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Offshore Outsourcing Isn't Anti-Patriotic

After listening to some of the presidential campaign coverage recently, it's clear that the idea of outsourcing any kind of work overseas is going to come under attack, with about as much sense and thought as the tactics that brought about "Freedom Fries."

We may deserve the politicians we elect, but as an industry we deserve better rhetoric than this. Sure, there are many points to debate about sending IT service work overseas, especially work that involves sensitive customer data. But to wash offshore outsourcing with a broad cloth that calls it anti-American is not just patently simplistic, it flies in the face of capitalism and free markets, two ideals that this country supposedly embraces.

The difference now is that some white-collar jobs, including technical support and even network administration, can be performed cheaper in other regions, thanks to the emergence of reliable high-speed communications networks. While that might provoke predictable outrage from politicians who say they are concerned about protecting American workers, it's helpful to remember that companies create jobs, not elected officials.

Since companies are usually beholden to customers, shareholders and employees, decisions about whether to outsource or not are typically made on a cost basis. Taking a stand against moving any work offshore might win some corporations admiration, but in the end people generally want to pay less for products and services, and don't care much where they are made or performed, as long as it happens in countries where workers aren't being mistreated.

Already, U.S. firms are reaping benefits of reduced costs for offshore labor. Yes, some people will lose their jobs here as a result. But as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and others have argued, our real concern is to keep enhancing the infrastructure that lets Americans innovate. Issues surrounding innovation, which include questions about expensing stock options, patent law and overseas recognition of privacy and copyright laws, should be the topics of debate, instead of whether a small percentage of jobs are relocated. Keep that in mind, when the hot political winds start blowing.