Vox recently posted on H-1B Visas, and the comment sections are gold.

I’ve had a couple experiences that are relevant – both in hiring and Indian team for a project, and in dealing with Indian call center tech support. I’ll insert my own observations where needed.

First, coding, and lack of comprehension.

True. Every Indian & Pakistani I worked with couldn’t program their way out of a wet paper bag. They rely almost entirely on cut & paste from “example usage” snippets. All of their declarations look like this:

{ window WindowType; /* window / button ButtonType; / button / title TitleType; / Title */ }

If there’s something I’ve personally experienced is the complete inability to work “off script”. I not only dealt with a web dev project that came in massively over budget and effectively had to be rewritten in house despite being – mostly – some modifications to Drupal, but have repeatedly dealt with the insistence of their tech support staff in following… the… script.

You call them, tell them what you’ve already checked, and they will ask you step one. “Is it plugged in” , or similar. “I already told you we have power, lights come on, fan spins up, but these diagnostic lights are lit up, and we need the motherboard replaced.”

“But did you plug it in?”

sigh Yes.

“Did the lights come on?” headdesk

In case you’re wondering, this has happened within a chat transcript, where a few sentences above the answer to the question is already there. This is in complete alignment with comments I’ve heard that it’s like they hear the words, but do not understand the system well enough to understand what the words mean.

No wonder Dell pulled their business support back into the states. Tell a tech there that you already checked a, b, and d (not thinking to check c) and he’ll look at the troubleshooting steps and ask you if you’ve tried “c” then skip to “e”, or ask for clarification in case it’s unclear if what you said matches his procedures.

There’s also the “we will never admit we’re wrong/don’t know how” factor. That’s what happened on the web project. Factor in lack of comprehension – the inability to build a model in their head of what the code is doing – and it makes it clear why they copy and paste so much.

Yeah, I’ve done copy and paste myself. I’ve also either rewritten the code to meet my needs once I figured the code out, or made sure I understood it well enough to be satisfied I knew what it did, and that I wasn’t going to do better enough in the time I wanted to spend.

And the Libertardians at the Playdo Institute call this “progress”..and the “free market” at work.

I’ve noted elsewhere. It’s not a free market when only one side is playing free market.

The cultural problem with Indians are legion. The biggest is that in India, your worth as a person is dependent on your birth. A typical Indian work group will have 5 guys who are there because of their family connections, Brahman status, and even birth order, and 3 guys and 2 women who actually do all the productive work. And the Brahmans are generally arrogant pigs, who even if they are competent to do the work, view it as beneath them. They are continually playing dominance games, and look down on literally everyone, especially Americans.

Indians are the major reason offshoring to India is generally a failure.

Re: “offshoring” – I’ve already noted people pulling support teams back in house. I hadn’t seen much of the above directly, except a few aspects of the arrogance.

I will note that caste-based discrimination is apparently rampant, but rarely brought up in articles discussing what a wonderful and beautiful culture it is, so much better than ours, etc.

Factor those failures in, and why do they do it? Even once it became clear that the cost savings was illusory?

Lack of a long view.

Sadly, the answer is a lot more simple. We have lots of MBAs. They need to prove their worth. If you outsource or hire H1Bs, your revenue stays the same but profit margin increases, thus you get a bonus.

We have a lot of stupid people with MBAs and jobs at major companies. They make stupid decisions that more than 15 minutes of thought would show doesn’t work. With the exception of some manufacturing, outsourcing has been a pretty hefty failure. And the quality of H1Bs is almost always a net-negative, but stupid MBAs can’t understand that.

Offshoring is fragile. Offshoring makes you dependent on someone else, while deprecating “tribal knowledge”. Offshoring has, in practice, and in my anecdotal experience, cost more than the supposed savings. Sometimes in straight cash, but more often in missed opportunities and rework.

But as Bastiat taught us, the seen – the “cost savings” entice us, while the unseens – friction from different expectations, misrepresentations of competence, etc., bite us later.

Of course, some have figured it out:

Luckily some of the H1-B and outsourcing trend has been running backwards in recent years. Some, not a large number, but some employers are figuring out that they were better off with American employees even if they do command higher salaries.

Some have finally figured out “we can’t afford to pay an American to do it once but somehow we can afford to pay an Indian to do it 4 times” doesn’t make sense.