Go East, Young Man

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 | 8 Comments

In the same week that President Obama traveled to India on an economic mission, we heard this intriguing Public Radio International story about American workers moving to India to take advantage of that nation’s boom economy and to escape the relentless joblessness in the United States.

The radio story wouldn’t have surprised Peter Drucker, who believed that in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy, workers would move fluidly across borders. “Knowledge workers are highly mobile,” Drucker wrote in a 2001 article for The Economist. “They think nothing of moving from one university, one company or one country to another, as long as they stay within the same field of knowledge.”

As India grows (along with China) and more Americans look to live abroad, it is tempting to suggest that the U.S. might be on the verge of a new brain drain. Indeed, Drucker asserted in a 2003 lecture that India and China “are rapidly becoming counterforces to American economic dominance,” and he cited India, in particular, as “a knowledge center.”

We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t also point to David Brooks’s latest op-ed column in The New York Times about America’s future prospects. Brooks optimistically argues that nations poised to thrive in future economies will be those that serve as hubs of global connectivity. And America’s unique history and diverse population, he maintains, positions it at the center of the global crossroads.

What do you think: Does the U.S. still have a place as the center of the world’s economy, or is gravity pulling us all toward India and China?


  1. John
    November 12, 2010

    You ever been to China or India? I wouldn’t worry too much about a brain drain, at least not of our top talent.

  2. Alba Patricia Valencia
    November 12, 2010

    Not is gravity pulling us all toward India and/or China. We are living in a world of global capitalism, a process characterized by the growing power of capital and market in relation with the work and the State, especially in the field of technology and economy, comprising political, legal, cultural and military dimensions.

    Once this preamble is exhausted, I want to refer briefly to another aspect, namely the sense of mobility of professionals, understood at least in three different senses.

    First, the internal sense, caused by the advance of knowledge and the scientific interrelation of professional sectors.

    The second affects the professional as a whole, who, because of a factor before mentioned, and others framed in the human development, changes his place of residence, migrating to other nations. The inequality of social, cultural, political, and economical situations and events, either structural or circumstantial, prevents to give a universal answer to the numberless set of questions recorded in this global era.

    Finally, the third sense, the international, transnational and trans-cultural dynamics, experienced in this planet as a continuation of “hominization” in humanization, as ascent toward terrestrial citizenship of an organized planetary community.

  3. Jeffrey Smyth
    November 12, 2010

    The Second World War kneecapped the big European economies, and the post-war period eliminated the vast European colonial power structure that dominated the rest of the world. America found itself the sole standing survivor and it basked in the post-war nuclear wilderness. American governments and consumers came to believe that they had died and gone to heaven as the heavens opened with many blessings for all Americans.

    That was then. This is now.

    The large ex-colonial territories, India, Indonesia, China, South Africa and others, have adopted aggressive new identities and are seeking to gain, or actually regain, their rightful places in the world. Some of them have had a rough time; some, like China, have a big chip on their shoulder that will need to be massaged down by careful diplomacy. Two hundred years is a long time for the world’s largest population to suffer humiliation.

    America is still a vibrant, enormously energetic, open, frontier society, but the easy post-war days are over. The world doesn’t owe Americans an easy living — and it probably never did. The competition for leadership of the world is now beginning anew. David Brooks states that America has many advantages — and it does — but it will still take brains, education, new skills, multi-racial leadeship, and sunny communications expertise to persuade the rest of the non-white world that the American way is still the best model. Is it, or isn’t it? That is the question!

    We are all at the start of a new competitive era, a new Marathon. Of course, America can win — but no longer by default. Peter Drucker (and some of the rest of us) drifted to America as the best hope for civilization at that time. But the sun casts different shadows around the world every day, and sometimes we are in shade and sometimes in shadow. The future is not a fixed point, but aims at a point of light.

    India and China still have places of darkness in their firmament but they are now planets in our global universe aiming at the light, and it will take geat skill to create harmony in this new universal order.

    All Americans understand the term that the backfield is in motion — the whole world is now in motion. That can be enormously exciting – or frightening, depending on your view of the game.

  4. John Hunter
    November 13, 2010

    I agree with Drucker. Singapore, Shanghi, Rio De Janeiro, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo, Paris… and many more are going to be destinations for those that grow up in the USA. The numbers of people moving out of the USA in the next 30 years for jobs in the top 10% of the income bracket will be many multiples of what it was in the last 30 in my opinion.

    The USA has great advantages. China and India do too. But so do many other locations. The USA probably has more ability to absorb mistakes and I still feel it is the best situated, but the gap is much much smaller than it was 30 years ago.

