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Free Minds & Free Markets

'Buy American' Hurts Americans

"Every part of my product is made in the USA." What could be wrong with that? Lots of things...

mandiberg/Flickrmandiberg/FlickrMike Lindell, president of My Pillow Inc., seems like a nice guy, and I like his product. But he says something in his commercial that bothers me: "Every part of my product is made in the USA."

What could be wrong with that? Lots of things.

First, is it true? Lindell may really believe what he says, but I suspect that if he thoroughly inventoried his Chaska, Minnesota, factory, he'd find many things made (at least in part) by people in other countries. Since he says, "every part of my product," he may be thinking in narrow terms. But what about every aspect of his production process? If he uses vehicles made outside the United States to transport his goods to a shipping center, his statement is inaccurate. If the grass on his business property is cut with a Japanese lawnmower or the coffee he provides his employees is grown in Colombia, his statement is inaccurate. In a global economy few things are the product of only one place.

But let's assume Lindell is right. Would it really be such a great thing? No, not really.

His statement implies that buying only American-made parts is good not just for the particular Americans who make and sell those parts, but for all Americans—indeed for America as a whole. But that can't be true. Sure, it is good for those who make the parts, but it's bad for unidentifiable other Americans, and that means it can't be good for the whole country.

Observe: if Lindell bought foreign-made parts, he would pay for them with dollars. But his foreign vendors can't spend dollars in their home countries, just as Americans can't buy groceries with Japanese yen,  Chinese yuan, or euros. Foreign vendors, however, can use dollars to buy American products or invest in the U.S. part of the world economy. The only other thing they can do with their dollars is sell them for their home currency, but then the buyer of those dollars would face the same choice to buy American products or invest in the United States. (The so-called trade deficit equals the dollar amount of the investment in America that foreign exporters undertake. That deficit is no problem, Messrs. Trump and Sanders.) 

So if Lindell really buys all his parts from Americans, other Americans lose out because some sales and investments don't happen. When doing economic analysis, the French economist Frederic Bastiat taught, look for the unseen as well as the seen consequences.

I don't mean to criticize Lindell. My point is that his implicit message—that Buy American is good for all of America—is untrue.

Lindell's Buy-American policy raises other questions. Are American parts more expensive than foreign parts? If so, does he try to pass the higher costs to his customers? If so, he makes it harder for poorer Americans to buy his pillows. A higher price also puts his product—and therefore his company and employees—at a disadvantage in the marketplace. Does he think American consumers care where products are made? Whatever they may tell pollsters, what Americans really care about—judging by their actions—is the combination of price and quality. Let Lindell advertise: "Every part of my product is made in the USA—so we charge you more than our competitors do." The response would be informative.

However, maybe he doesn't pass along the extra cost. Maybe he accepts lower profits. If so, how does he improve his factory, increase employee productivity, and pay competitive wages? If his profit is lower, he also has less money to spend on other American and foreign products and less to invest.

Again, my point is not to criticize Lindell. It's to show that he's not helping America as a whole.

But now I must end on a critical note. When Lindell touts his Buy-American policy, he seems to be suggesting that Americans are more worthy than non-Americans. Is human worth really determined by which side of an arbitrary national boundary one was born on?

Trade among perfect strangers from all over the world is cooperation, trust, mutual benefit, and peace in action. Don't we need more of it? Injecting divisive nationalism into commerce, however innocently, violates the true liberal spirit, which has bestowed incalculable blessings on the human race.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog.

Photo Credit: mandiberg/Flickr

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  • Tom Bombadil||

    That guy is so creepy the way he hugs and gushes over his shitty pillow.

    I love his claim that his pillow is endorsed by the National Sleep Council (I'm paraphrasing)
    I'm guessing the council was formed by Lindell for the purposes of endorsing his pillow in ads.

  • some guy||

    Either that or the National Sleep Council is a trade group with a trademark on the word "pillow" and Lindell is just paying his dues.

  • Inigo Montoya, Micro-Aggressor||

    I once worked for the National Sleep Council, but I got fired after just a few months. They called me in and told me that I was chronically late in the morning due to oversleeping and that there had also been several documented occurrences where I was found napping at my desk.

    Ironically, during my initial interview they had told me I was pretty much their ideal job candidate.

