In that one comment he was making three points that President Donald Trump might consideras he wends his curious way between deregulation and protectionism, between slashing taxesto liberate business and a heavy-handed industrial policy.
The first point was that politicians had to stop kidding themselves about bringing manufacturingjobs back to America. Some may return, but never on the scale of the post-second world waryears. Brains and busywork have replaced brawn. The vision of the American worker has gonefrom the great, sinewy He-Men of Thomas Hart Benton’s murals, heaving rocks and poundingmetal, to Google programmers and the office-park slackers of Workaholics.
第一点是，政治家们别再欺骗自己，说什么可以让制造业就业岗位回到美国。部分就业岗位可能回到美国，但绝不会有二战后那样的规模。脑力和琐碎工作取代了体力劳动。美国工人的形象已经从托马斯?哈特?本顿(Thomas Hart Benton)壁画中身形伟岸、肌肉发达、举石锤铁的硬汉，变为谷歌(Google)的程序员和情景喜剧《工作狂》(Workaholics)中那些上班像逛公园一样闲散的员工。
Mr Jobs’ second point was that outsourcing was no longer just a hunt for the lowest possiblecost. The best plants in Shenzhen had shot up the learning curve, to become the best of theirkind at any price. Even if Apple were to build a plant in America and pay American workersAmerican wages, it would take a long time to manufacture with the speed, precision andflexibility the company could achieve with its partners in China. And that is to assume theChinese stopped getting better.
And the third was that the best US companies had become brilliant at managing acrossborders and directing resources to where they generate the highest returns. They weren’tvictims of globalisation. They were its masters and had become less and less American.
In 1990, the economist Robert Reich published an article titled “Who Is Us?” He argued that thesuccess of US-owned corporations and American competitiveness were the same thing.Business was off plundering new markets and employing tens of thousands of foreign workers.Meanwhile, foreign companies, notably the Japanese, were investing in American plants andfactories, hiring American workers, and teaching their American rivals how to be moreproductive. Foreigners were driving American competitiveness, while Americans were offseeking higher returns on capital overseas. So to his question “who is us?” Mr Reich answered: “The American workforce, the American people, but not particularly the American corporation.”And this was several years before the North American Free Trade Agreement.
1990年，罗伯特?赖克(Robert Reich)发表了一篇题为《我们是谁?》(Who Is Us?)的文章。他认为，美国企业的成功与美国的竞争力是一回事。美国企业不再抢夺新市场，不再雇用数以万计的外籍工人。与此同时，外国公司(尤其是日本公司)在美国投资建厂、雇用美国工人，教美国竞争对手如何提高生产效率。外国人推动了美国竞争力的提升，而美国人不再在海外寻求更高的资本收益。因此，对于他的“我们是谁?”这个问题，赖克回答道：“我们是美国劳动力、美国人，但不见得是美国企业。”那时距《北美自由贸易协定》(NorthAmerican Free Trade Agreement)签订还有好几年。
These decades of multinational shape-shifting have made America’s largest corporations easyprey for an economic nationalist. Ford, for example, has 199,000 employees worldwide, ofwhom only 48 per cent are in America. Apple has about 66,000 employees in the US yet isreported to have had almost five times that number working on making a single version of theiPhone at its Chinese supplier, Hon Hai.
If one accepts Milton Friedman’s argument that a corporation’s sole responsibility is to itsowners, then one cannot find fault with these multinationals. They plant their flag where themoney is. Their shareholders don’t want them playing the “Star Spangled Banner” in theboardroom. And while they may not directly be investing in American workers, they aregenerating returns for US investors who can reallocate their capital as they see fit. Mr Trumphas done precisely this with his own business, investing in property deals far beyond USshores.
But this is a fragile argument and Mr Trump is gleefully smashing it to pieces. He knows youcannot respond to stagnant wages and economic insecurity among the working and middleclasses with the crystalline logic of a Nobel-winning economist. And he is threatening to perpwalk before the press any companies that disappoint him.
The other problem for US multinationals is the 2004 Homeland Investment Act, which gavecompanies a tax break if they repatriated foreign income. The government told them they werebeing given this on the condition they invested in R&D and worker training. They were notto hand it all out to shareholders through dividends and buybacks. Guess what happened next?
美国跨国公司面临的另一个问题是2004年的《本土投资法案》(Homeland Investment Act)，该法案规定企业将海外收入汇回国内可享受税收减免。美国政府告诉他们，只要他们投资研发和员工培训，就可以享受减免。他们没有通过派息和股票回购将海外利润全部分给股东。猜猜接下来发生了什么?
The problem was the “fungibility of money”. Once companies brought their foreign money homeand ran it through the accounts, it became a shell game. The government couldn’t keep trackof which money was what, and where overseas funds were going. Shareholders got somewherebetween 62 and 90 cents of every dollar repatriated.
Today, US companies are holding an estimated $1tn or so in cash overseas. If they were givenanother opportunity to bring it home, chances are the same thing would happen again.
For global companies, patriotism can be stimulated with incentives like tax breaks, or threatslike tariffs, but it is not a natural state of mind. Capital hasn’t been scarce these past fewyears. If businesses saw more value in investing in American workers, they could easily havedone so. But they would rather wait for robots.
The writer is author of ‘What They Teach You at Harvard Business School’
本文作者著有《在哈佛商学院他们教你什么》(What They Teach You at Harvard Business School)一书