In This Review

End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation
End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation
By Barry C. Lynn
320 pp, Doubleday, 2005

Lynn makes the important point that the dispersion of the production of components around the world -- outsourcing -- increases the vulnerability of corporate supply chains to disruptions, whether natural or human in origin, with potentially large impacts on U.S. production, employment, and prices. He further notes that many U.S. firms are not fully aware of their vulnerabilities, since they are not always knowledgeable about who supplies their direct suppliers -- so that what appears to them to be satisfactory diversification may not be. The book then goes on to argue, more dubiously, that the uncertainties of supply have increased significantly since the time when U.S. firms produced closer to home and were often vertically integrated. Lynn asserts, without persuasive evidence or argumentation, that social vulnerabilities from global outsourcing exceed the private vulnerabilities, such that private action alone will not deal adequately with the problem; public incentives are required to induce U.S. firms to disperse their suppliers sufficiently. This important claim requires much closer investigation than the book provides.