Reason.tv: Is Your iPod Unpatriotic?—Why America shouldn't "Buy American"


Is your iPod unpatriotic?

Its 451 parts are made in dozens of nations, and creating the little doodads employs thousands of foreigners. Final assembly is done in China-a country that right-wingers and left-wingers alike fear is an economic threat to the U.S.

As the recession worsens, maybe patriotic Americans should be smashing foreign-made iPods in protest. Or at least hiring bikini-clad American women to do the job, which is exactly what Reason.tv did. Our patriotic, sledgehammer-wielding bikini bandits headed to California's Venice Beach to smash some foreign-made iPods to make a political statement about saving American jobs.

Maybe the United Steelworkers Union (USW), one of the biggest "Buy American" backers would like to hire these patriotic ladies for their next rally.

"Every other nation during this economic downturn is directing their stimulus money inward," thunders USW's Billy Thompson at a rally in West Virginia. "Now if they can do it, why in the hell can't we?"

Actually, we are. 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."

And what about your iPod?

Even though plenty of foreigners have jobs thanks to it, so do 14,000 Americans whose duties include designing and marketing the little buggers. So the iPod is a product of America and the world, and these days that describes nearly all the items we buy.

Welcome to the iPod economy, where just about everything is made everywhere.

After hearing the whole story, Reason.tv's bikini bandits decided to put down their protectionist sledgehammers. Will America's people, pundits, and politicians follow suit?

"Is Your iPod Unpatriotic?" is written and produced by Ted Balaker and hosted by Nick Gillespie. Field producer is Hawk Jensen and director of photography is Alex Manning.

Associate Producers are Meredith Bragg, Paul Detrick, and Dan Hayes, with additional photography provided by Nathan Chaffetz and Dan Haas.

And introducing reason.tv's Bikini Bandits: Alexandra Fulton, Chuki Lord, and Amber Waddick.

Approximately nine minutes. For embed code and iPod, audio, and HD versions, go here.