  5. Mike Grayson
    November 13, 2010

    There are several key factors that will determine the future of the U.S. economy and whether or not we will see a brain drain.

    The first is the U.S. household. Americans went on a debt binge from 2004 to 2008. We saw consumer debt levels reach a historical high of $2.56 trillion dollars. The burden of credit cards and unserviceable mortgages crushed many households and destroyed any disposable income that could circulate through the economy. Today, the debt level has dropped to where it was in 2006 but still needs to continue to drop before we see debt ratios in American families release enough disposable income into the economy to begin generating growth. The good news is that the American consumer is managing their debt in a responsible fashion. The bad news is that we are likely 12-18 months away from getting back to 2004 levels.

    The Depression left deep scars on the that generation which impacted their decision making for the next 40 years. I believe that the pain caused by too much credit card debt will be remembered in a similar fashion.

    The second is the U.S. government. The debt and spending is simply unsustainable. The pension and welfare programs must be restructured. The decisions made in the past 20 years have done nothing to solve these problems and in some cases have made them dramatically worse. Peter Drucker often said that one of the most important decisions that a manager must make is how to utilize capital. We have seen some very bad decisions in this regard.

    Peter Drucker also said during an interview in 1995 that, “The government never abandons anything”. That is the central issue in starting any new government program – because once it is started, it is there forever. Government should never do anything that private forces within the society can do for themselves. Government should be in the role of encouraging and incentivising what needs to be done within society – not doing. The U.S. government is not likely to begin the much needed policy of abandonment – but they would do well if they did and turned over those pesky programs to private organizations and insured that the right “rules” protected society from mismanagement and corruption.

    The U.S. has a huge advantage over both China and India. China has one political party, the advantage of which is that they can make decisions quickly, unlike our two party system. The disadvantage is that they lack diversity of opinion which is necessary in effective decision making. The dissenting voice is often silenced and that is the one that could be right. This can also be seen in the Chinese state education system where all universities are very similar in nature with regard to what is being taught. In the U.S. there is great diversity in education and research. That is why the U.S. is a hotbed of innovation – because it inspires freedom of thought and ideas. What other country has invented something like the iPad lately?

    The second advantage the U.S. has is over India. The Indian population still operates under the caste system. They haven’t mentally grasped the concepts of individual freedom. This type of thinking hampers those who would attempt to be innovative for fear of drawing the wrath of their employer and becoming unemployed. Poverty in India has a very different meaning than poverty in America.

    If we extend our comparison to Europe, from an economic perspective, many of the countries are even worse off than America. Russia defaulted on it’s debt in 1997. Greece, Spain and Ireland have been on edge of economic collapse. France experienced riots when trying to raise the retirement age by a mere 2 years. Germany is experiencing the pressure of being tied to the European Union. In many ways America is doing much better than Europe.

    I’m a strong believer that good management can solve almost any problem faced by society. It is the responsibility of the Drucker Institute and the Societies to make an impact. Those in the position making decisions regarding the future of the U.S. need to learn the principles taught by Peter Drucker – starting with the Elements of Effective Decision Making.

  6. Viktor Hadjiev
    November 14, 2010

    Drucker’s name is a symbol of integrity, perseverance and wisdom. He got these qualities by facing many challenges. These challenges arose out of the fundamental question how can we all live in a better world? The answer to this question gave him strength to pursue a unique intellectual path. A path that has inspired many business and not-for-profit communities in the United States and throughout the world. If we are to continue his spirit of performance we need to face the challenges of our Global World, i.e. a high degree of volatility and unprecedented level of uncertainty. It takes creative vision and action to address these challenges.

    Drucker believed that effectiveness can be learned, but can we learn how to be creative? It takes much more than skills to stimulate creative behavior. It takes diverse intellectual approaches and an enhanced level of technological development. More so it takes cultural diversity and human rights protection in order to promote creativity. If we accept that these are the drivers for mastering the challenges of the today’s and next society than my position on the above-posed question is very simple. No the United States of America has not lost its technological competitiveness nor it has lost the sense for freedom of speech and human rights protection.

  7. Ray from Louisiana
    November 14, 2010

    How quickly would we be able to shift our present education system in order to meet the new challenges ahead? In order to poise our Nation into a more dominant position would it not require a revamp in our foreign language skills? Cultural awareness, etc.?
    How can we better improve on growing, recruiting and retaining the most creative/ innovative minds to keep us in a better position in the global market?

  8. Santo Dieter
    November 27, 2011

    This article is very cool. I like it and this is a very informative post and i think readers read this Post they take good knowledge.


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