  • CraterMaker||

    Ah, jeez. As if value was only determined in dollars. Guess instead of hiring the neighbor kid to mow the grass for ten bucks, I'll hire an illegal alien for seven - because the only worth, worth mentioning, is the price.

  • The Hyperbole||

    Well he did also mention quality.

  • some guy||

    What Hyperbole said. Also, Richman implied that judging a person's worth based on which side of an arbitrary line they were born is a pretty shitty thing to do. I'll be that illegal immigrant has had a rougher life than your neighbor's spoiled kid.

  • Suicidy||

    At least the neighbor kid should even be there.

  • dchang0||

    Rough life or not for the immigrant, it does help the neighbor kid develop a work ethic to be paid to mow the lawn. Mowing lawns was the starter job for nearly all my male friends in high school. My first job was in fast food, a worse job than mowing due to having to scrub toilets, empty the fryer of hot oil, and endure abuse from one shift manager. And my friends often earned over double what I made per hour of labor.

    Looking at the state of unemployed millennials today, can we really say it is not important to develop the work ethics of the children born here, who will likely stay here for the rest of their lives? The illegal immigrant has already shown a capability to migrate to follow economic prospects--it the US economy tanks relative to other countries, the illegal immigrant can leave, but will the native-born kid?

    Also, you say "spoiled kid." What faster way to un-spoil a kid than by having him learn the value of a dollar through hard work?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    Kids are inexperienced, the illegal will probably do a better job at lawncare. Plus there's how the money will be spent. The kid will almost certainly spend it on some luxury item, where the illegal is doing it to make a living and quite possibly support a family. Only reason you should use a kid is if the kid is yours, and you can thus get him to do it for free. Or if you care about the kid learning a lesson about hard work or something.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The immigrants teenage kid cuts my grass. Seriously.

  • dchang0||

    What's wrong with buying luxury items?

    Luxury items are almost always high-dollar, meaning they are highly valued by the marketplace. If people value them that much to spend so much on them, that is contrary to your apparent valuation of luxury items.

    Also, the makers of luxury items have families to support. If you consider an iPhone to be a luxury item (I do not since even the illegal migrants to Europe seem to consider them supremely vital, like food and water), the Chinese laborers that assemble them have families to support too.

    Thus, you would be unintentionally favoring one person on one side of an arbitrary border (a Latin American illegal immigrant to the USA) over another person on one side of an arbitrary border (the Chinese laborer).

    It is your choice to choose which company's families you wish to support, but for obvious reasons, making a living is something that every employee does, whether they work for a company that makes mundane products or fancy-schmancy products like a Tesla or SpaceX vehicle or Hermes scarf.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Ah, jeez. As if value was only determined in dollars. Guess instead of hiring the neighbor kid to mow the grass for ten bucks, I'll hire an illegal alien for seven - because the only worth, worth mentioning, is the price.

    Oh, it's even worse than that dude. If you would rather pay your neighbor's kid ten bucks to do a job instead of an illegal seven, you're a bad person. You're probably a xenophobe and a racist, and you should be sent to Obama's re-education camp for politically correct thinking, and possibly you should even be killed outright.

  • Suicidy||

    I AM a racist! No way I am hiring some flapping headed beady eyed Canuck to mow MY grass. Those maple syrup drinking bitches can go back to fucking Ottawa!

  • NashTiger||

    Why do you hate a Living Wage? How do you expect the neighbor kid to raise a family on $10?

  • Pompey||

    Oh FFS there has to be a better basis point for this argument. My Pillow!

  • some guy||

    How about my pencil?

  • Pompey||

    Gimme something's to write on!

  • Tundra||

    Class dismissed!

  • gaoxiaen||

    +1 I, Pencil.

  • Suicidy||

    Mon crayone est grande. Mon crayone est jeune.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Lots of things, writes Sheldon Richman.

    Mike Lindell, president of My Pillow Inc., seems like a nice guy. But he says something in his commercial that bothers Sheldon Richman


    Hey, speaking of Sheldon, anyone seen him lately? What, did they fire him?

  • kbolino||

    This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog.

    In a sane world, Richman's head would explode from the dissonance.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Why?

