From Hussman’s weekly letter:
Question. Why do workers in developing nations earn a fraction of the wages American workers earn? While protective and regulatory factors such as trade barriers, unionization, and differences in labor laws have some effect, the main reason is fairly simple. U.S. workers are, on average, more productive than their counterparts in developing countries. While the gap between U.S. and foreign wages can make open trade seem very risky, it is simply not true that opening trade with developing nations must result in a convergence of wages. The large difference in relative wages is in fact a competitive outcome when there are large differences in worker productivity across countries.
The main source of this difference in productivity is that U.S. workers have a substantially larger stock of productive capital per worker, as well as generally higher levels of educational attainment, which is a form of human capital. This relative abundance of physical and educational capital has been a driver of U.S. prosperity for generations. Neither advantage in capital, however, is intrinsic to American workers, and it will be impossible to prevent a long-term convergence of U.S. wages toward those of developing countries unless the U.S. efficiently allocates its resources to productive investment and educational quality. This is where our policy makers are failing us.
There is little question that we have, for more than a decade, squandered our productive resources in the pursuit of bubbles. Almost unbelievably, real private gross domestic investment is lower today than it was 12 years ago, and much of the gross domestic investment that we have made in the interim has been destroyed in mispriced speculative activity such as residential construction and commercial real estate development.
Until we get back to allocating resources to productive use, there will not be lasting general prosperity nor perhaps general adequacy of resources for basic needs.