Nick Gillespie at ReasonTV offers us a tour de force on protectionism and the “Buy American” sloganeering, as well as bikini-clad women swinging sledgehammers. They’re taking aim at i-Pods, as it turns out that the electronic marvel does not actually qualify as an American product. Nick wants to get into the spirit of protectionism that has grown as the economy shrinks, but is that really a smart approach to economics?
President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package came equipped with a “Buy American” provision, and more than 500 state and local governments have signed “buy American” resolutions. And that may be just the beginning of the protectionist push.
Reason.tv went to a Washington, D.C. event where business owners and activists learned how to lobby for more protectionist laws. “If you want to sell it here, build it here,” says one participant who referrs to those who ignore the “buy American” imperative as “uneducated, ignorant people.”
And shouldn’t we be patriotic purchasers? That’s what car ads, draped with Old Glory and heartland visuals, suggest. What could be more patriotic than buying a Jeep Patriot? With American automakers hurting so badly, that’s got to help America.
“That’s nonsense,” says George Mason University economist—and Cafe Hayek blogger—Donald Boudreaux.
“The Jeep Patriot, despite it’s name is actually less American than some Toyota products. It’s literally impossible—at least in any practical sense—to ‘buy American.’”
Boudreaux argues that Americans should buy whatever products they choose; neither guilt nor laws should push them to buy American. “The thing that is most distinctively American is freedom. To insist that Americans should not be free to buy good from foreigners that’s very anti-American.”
Of all the populist sentiment unleashed in the 2008 election, the “Buy American” probably has the broadest and most long-lasting appeal. I’d rather buy a product made in America from an American company, given the choice and all other things being equal. ReasonTV explains that not only are all other things rarely if ever equal, but usually people don’t realize the extent to which foreign-owned companies make goods in the US and the extent to which US firms make goods abroad.
However, I do disagree with Boudreaux in one part of his statement. It’s not un-American at all to argue for a “Buy American” policy, as long as no one tries to force people out of their choices of goods and services. I’d call the campaigning for American products a perfectly rational form of free speech, intended to convince people to exercise their right to choose in a particular way. As long as no coercion is used, it’s perfectly American — even if sometimes misguided.
I’ll talk with Nick Gillespie today about the video and Reason’s point on globalized trade on The Ed Morrissey Show this afternoon. In the meantime, even if you don’t agree with Reason’s point, you can at least enjoy the Bikini i-Pod Smash. I’m pretty sure those are All-American girls, after all.