  • kbolino||

    Because it's disingenuous. Yes, yes, he's not calling for the government to do anything. He's just telling the rubes that their preferred forms of association are bad. Moreover he imputes all sorts of moralistic implications from those choices which one could just as well turn against him and his obsession with Israel.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Meh. I don't see anything dissonant or wrong about trying to persuade people to associate freely but in a different way than they are doing now.

  • kbolino||

    Persuasion by condescension has proved remarkably ineffective, so much so that one can reasonably conclude that the purpose is other than persuasion.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I really don't get much condescension from this piece (which is remarkable, given the author). Regardless, ineffective persuasion doesn't seem to go against free association. But whatever, it's a minor point.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Eat me.

  • Eric Bana||

    He's just telling the rubes that their preferred forms of association are bad.

    Not really, I don't think. His main argument is that the "Buy things from your own country and not others just because it comes from your own country" idea likely has more drawbacks than benefits.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Yo momma.

  • JFree||

    He is exactly telling the rubes that he knows what's best for them and they should just STFU and defer to his smug elitism. In no universe can he know what is in their self-interest better than they can. If he is asserting that 'other Americans' are hurt by the 'buy american' stuff, then it is worth asking qui bono rather than just relying on some theory of 'free trade' coopted by actual policies called 'free trade'?

    Consumers who get cheap crap and have no risk of losing their jobs, losing extra pay opportunities from other local people losing their jobs, or having to incur tens of thousands of dollars to retool/reeducate? Probably. But the reality - as even richman seems to be admitting - is that much of the benefits of current 'free trade' is going to exporters of dollars (Wall St) rather than exporters of stuff.

    And given that Wall St already has a tilted playing field with bailouts, taxcode geared to financial engineering/leverage/speculation, rotating career doors with DC/lobbyists, a monopoly on the money supply, and extremely high income - one has to wonder how much cronyism is enough?

  • Suicidy||

    Yep. Better not buy anything made by JOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

  • BambiB||

    Indeed.

    There he seems to miss the point that goods manufactured in America mean American jobs. Oops! Not important to Richman. He has a job. (Or does he?) Let him try to find a job in a market flooded by imports and see if his tune changes. Along about the fifth year, when he's busted for stealing food...

  • Juice||

    There he seems to miss the point that goods manufactured in America mean American jobs.

    For robots?

    Seriously, the theory of comparative advantage has held up for 200 years.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Some of the jobs I've had have been lost due to foreign competition. Oh well.

    That doesn't mean I think I have a right to force people to pay more for my goods.

    I ask. I put US Seller or US Made on my sales and auctions and for those who think that matters, it helps. It's an emotional based sales point for the most part until I sell out and get out of the business altogether. Yes, my quality's better than most of my competitors, but that doesn't make enough of a difference to my prospective customers, at least on eBay or Amazon, to keep going.

    That's life.

  • Lee G||

    Richman is pissing up a rope again. Why doesn't he take on those who wish to restrict free trade thru force rather than those who merely appeal to personal preference of who they want to deal with?

  • WTF||

    Because in Richman's world, America Bad, m'kay? I mean, there is literally no difference between Mike Lindell and Adam Lanza.

  • ||

    Bingo.

  • Suicidy||

    Best to buy goods that are made by Hamas, or ISIS.

  • Eric Bana||

    Why doesn't he take on those who wish to restrict free trade thru force rather than those who merely appeal to personal preference of who they want to deal with?

    Well, first off he can do both. Also, many people who support "Buy American" policies also probably support restricting free trade through government action. So it makes sense to try and change the opinions of the "Buy American" crowd since there's surely overlap with wanting to restrict free trade.

  • Fairbanks||

    To me this article was more about letting people know that their personal preference in this regard might be based on incomplete information. Give the sad state of knowledge about economic affairs among the public, especially relative to trade, it's not a bad approach.

  • Tundra||

    What the fuck?

    Again, my point is not to criticize Lindell. It's to show that he's not helping America as a whole.

    He makes fucking pillows, Sheldon. It's not his god damn job to 'help America'. If people don't like his pillows, guess what? He'll go away.

    This is really a lousy article.

  • Lee G||

    I suppose I shouldn't charitably support my neighbors either, because they're better off than third world dirt farmers.

    Richman's logic is pathetic.

  • The Hyperbole||

    It's not his god damn job to 'help America'

    But he claims, or at least implies that he is, Sheldon's just disputing the "Made in America" Rah-rahing. I get that lmany commenters around here have a strong dislike for Richman, but this article is hardly worth getting worked up over.

