The Corner

“Buy America Problematic”

From a reader:

Dear Jonah-

Is it better to buy a Mercedes or Honda assembled in the United States, or a Ford assembled in Canada or Mexico? There are plenty of easy cases. But on those big-ticket items, it gets much more complicated.

All the best,

ME: I agree, but wouldn’t the fact that the problem is more complicated, also make it easier, not harder? After all, you could defend your purchase by saying “this car was made in America.” And, you could say, “Hey man, this is an American car, back off.” Indeed, I have no doubt that Honda and Ford would expand their marketing strategies to emphasize their side of the argument. Also, as for cars made abroad, wouldn’t such a popular preference stem the tide of even more factories moving abroad? Again, I am not saying that I necessarily favor a buy American campaign — and I know I don’t favor such campaigns being translated into law. But I’m still iffy on why it’s necessarily a good thing to have a culture of free trade even if I firmly believe it’s a good thing to have laws based on free trade. I mean, wouldn’t a pro-America premium encourage even greater innovation by foreign firms? And, if so, wouldn’t that maintain market pressure on domestic firms?

Despite all of the table-thumping from liberals, even our lower middle class enjoys historically enormous levels of disposable income. Since disposable income not invested is always going to go disproportionately to purchases of taste, why would it be bad if more consumers had pro-America tastes?

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