2019-12-20: ABC's Made in America Campaign                  rak
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I've been watching the evening news on ABC with my parents the
past few days. The past few evenings they have had "Made in
America" segments where they encourage viewers to buy Christmas
gifts that were "made in America". On Wednesday [0], they
interviewed people on Fifth Avenue in NYC to ask them if they
bought any "made in America" gifts, and told viewers that they
"still time" if they haven't yet. They speak of mitts made in
Michigan by "9 American Workers", and encourage viewers to write
in with the "one thing" they bought for Christmas that was made
in America.

The premise underlying these segments is that you should choose
one product over another because it was made by the right group
of people (in this case, you should buy a product because it was
made by fellow Americans). I argue that this premise is almost
always self-defeating and that it should not be used as a
principle. Instead, you should always* buy the product you
would have bought had you not known manufacturer. Let's
illustrate why with a few examples.

Suppose that you want to buy a screw driver and that you have
the choice between a ¢99 screw driver made of some softish
metal, and a $3 screw driver that looks pretty durable. Odds are
that you would pick the $3 screw driver: it is a better quality
product. But what if you then found out that the ¢99 screw
driver was "Made in America", while the $3 one was "Made in
China"? You would be acting against your interests if you bought
the American-made screw driver instead: it is an inferior
product.

Suppose instead that the durable screw driver was American-made,
while the cheap one was made in China. You don't need to be told
to buy the American-made product simply because it made in
America: it's the superior product and you would have bought it
anyways.

Now, you may ask: Don't I have an obligation to support my
country's economy? Isn't it better to buy something of lesser
quality or that I wouldn't otherwise buy, just because it
supports people who live in my country? If these are your views,
then you should be honest with yourself and admit that your
policy amounts to charity.

If you ask: why should I support workers in other countries?
The first point is that, why should you take a person's
nationality into account when deciding how you behave towards
them? How is it at all relevant to the quality of their work or
their character? Second, it is not "support" if you buy their
superior product: you are trading them cash for value.

* Admittedly, there are limited cases where it is acceptable not
  to purchase a product because it was made by the "wrong" group
  of people. For example, you might boycott products from a
  certain company because they were made in sweatshops. But this
  is clearly not what underlies the "buy American" premise.

[0] https://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/christmas-thing-made-america-67788436