  • kbolino||

    Richman's problem is that he never bothers to seriously consider the counterarguments to anything he writes. He's a toxic writer to libertarianism. His best writing delivers a few key and valid points mixed in with a lot of cluelessness and naivety presented arrogantly. His worst writing is utter one-sided dreck.

  • kbolino||

    It's like Reason editors read a lot of Cytotoxic's comments and decided "that guy should write full-length articles for us!"

  • jeffm8||

    If you're a libertarian what is the counter argument to purchasing the highest quality product at the lowest possible cost?

  • ant1sthenes||

    That you're a moral agent, not a profit computer?

  • kbolino||

    What you choose to do with your freedom has nothing to do with being a libertarian. What matters is that you are free to make the choice, and think others should be free to make different choices.

    And Richman, as far as I can tell, and as long as we're not talking about Israel, passes that test. The problem is that if I wanted to read "what Richman thinks", I'd go to his misleadingly titled blog. If you're going to advocate for free association, then either you shouldn't get into the weeds of making value judgments on how people associate, or if you must, then don't take sides.

  • kbolino||

    then either you shouldn't get into the weeds of making value judgments on how people associate, or if you must, then don't take sides

    This contradictory phrase was meant to say, "either don't assess how people choose to associate, or else do so in a way that recognizes their value judgments differ from yours"

  • jeffm8||

    People here get worked up over these sorts of articles because the majority of those who comment aren't libertarians. They are nationalists, conservatives, authoritarians or other various factions of the right wing political spectrum posing as libertarians.

  • Horatio||

    Aye Scotty!

  • VartAndelay||

    And Zionists. Raving, loony zionists. They come out of the woodwork for every one of his articles whatever he's writing about.

  • Suicidy||

    Sheldon certainly doesn't 'help America'. In fact, without the very types people he regularly denigrates standing up to German socialism back in WW2, Sheldon would likely be a lampshade and/or bar of soap now. Unpatriotic, ungrateful shitbag that he is.

  • WTF||

    Trade among perfect strangers from all over the world is cooperation, trust, mutual benefit, and peace in action. Don't we need more of it? Injecting divisive nationalism into commerce, however innocently, violates the true liberal spirit, which has bestowed incalculable blessings on the human race.

    Isn't Richman an advocate for boycotting Israel? Maybe I'm mis-remembering.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    You're free to associate with anyone you want... just as long as they pass all of Richmann's personal litmus tests.

    As someone so accurately noted a few days ago, "Safe spaces for me, compulsory association for thee."

    This site becomes more sickening by the day.

  • Restoras||

    I'm not going to read the article because, Richman, but I do think buying American because America! is not always a good idea. Quality and value should be the determining factors and anything else is almost un-American, not too mention a little nationalist.

    By way of example, if Americans always bought American made cars then we'd still be driving shitty cars because there wouldn't be any need for Detroit to respond to competitive forces.

    That said, what someone else does with their money is no business of mine.

  • gaoxiaen||

    When buying seamless pipe, America's is top quality and highest priced. China's is lowest price and lowest quality. CPC usually starts with Brazilian seamless pipe when drilling.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Someone born on the same side of the supposedly arbitrary linevis more likely to share your culture and values. I realize that may be difficult for Richmsn to wrap his head around as no one shares his culture or values, but it is a human trait to think more kindly on people who do.

  • Jordan||

    So what? It's also a human trait to steal from others.

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    "Someone born on the same side of the supposedly arbitrary linevis more likely to share your culture and values"

    Nah. Based on where I am in the country, I'm more culturally similar to a guy in Ontario than I am someone in Texas or California. And that guy in Texas is probably more similar to a guy in Chihuahua than he is to me.

    Maybe the kind of nationalism you're espousing makes sense for a smaller country, but I don't see why it applies to large countries with a multitude of subcultures. I can see maybe a cultural justification for preferring to buy something made in the /State/ you live in, but America as a whole?? I don't see it, there are too many cultures within the borders of the US for the cultural argument to work.

