Skip to comments.Mani and Me; Hearing 'Mister I Work Cheap' From Across the Globe
Posted on 06/03/2002 9:31:16 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
I was holding Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's American Express card in my hand, thinking about the differences between the world's fifth-richest man and me. I was about to discover something we had in common.
This story starts a few weeks back, when I bought a new Palm to learn French. One night, I waws writing a Visual Basic program to drill in French verbs, when I came across an especially tricky software problem I couldn't solve. Several hours later, I found something online called "2 Rent A Coder." You post a programming problem and people bid on solving it for you.
I was struck by the sums people were bidding to do jobs; $15, $25. Pocket change, it seemed. Then I noticed where many of the people were living: India, Eastern Europe.
I described my problem. Eventually, for $25, someone named Odyssey helped me out.
Now that the front lines of globalization were running through my PC, I was curious about who Odyssey was. I wrote him a note and told him what I did for a living and asked him about himself. He wrote back. His real name is Mani Kumar; he is 26, and lives in Bangalore, where $25 is a week's rent.
. . .
Thanks to the Internet, there was suddenly a link between two previously seperate worlds, mine and Odyssey's.
Is that, though, a good thing?
My home in San Francisco is near a street of pick-up laborers--usually Mexican immigrants who stand on the sidewalk and wait for contractors to pull up in their trucks. Whenone does,theworkers gather around, pushing each other out of the way, frantically trying to get hired. "Hey Mister, I work hard." "Hey Mister, I work cheap." It's close to what economists calll a "perfect market."
Most cities have such a place . . .
Labor unions are all about the idea that workers don't stand a chance if they are battling other workers . . . you need a heart of stone not to be pained by the sight of a young father trying to put food on his table by promising to do a day of back-breaking work for even less money than the young father right next to him.
I can't, though, discern much difference between . . .[that scene] and the evolving Internet. With my programming problem, I had just, in effect, pullled up in a pick-up truck. People whose economic circumstances are vastly different from mine then jostled for my attention.
. . . Very large invisible hands are at work. One day, everyone in the "digital economy" may find themselves . . . [in a perfect market] that spans the globe. Career ad vice for the 21st Century: Stay away from any job that can be done online, or you'll be competing with my buddy Odyssey--and people eager to underbid him, too. I found a good programmer in five minutes. I'm still looking for a good carpenter.
. . . Larry Ellison visited the Journal bureau. He was talking about how security is better for credit cards than pilot's licenses, hence the passing around of his American Express.
But then he started talking about how Oracle uses a lot of programmers in Bangalore. Maybe I had a guilty conscience, but I seized ont the point. Doesn't Oracle feel a responsibility to hire Americans? Well, said Mr. Ellison, we are a global company: plus, we hire lots of Americans, too. And, he added, don't people have a moral responsibility; not just to their courntry, but to the whole world?
A perfectly good answer, though I couldn't help thinking about the Flint, Mich., of "Roger and Me," where GM executives had said similar things before shutting down all those car plants.
But at least Mr. Ellison is practiced in dealilng with questions about profiting from the Darwinian labor economics of the Internet. Now that I'm doing the same thing, I could use some pointers on how I should handle the issue myself.
. . . but not, apparently, to criticize employers while personally hiring neither of those fathers.I found a good programmer in five minutes. I'm still looking for
someone who is both able to convert a homeowner's words into a concrete plan of action, accurately estimate the time and material cost of that plan, and physically perform that plan.. Now that I'm . . . [profiting from the Darwinian labor economics of the Internet], I could use some pointers on how I should handle the issue myself.
You could start by being honest about whether you would have paid $500, or even $250, for an American solution to the problem in question. You would not--so "Odyssey" didn't take any bread out of the mouth of a U.S. programmer. If you insist on feeling guilty, regret that you lack the creativity, vision, and faith to define problems that are actually worth the time of an American programmer--or for that matter, of an American carpenter. If so, maybe you would be "the world's fifth-richest man" instead of Larry Ellison . . .
Discard the code, demand your $25 back.
That will show them!
And "show" is what the liberal is all about--"Symbolism over substance."
If the market is so perfect why don't you try and work the other side of that deal?
This is what the bosses and CEOs have planned for you. Isn't the fruits of poverty and unemployment wonderful. You can get someone to work for subsistance pay- The 'perfect' economy.
What he describes is a "perfect" buyer's market for unskilled labor. A perfect seller's market seems to exist, in the writer's mind at least, for skilled and experienced carpenters.
Nobody wants to sell in a buyer's market, and nobody wants to buy in a seller's market. Be nice to be able at all times to do the reverse . . . .