Made In The U.S.A.

So.

In Adventures on January 9, 2010 at 12:52 am

Limiting consumption. That’s really what buying American is all about. A more conscientious method of buying. Awareness. It ain’t about the economy. It won’t save jobs. Do you realize how impossible it would be to convince someone to pay $8 an hour for American labor instead of 70 cents for that same hour in China? Even if you wanted it seven times as good and were willing to pay that exorbitant premium for higher quality, you’d still be better off paying those inexpensive hands to do it. This is what you learn buying greeting cards, or books, or games. It’s what I know, now, after a year of trying to convince myself otherwise. Things that require hands to assemble require non-American hands. No amount of voting with your dollars, I’m sorry to say, is going to bring those jobs back from the hinterlands in any meaningful may. More importantly, we’re never ever, as a society, going to vote for something “good” with our dollars. We’re going to vote for the cheapest the mostest the fastest. Look at us. That’s all you’ve got to do. There’s a Red Lobster not far from you. And one near me. And lots in between. And Wal Mart. And Target. And Marshals. And Gap. And Macys. And Hobby Lobby. And quite literally everything for everyone everywhere all the time. The only places that are still making American are doing it because they’ve got something decidedly irrelevant to the masses. If you’ve got a hit on your hands, you’d best start making it offshore or you won’t be in business for long.

Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule. American Apparel shirts are high fashion. Maglites are high quality. Jiffy Steamers just haven’t switched to overseas manufacturing yet–and I can say that knowing nothing about that company at all. Based on cold hard statistical probability alone, they will eventually source their labor overseas. They will. Period. I’m not singling them out. Everyone will. As long as it makes business sense, it will happen more and more. Period.

Don’t believe me? Read this: 12 Reasons Why Companies Outsource Overseas. It’s called “12 Reasons” but you’ll notice they all center around only one reason: Money.

So that begs the question, is sending our labor overseas really all that bad? Is it bad if American jobs become more skilled, more white collar, more design rather than more build? Are those office jobs in California that came from the iPod somehow worth less than factory jobs assembling iPods would be? If you’re cheap foreign labor, you also might feel that working in a horrible factory for horrible pay is still better than working on a pile of infected garbage in the hot sun, maybe not being paid at all for your dangerous labor.

The cat is out of the bag and it has run away to China. We won’t get back to “the good ol’ days” of American manufacturing. I’m sorry, but we won’t.

If the rules change, then I will reevaluate this prediction. But until then, while governments continue to manipulate currencies and workforces, and until we stop wanting lots of stuff while only willing to pay a little, I’m standing by it.

If and when change happens, most realistically speaking, it’s going to be because of other unfortunate world-changing events–like when China is no longer “developing” and has become the world power we once were.

This too will happen. Maybe not in our lifetime. But probably not much beyond. That’s when you’ll find more stuff being made in America.

Then the stuff we’ll make here we’ll make here for one simple reason: because we are a capitalist society, above all else. Survival of the fittest. And when it costs less for American hands to assemble the stuff we consume–and by then, the stuff China’s budding billions of middle class will also want to consume–that’s when you’ll start seeing more stuff made in America.

Great.

Until things get that bad, we should maybe utilize my MITUSA buying agenda for what it is: a way to limit unnecessary purchases. A way to curb excess. A way to watch out for what you do, to yourself and to others.

You maybe don’t need all those extra holiday decorations each year. Maybe you can live with a few less pairs of shoes come spring. Or maybe not so many sweaters in the post-Christmas sales rush. Or maybe you don’t need to wait in line for dirt cheap and downright disposable DVD players and lawn mowers.

You can live without some of that stuff. It’s just that you haven’t had to in a really long time. Why? Because practically everything we buy is dirt cheap because it’s made by poor people who are thankful for the opportunity. And we’re all too happy to give it to them in exchange for inexpensive junk.

We’re good at that.

So go ahead and buy American. Do it because it’s a great way to limit your consumption of unneccessary crap. But don’t do it because you’re going to save a job or fix our economy or raise a tired manufacturing center from its ashes. Buying American will quite likely make you a better, more proactive consumer. And it may even make you feel a little more free. If you’re like me, you might even feel empowered.

Until, that is, you decide that you really want to make some guacamole.

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  1. Good stuff-we need more ideas like this.

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