    I think I, coming from an area of the US heavily influenced by German culture, would get along a lot better with a German national than I would a New Yorker. At least the German understands the values of good beer, and we can hang out at a local beirgarten together. Not sure what I'd have in common with a snobbish, hipster urbanite like those I presume are in New York.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I think I, coming from an area of the US heavily influenced by German culture, would get along a lot better with a German national than I would a New Yorker. At least the German understands the values of good beer, and we can hang out at a local beirgarten together. Not sure what I'd have in common with a snobbish, hipster urbanite like those I presume are in New York.

    Nope, the biggest demographic in New York is ragins assholes, not snobbish hipster urbanites.

    So fuck off you fucking kraut boozer.

    /New Yorker (Upstate)

  • Suicidy||

    Don't NYC'ers look down their noses at you upstate folks?

  • UnCivilServant||

    In a more serious response, There is still a national identity and common culture even in a country the size of the US. It has some variety of local color, but there is a distinct shift when you cross the line and find yourself in Mexico.

    The differences you focus on in trying to draw divisions of "subcultures" are not the ones which have the biggest impact. You will find a marked distinction between Tejanos and Mexicans despite common origins, and I think when you get down to talking with your german buddy, the differences will start racking up.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    More than a billion slaves live in your skull... all of them anticipating instruction.

  • Pompey||

    He lives!

  • WTF||

    That's...beautiful.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Goddammit, that's a terrible place for an army of slaves, no wonder I have a headache.

  • gaoxiaen||

    +1 tablet (that you chew) meperidine.

  • Tundra||

    Nice to see you, Agile. Now my time on this miserable article is worthwhile.

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    And all of them totally useless. Because they are microbe size and it is impossible to see what they are up to. I send them off to weed the gardens and for all I know they are down in the cellars drinking the wine.
    This is why sensible plutocrats use orphans. They are large enough to keep track of.

  • cavalier973||

    Good morning, AC!

  • Suicidy||

    I advocate a live streamed debate on the balance of international trade between Agile Cyborg and Sheldon Richman.

  • UnCivilServant||

    But his foreign vendors can't spend dollars in their home countries, just as Americans can't buy groceries with Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, or euros.

    This is untrue. There are plenty of countries where people accept payment in USD. The foreign vendor doesn't have to turn around and buy something from the US. Hell, it's even the official currency of Zimbabwe now thanks to Mugabe's economic 'reforms'.

    Also, a lot of banking and international payments are done electronically, with currency conversion being done in the background. I buy products in the UK priced in pounds, my credit card company bills me dollars. So someone, somewhere might bring those dollars back to the US, there's really no guarantees of that.

    I've heard a lot of free trade arguments, but this one is weaksauce.

  • kbolino||

    So someone, somewhere might bring those dollars back to the US, there's really no guarantees of that.

    While I don't disagree with any of what you wrote, I don't understand why this matters. The whole point of spending dollars abroad is to bring something here worth as much as those dollars.

  • UnCivilServant||

    It still strikes me as a false economy (in the sense of a savings that isn't a savings) much like shopping at walmart.

    I personally value the industrial capacity more than the product.

  • kbolino||

    I personally value the industrial capacity more than the product.

    And that would make a better counterpoint to what Richman argued. Although, the industrial capacity is only valuable if it can be put to productive use, which the EPA might prevent.

  • kbolino||

    I would also like to point out that sneering at buying from Walmart is no better than sneering at buying American.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I would also like to point out that sneering at buying from Walmart is no better than sneering at buying American.

    It's expected of me though.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Just wait until WWWIII

  • Suicidy||

    The sequel to the upcoming Womder Woman film?

  • Diane Merriam||

    And, at least for now, you're free to make that choice and others looking to buy pillows based on price are free to make that choice as well.

    I admit to being a little puzzled by that aspect of this article. The pillow guy doesn't seem to be advocating for using the government to block other manufacturers, simply using "Buy American" as an emotional selling point. Emotion is used one way or another in almost every sales pitch. He doesn't seem to have crossed the line from emotion to force.

    Pointing out the logical economic fallacies inherent in it are valid though.

  • Jerryskids||

    How about the fact that the guy's trying to sell pillows and is just saying whatever he thinks will work to persuade you to buy a pillow? You ever see a manufacturer who has their product made in China tout the fact that they use cheap foreign labor so they can pass the savings on to you? No, they just tout the "affordability" and gloss over where the affordability comes from. That suggests to me that whether or not having your product made in the US is a good thing, advertising that it's made in the US is good for business and if it's not made in the US advertising that fact is not good for business.

