Buy American


-Hannah Mead, MCPP intern, 2008

Channel 4 WDIV Detroit reports on a new bumper sticker campaign prompting people to “Buy American Products: They’re Better and Safer.”

1. If American products were, in fact, better, we consumers would purchase them. As it turns out, however, foreign cars (at least in my experience) are markedly more reliable. Maybe American companies should focus on making not-crappy cars instead of trying to guilt people into buying subpar vehicles.

2. Toyota employs over 35,000 Americans (2007 figure), and this number is growing rapidly. Furthermore, MSNBC/ForbesAutos report that some “foreign” cars have more parts manufactured in the U.S. than “American” cars. It just goes to show that this is a global economy. It wouldn’t make any sense for Washingtonians to boycott Idaho potatoes, and it doesn’t make sense for Americans to boycott foreign goods. Consumers buy the best and cheapest products, regardless of origin, and producers make what they’re best at making, regardless of their products’ destinations; international economic cooperation is a good thing. And yes, my dad’s job was outsourced.

3. Trade sanctions are a favorite foreign policy tool we use to “punish” other nations. (We won’t get into the fact that this alleged middle ground between words and war has the effectiveness of the former and the destructiveness of the latter: Sanctions strengthen dictators’ grips on their people and primarily harm the innocents and the poor in the target nation.) It doesn’t make any sense to voluntarily sanction ourselves from global trade, either in one industry or across-the-board.

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2 thoughts on “Buy American

  1. What do You have to say about buying local crops? Environmental gurus commonly tout this as an important strategy for easing our agricultural burden, because most food prices do not reflect true costs of food production. I would be interested to hear Your perspective.

  2. I’ve not heard that argument, unless you mean the thing about “food miles.” Even so, the idea of “true environmental costs” not being reflected in the price is pretty meaningless. How do these people come to a concept of the “real” cost? How should that weigh against resource and labor costs with which it’s a trade-off?

    While resource price may not completely capture the full environmental impact of a specific activity, it’s sure as heck more accurate than lobbyists advocating defending precious land at all costs (i.e. increase crop yields to limit our “footprint”) and coming to odds with, say, people who would like every local township to be agriculturally self-sufficient. In most cases, you can’t have both.

    What you can do is encourage people to wisely use land and wisely use transportation to minimize the costs — which fall fairly closely in line with the environmental impacts — by letting the market indicate which is the least expensive, which by definition is that which uses the least resources.

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