The Importance of “Buying American”

An utterly insincere examination of people being goofballs and lightbulbs

Boy, there really isn’t anything which I love doing more than buying some good ol’ American products. Whether it’s t-shirts, food or even crudely manufactured light bulbs, I know that even though I may be paying a little extra for my goods, I am theoretically providing jobs to my fellow Americans. But does “buying American” really go far enough? After all, this is the state of Michigan, how does “buying Floridian” help the Michigan economy? If it is true that purchasing locally produced goods benefits the local economy, I should really try buying from Michigan alone. Then again, how on earth does this ensure that Mount Pleasant workers receive jobs? According to this theory, buying goods from Detroit or Marquette would hurt Mount Pleasant’s economy. Although politicians insist upon these and similar sentiments the world over, one can detect that such remarks are filled with sheer economic fallacies.

Okay, so maybe consuming goods and services only produced in Mount Pleasant isn’t the greatest of ideas. But why is this? Quite simply, with its location, natural resources and unique individuals (all of whom have varying skills, strengths and weaknesses), there are some goods which are incredibly expensive, inefficient or even impossible to produce.

For example, because of the distinctive characteristics of Mount Pleasant, it is unable to efficiently produce oranges. However, Mount Pleasant is able to efficiently serve as a college campus. Conversely, Orangeville, Florida is a farm town ill-suited to serve as a college campus, while it is able to efficiently produce oranges. If Mount Pleasant specializes as a college town and exports its education to Orangeville, while Orangeville specializes in orange production and exports them to Mount Pleasant, both cities are better off.

Trade is a win, win situation. This is because by trading their specialized goods and services, the two cities now have greater quantities of oranges and education than what they could have ever produced on their own. By exchanging and specializing in the good or service which costs the least to produce, both cities and the consumers within enjoy additional wealth.

Alright, so trading and not attempting to do everything single-handedly is a good idea.  Some individuals may say “Well whoopty doo, what about the manufacturing workers who lose their jobs because China floods the American market with its products? If Chinese light bulb manufacturers outcompete their American counterparts, aren’t the American workers who become unemployed losers from this supposedly universally benefiting trade?” Although at first glance this may appear to be factual, this is only because it centers on what is seen. What is truly important is what is not seen. Allow me to elaborate…

What is seen in this scenario is the unfortunate workers who are now temporarily unemployed. Though an industrial plant closing its doors always makes a splendid news article (as a journalist, I should know), one has to remember that the only reason it closed in the first place was because it was unable to compete. In other words, what is not seen is this facility was forced by individuals voluntarily operating within society to close its doors because it was selling its goods at a far greater cost than what could be purchased elsewhere. Furthermore, because of the savings consumers find at these more attractive prices, they are allowed to dispose of their newly available funds which they would otherwise not have. Even though trade and competition may result in a few inefficient workers and businesses temporarily losing their jobs (and then having to pursue work in sectors in which they are the most productive), society benefits with less costly and higher quality goods and services

But what if China is subsidizing its production, isn’t that unfair to Americans? It may very well be that the Chinese government is subsidizing its producers (though virtually every world government including the United States’ is guilty of this vice), but that fact is irrelevant. The causes of these lower prices and/or superior products are essentially inconsequential (obviously coerced slave labor or other human rights violations are the lone exceptions), as they are a benefit to every American consumer. If foreign governments are philanthropic enough to hand away goodies at their taxpayers’ expense, we are shooting ourselves in the foot to deny them this opportunity.

Take the example of the American light bulb manufacturers. As I’m sure most readers are unaware, a foreign rival is in fact currently flooding the United States’ light market with astonishingly low prices. Its name is none other than…the sun. Just imagine all of the jobs which are lost in the light bulb industry due to the sun providing roughly half of all hours with natural light free of charge. If only the government constructed an opaque dome over the entire country, then light bulb manufacturers could fairly compete. And lastly, consider all of the jobs which would be created from constructing this dome as well as from the resulting sudden increase in the demand for light. Considering how foreign goods approaching zero in cost are harmful, surely free foreign goods are even worse, right?