  • Tundra||

    Bingo. You must actually be a businessman. Our products are 'Made in America' and marketed as such, too, because it's important to some of our customers. Product quality, performance and value are what keep you in the game, though.

    It's really quite simple.

  • Jerryskids||

    *Should add for the pedants that there are exceptions to this if you're specifically touting the foreign origin of your product because that adds a luster to your product - Swiss watches or English china or Italian sport cars or French fries still carry a certain cachet you're going to use as a selling point.

  • Inigo Montoya, Micro-Aggressor||

    True, but that cachet sometimes changes over the decades.

    For example, when I was a little kid, I remember adults saying, "That must be made in Japan," when a product broke after only a few uses. Made in Japan was synonymous with cheap quality and shoddy workmanship. By the time I was a 20-something long hair studying guitar, I learned that Fender Stratocasters made in Japan (there was a code in the serial numbers that told you whether a Strat was produced in the U.S., Korea, or Japan) were the best ones and commanded the highest prices. And it wasn't just guitars by that time. From cars to electronics, "made in Japan" had come to mean something was better than the competition's quality.

  • Eric Bana||

    advertising that it's made in the US is good for business and if it's not made in the US advertising that fact is not good for business.

    But the "Buy American" mentality which makes that possible is precisely what Richman is challenging, isn't it? That's the purpose of the article, since Richman argues that the ideas behind "Buy American" (which lead to this type of advertising) are wrong-headed.

  • Suicidy||

    Just the way hot dog vendors avoid showcasing their product is essentially just processed lips and assholes.

  • Mindyourbusiness||

    Hot dog vendors and presidential campaigns...same ingredients.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I was in a Walmart a while ago. They had T-shirts with a large tag that said "Made in the USA". I looked at the tag in the T-shirt and it said "Made in Indonesia". After examining the tag, I found that the tag was "Proudly made in the USA by the US Tag Corporation".

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    Pretty brilliant business model, not gonna lie. Only people losing are foolish people who base their purchasing decisions on geography, so more power to the USA Tag Corporation!!

  • MikeP2||

    What a pretentious crock of drivel.

    "Made in America" is a marketing tool, little different than "All natural" or "GMO-free". They are descriptors used to add unquantifiable value to a product that appears to a sub-set of the available market. Ultimately no different that the color options.

    And the globalilzation argument is a bunch of prog tranzi nonsense. "Made in America" is an overused term, but there is inarguable advantage to spending local as it keeps a greater percentage of the margin in the pockets of the lower level employees. Sure, CEOs and executives may make out better with a Chinese made product, but the guy on the widget line doesn't. I buy from the local butcher instead of the national supermarket chain because it puts more money in his pocket as well as the regional farmers. I buy furniture from local craftsman because it helps keep them in business rather than lining the pockets of Liu Shen of Shanghai Export Deluxe Furniture. Maybe that's inefficient to a tranzi, but screw that, I can do what I want with my hard earned cash.

  • kbolino||

    What is a "tranzi"?

  • ant1sthenes||

    A transnational socialist. As opposed to a national socialist, which would be a...

  • kbolino||

    Richman is a sneering elitist (and many other things), but I have never seen him advocate for socialism.

  • MikeP2||

    Tranzi - transnationalist.

    Not necessarily limited to socialism, but rather the general concepts of post-nationalist, global awareness and invariably anti-western.

  • Fairbanks||

    "....there is an inarguable (sic) advantage to spending local as it keeps a greater percentage of the margin in the pockets of the lower level employees."

    Aside from the fact that it's arguable, advantage to whom? And why are you focused only on those people who are advantaged and ignore those who are disadvantaged?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    "And why are you focused only on those people who are advantaged"

    'Cause the people are more geographically close to him. This gives him a rush of goodfeels because he can see the effects of them having his money. He can't see the effects of someone far away having his money, so this purchasing method gives him more positive feelings than other choice methodology.

    Personally, I think he's a fool, and think that the best craftsman (that I can afford) should get my business regardless of where they live. But that's just me and my somewhat meritocratic craftsmanship-appreciative mindset. This guy favors more nationalistic goodfeels and likes seeing people benefiting from the money he gave them through economic exchange, so he adjusts his purchasing methods thusly.

