Blog Action Day today. The topic is poverty.

More than a billion people live without running water, close to 2 billion without electricity, almost 3 billion without decent sanitation and more than 3 billion on less than $2.50 per day.

I posted about education vs. poverty and voting to fund education on Planning Startups Stories today.

For this blog, on the topic of poverty, let’s talk about the politics of what some people call “exporting jobs.” It sounds bad, doesn’t it? Politicians treat it like a shameful evil deed, exporting jobs.

Can we, however, on a day like today when we’re focusing on problems of poverty, take a second to think about the other side of that coin?

The knee-jerk politics talk about exploitation, paying people peanuts to do hard labor. Is it perhaps possible, though, that the so-called exporting of jobs can help distribute the wealth and balance world economies?

With 3 billion people living on $2.50 per day, is it evil to set up an assembly plant in a developing country, and to pay workers in that country a bit more than market rates to work in decent conditions?

We should ask them. I lived in Mexico City for 10 years, back in the 1970s, when the assembly plants just south of the U.S. border grew up. Those people who got assembly jobs on the Mexican side of the border improved their standard of living, worked hard and really wanted those jobs. The average standard of living went up in the region. The average wage went up in the region.

I’m not suggesting that paying desperate people miserable wages to do horrible work is good. I am suggesting, though, that there are jobs that people in poorer economies would want, that pay fair wages, that improve their lives and help those economies grow.

The developed economies of Southeast Asia reached their present advanced stage bolstered by low-cost assembly jobs after World War II.

I’m not suggesting that this is easy, either. Or that there aren’t great hardships suffered when assembly jobs move from developed economies with relatively well-paid labor to developing economies with relatively lower-paid labor.

Still, let’s at least recognize that there are multiple sides to the question. Are the people who oppose immigration from countries with developing economies to nations with mature economies, for example, in favor of investing capital in those developing economies, to create jobs for the people there?

Specifically, those who oppose Mexican immigration to the United States, to cite one obvious example (although they tend to speak in code, in general terms, with phrases like illegal immigration, undocumented workers, and such; but we all know what they really mean). Don’t they have to be in favor of U.S. investment in Mexico to bolster its economy and create jobs in Mexico to fight the imbalance between the two economies? Isn’t it extremely short-sighted to oppose immigration and exporting jobs at the same time?

And what if the world is hot, flat and crowded, as Thomas Friedman’s new book suggests? Do we stick our heads in that hot sand?

Consider, for a second, how much the world has suffered for the huge unemployment rates in the Middle East. Can you see how lowering the 40 percent unemployment rate in some of those Middle Eastern economies might be good for the rest of the world?

Ultimately, I believe that people, in all their humanity, will always seek to improve their lot. Those people who come to the United States and make the anti-immigration people nervous . . . well, they’re seeking a better way of life. And those people in developing economies who can’t find work are a problem.

Today, at least, on blog action day against poverty, can we please recognize that if you oppose exporting jobs, then you are in favor of receiving immigrants? Or vice versa?

Or do you really want to live behind a wall?

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.