would *love* to exchange their economic situation with an unemployed factory worker from Michigan, and arguing morality on this issue is going to sound absurd to most of the world.
Something that you have to keep in mind is that most large multi-national corporations are global corporations, not American ones. It’s very hard to make the argument that an MNC should have a special responsibility to American workers as opposed to French, Mexican, or Sri Lankan ones, since the companies aren’t uniquely American, the workers aren’t American, and the management isn’t American. Once you start looking at things from a global perspective, and realize that the vast majority of human is living in desperate poverty, then it really is hard to define protection of American standards of living as a moral imperative.
The basic reality is that we live in a global world, and we need to think of these problems globally. The fact that American society is becoming unequal is merely a reflection of the fact that the distribution of global wealth and income is profoundly unequal, and that the only way that the American middle class can survive is to make sure that there exists a middle class in Mexico, China, Iraq, and Sri Lanka. Unless you create a global middle class, then conditions in the United States are just going to reflect the rest of the world.
Something you got to understand is that from the view of most of the world, there isn’t that much difference between a middle class factory worker and a hyperrich CEO. Both are living like kings from the perspective of the average person in the world. The difference is that the CEO is giving that person a job, whereas the factory worker is complaining that the job is being taken away.