  • MikeP2||

    You are shockingly ignorant of economics. Keeping margin local has nothing to do about "goodfeels", but rather improvement of the local economy. Providing business to the local market keeps that market in business providing greater long term choices. It also has the add-on benefit of increasing peer wealth which translates to better schools, better roads, better neighbors.
    If a local craftsman produces poor product, then yeh, buy elsewhere, but for two products of equivalent quality/cost, there is very well defined value in buying local. This has nothing to do with free-trade or nationalistic BS, but very simply economics.

  • Juice||

    Providing business to the local market keeps that market in business providing greater long term choices.

    Only if it is economical to do so. If locals in your area save money buy buying cheaper imported goods (that are of similar quality, or at least acceptable quality) then the locals have more money to spend on other things, ie greater long term choices. If the foreigners are much better at making XYZ than the locals, it makes sense to let the foreigners do it for more people. The locals can concentrate on what they do best, sell it locally, and export it too. Division of labor. Comparative advantage. These are very basic economic concepts.

  • MikeP2||

    As you said in your first sentence, "Only if it is economical to do so".....exactly. The rest is a strawman no one is arguing. I specifically stated "for two products of equivalent quality/cost".

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    What the hell is a "local economy" anyway? It's just an arbitrarily defined region made up by you.

  • MikeP2||

    if you don't understand the words or phrase, please use this thing called the internet to search and expand your knowledge base.

  • ||

    purchasing method gives him more positive feelings than other choice

    positive feelings about an exchange are precisely why trade creates value. The fact that each side likes what they get more than what they give is, at least partially, emotional. In other words if it makes him feel good that is the market working.

  • MikeP2||

    No, it is an "inarguable advantage". You may argue that other considerations outweigh the local-spending advantage, but it is basic economic theory that spending locally increases the amount of margin that stays local.
    Any $1 of margin on a product gets spread out on every person that touches it. Buying locally, reduces the 'spread' of that margin and maximizes the percentage that goes to the lowest level contributors. Those lower level contributors are my peers. Their kids are in my kids schools, they use the same roads, the same hospitals, etc. Maximizing the benefit to them through my purchasing decisions improves the local economy, providing direct benefit back to me.

    "advantaged and disadvantaged"? Since when do libertarians care about balancing the disparity of the disadvantage and advantaged? That is progressivism.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    If this is true then we should also grow coffee in greenhouses in Detroit. That is your logic. People in Michigan probably spend hundreds of millions on coffee annually, sending it off to Colombia or Wherever. So why don't we build a shit ton of green houses and grow it locally? Sure it may cost a bit more, but think of all the jobs!!!!
    The answer is because it is a hugely inefficient and wasteful use of time and resources. Yet people choose to do the same by buying all kinds of other stuff made in the USA that really has no business being made here. Sure, that is their right. People are allowed to be stupid. But don't try to act as if it is logical or rational.

  • MikeP2||

    You spent a lot of time dressing up that strawman, but if you actually read and understand the discussion it would be apparent that no one is arguing against considering comparative cost advantage.

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    "I can do what I want with my hard earned cash."

    You can!! And people are free to point out the foolish rational you have for buying stuff, just like those who gravitate towards "all natural" and "GMO-free"!!

    But you're free to spend it however you want!! So go out and enjoy spending more money on products based on the goodfeels you get from doing business with people geographically closer than you rather than basing your economic decisions based on the quality of craftsmanship!!

  • MikeP2||

    You need to up your reading comprehension. At no point did I point to "goodfeels" as a reason to buy local, but rather the well defined economic advantage of doing so. It keeps the margin local rather than spread out across the globe. Having that margin local puts money in my neighbors' pockets which translates to better roads, better schools, and better local investment improving the economy and quality of life in the region of the world that directly impacts me.
    I realize post-national progressives would rather than money be spread across the globe to benefit herders in India, but the other 99.9% of the globe has a distinct reason to "buy local". Denying that reason is sadly ignorant.

  • kbolino||

    the other 99.9% of the globe has a distinct reason to "buy local"

    And they do! They also engage in trade with other nations (with certain exceptions). There is almost always a mix of local and nonlocal consumption. I would also posit that "buy American" and "buy local" are two different things. The US is way too big and diverse to be treated as a locality.

