Buying American

There is presently some positioning by the Left, on another forum, in opposition to the "Buy American" idea and in partiuclar, to the Steelworkers Campaign for Buy American.

The Left says the Buy American campaigns are "chauvinistic" and only support the corporations that are killing us and stand in the way of "International Solidarity".

I say it may take some time yet to fix better ownership of the corps, that we need to work to support our families, that it is more principled to shop close to home and buy products that our neighbors make, that it is a good thing that many American home bodies are turning to E.F. Schumacher and the principles of Subsidiarity and Distributism.

It's kind of amazing to me how the Left in the auto industry clings to their anti-common sense.

What do you think?


Jesse Friday, May 15, 2009 at 11:30:00 AM CDT  

Tom, I had another article published in a little local paper where I connected the logic of distributism with that of fair trade (as opposed to free trade).

Here's an excerpt, which may be relevant:

Presently, the standard line of bi-partisan “free traders” is that free trade lowers the cost of goods and raises the standard of living. It kind of half remembers the fact that wealth does not consist in money, which is purely a means, but in consumable goods. If, therefore, goods are cheaper and a nation is able to have more, then, it follows, that nation will be wealthier. But that rather puts the cart before the horse, as Alexander Hamilton, in opposition to British free trade policy, well knew: for it is originally in production that consumable goods are created, an income is earned, and the purchasing power to consume those goods is derived. Now couple that fact with the Distributist insight that labor inevitably looses power to clear the market due to a disproportionate amount of income favorably accruing to ownership, and the conclusion inescapably follows that free trade can only serve to accelerate the divide between labor and ownership, and thereby force wages down and decrease the standard of living at an even quicker pace.

The bottomward spiral that results from this whole process increasingly boils economic relations down to bare survival instinct. Whether it’s corporations moving manufacturing to poorer countries in order to compete, or banks, lacking investment in a productive economy, needing to stay alive by making speculative loans; such entities will do what they must to survive. But the same goes in politics. Perhaps -- recalling that a certain party will have to adapt, severely, in order to overcome the latest tidal wave of rejection -- we might speak directly to our politician’s survival instincts, reminding them that we are American constituents, and that a fair trade policy exists, which, contrary to our current one, was dubbed the “American System” – and for good reason.

The full article can be found at my blog, Modern Distributism.

Anonymous,  Friday, May 15, 2009 at 9:00:00 PM CDT  

I agree, it is not good enough to "Buy American", we need to "Buy Local". I am looking into ways of doing this, especially when goods are "in season". For one thing, I will be frequenting the local farmers markets this summer.


Anonymous,  Friday, May 15, 2009 at 9:10:00 PM CDT  

I would like to add that it is not only the "left" that is against "buying American", it is also the Global Capitalists which can be right/left/middle in ideology that is against this.

(and yes, as distasteful as it is to me, I am thinking of getting a "Google Account")

Tom Laney Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 6:53:00 AM CDT  

Thanks Jesse, I'll check your blog; and Anon for your thoughts on this. I am writing my own letter to the editor and you're very helpful.

J.V. Toups Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 9:37:00 AM CDT  

I think the issues around globalism are complex.

For instance, when you say "Buy local," what do you mean? Do you mean culturally local, geographically local, or "energetically" local (as in, it does not require much expenditure of energy to move the good from the provider to the consumer).

I am pretty sure a definition of local based on cultural similarity is exactly what people mean when they say Buy American is a chauvinistic movement - its subtext (albeit barely sub) is "Americans deserve to have jobs more than people in another society". The idea that one person deserves a living and another does not depending on whether they are of a particular culture is obviously amoral. I think most moralists agree that the culture one incidentally belongs to ought not to prevent you from working and living.

If this is the case, then saying it is geographic locality which matters (and cultural locality is just a coincidence due to the fact that people with similar culture tend to live near one another) then we are in the position of making an even more ridiculous moral statement: that people deserve to work based on whether they live near you or not. This is even more coincidental than the culture to which one belongs.

By local we must therefore mean energetically local - that is, that it does not require very much energy to transport the good from the producer to the consumer. This definition, however, must depend on the state of technology surrounding the economic transaction. If we invented teleporters powered by solar energy, for instance, then everyone would be local to you. Intellectual trade has already reached this point - no one talks of "supporting local bloggers" because the blog is an essentially free to move object.

One consequence of accepting this view is that if technological changes, such as the invention of fossil fuel powered vehicles and ships, occur, then the notion of energetically local will necessarily change. This is quite arguably the cause of the phenomenon of globalization in the last two centuries.

It seems to me that if someone in Bangalore makes something which is expensive or impossible to make here in North Carolina and we make something else that they want (even if that thing is just capital) then it makes more sense, both morally and practically, to buy from the people in Bangalore. They, after all, need to make a living just like anyone else, and their local circumstances might not allow for them to diversify their production sufficiently to support a good quality of life if they were restricted to local trade.

It seems like what you really object to is the people in North Carolina (for instance) "producing" nothing but capital. But we both agree that this is (in the long term) impossible. In any case, it is a separate problem if North Carolinians are not actually producing valuable commodities. One not really addressable by merely buying local (except that doing so artificially constrains us). Shouldn't we be more concerned about making sure our investments are sound in the long term and that our transactions are moral and forget about geography or culture altogether when making economic decisions?

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Werd by 2009

Back to TOP