Made In The U.S.A.

What do you help when you buy American?

In Adventures on August 17, 2009 at 12:58 am

I keep harping on this topic, but it’s because every day I’m further convinced that what I thought would happen isn’t what’s happening.

I thought I would buy American and come to understand the simple idea of being a drop in the bucket, making a real change by buying products from here in order to slowly rebuild the empty factories and eliminated jobs and decimated cities that have crumbled with the foreign flight of manufacturing.

But what’s happening is that my drop isn’t doing anything in terms of the ocean of global manufacturing. Its impact is in other areas entirely. Ecological areas. And intrapersonal ones.

I’m not sure how it matters where something is made in terms of its economic impact on that country of origin. Just because we don’t make a product here doesn’t mean that product isn’t good for growing American jobs. (Remember the iPod example in video form from a previous post?)

I don’t know how to comprehend that stuff because I don’t have an economist’s mind. Or maybe I’m just not smart enough.

From what I can tell, though, the changes I’m making aren’t so much benefiting the economy as they are benefiting the environment. And not just because “buying American” is a version of “buying local” and so the stuff doesn’t have to travel as far. I mean beyond that. In broader, more meaningful ways. Like the fact that you can’t buy all sorts of junk you don’t need if you’re not buying imports.

The environment, and our society as a whole, would be improved if more of us paid attention to where the stuff we buy comes from. We may not litter so freely. We may not buy and dispose of things quite so quickly. We may not so often while away our time at the mall. We may stop voting with our dollars without paying attention to what we’re voting for.

I’m rambling here, but the point is this: what I’d thought would be the case isn’t, and what I hadn’t considered really is.

Deep, right?

Buying American is really about “buying local” but with a bigger boundary. If the perimeter you put on every one of your purchases is the U.S. border, you are buying more locally than those with no limit–artificial or not–to guide them.

The real impact comes from the fact that when you can’t find a truly local or MITUSA option for the thing you want to buy, you find an alternative–like reducing or reusing or recycling–instead of just buying the thing.

What I thought would be really hard to do at the outset has proven to be easy, even freeing. I’m worried less now about buying stuff than I used to be. Can you believe it? I think it’s because I’m free to not buy things.

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