  • MikeP2||

    Fair point. Buying local outweighs regional, outweighs National, outweighs favored trading partner, outweighs global.

  • kbolino||

    If I can get something for a fraction of the price, not just a marginal discount, from somewhere else, then that's generally what I (and a good many other people) am going to do. The focus of US policy should be on reducing the cost of doing business here, if it aims to decrease that disparity.

  • MikeP2||

    Agree completely. I don't believe I said one should ignore cost of the product.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    "buying local" is the epitome of idiotic progressive rhetoric.

  • Suicidy||

    I go out of my way to promote certain local businesses I like. Simply because I like the business, and enjoy dealing with the owners and employees. Which is really saying something, as I consider most people to be shit. So of course I try to help them stay in business. Even if I pay a few bucks more than I would for similar goods and services at places I like less.

  • simplybe||

    It is only a damn commercial for heaven sakes. People who watch commercials are usually bored or stoned.

  • Inigo Montoya, Micro-Aggressor||

    Sometimes I wonder if Richman has a "kick me" sign on his back that I'm unable to see. He takes so much flak from commenters here, usually for making arguments in his article that he did not actually make.

    I read this piece not as a defense of illegal immigration, nor even as an appeal to erode the right to free association, but simply as an explanation of the benefits of free trade. He even cites Bastiat (a founding icon of libertarians) regarding his teachings about seen and unseen consequences in economics.

    Sheldon isn't saying "America = bad" -- at least not in this piece. He is saying "free trade = good" -- for America and for any other countries that engage in free trade. If that's a controversial statement among libertarians, then maybe the definition of libertarian has changed recently and no one bothered to tell me. If you hate free trade, maybe you are supporting Bernie or Trump, since they are both staunch protectionists.

  • kbolino||

    You are conflating the policy of free trade with the act of trading internationally. Of course the latter will happen under the former (unless everybody else refuses to trade with you), but they are not the same thing. Free trade just as well permits intranational as well as international trade, and makes no value judgments about either.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Sheldon isn't saying "America = bad" -- at least not in this piece. He is saying "free trade = good"

    Bullshit. As far as I know, nowhere is Mike Lindell arguing that we should restrict free trade or adopt protectionism. He's selling a fucking pillow and competing in the pillow market. How about this: if you don't like his fucking pillow for whatever reason, don't buy it and buy another.

    Real libertarians celebrate people who make things and contribute real value to the world, regardless of where they're made. Yes, even in the evil United States. It's the entire fucking point of "Atlas Shrugged" for crying out loud.

  • Suicidy||

    The jingle to those pillow ads annoys me. So I don't buy the pillow.

  • lap83||

    What is libertarian about equating voluntary associations with restrictionust policies? Someone deciding to "buy American" has no bearing on your ability to choose something different.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    Actually yes it does, because these idiots vote, and they inevitably vote for some stupid anti-trade bullshit spewing politician.

  • Suicidy||

    Not necessarily. That's quite an assumption.

  • bacon-magic||

    The "my pillow guy" is Adam Lanza. - Sheldon Richman

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Richmann thinks we can and should have a country full of nothing but bloggers, JournoLists, lawyers, and government employees.

    Fuck you, Richmann.

  • Suicidy||

    Richman is pathetic. He tries hard to get invited to Noam Chomsky's cocktail parties. But he's not cool enough. That's pretty fucking pathetic.

  • Chipwooder||

    I thought that, for a Richman piece, it was decent. And then he had to shoehorn that bit at the end in. Sheldon bein' Sheldon.

  • lap83||

    I thought it was ok for a Sheldon piece too, but that's not saying much. He is still crappy at supporting his arguments, and seriously...focusing on the guy who is just innocently using "buy American" as a marketing tool rather than protectionist policies? Sheldon sucks.

    I hate environmentalism but businesspeople who advertise a product as "organic" are not the fucking problem.

  • ace_m82||

    When Lindell touts his Buy-American policy, he seems to be suggesting that Americans are more worthy than non-Americans. Is human worth really determined by which side of an arbitrary national boundary one was born on?

    Jesus told the people to "love your neighbor as yourself". When asked who was his neighbor, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, the hated religiously incorrect half-breeds who lived separating the Jewish territories.

    This fact makes me laugh when I hear supposed "Christians" tell me about how great Trump would be because he'd "close the borders" or "keep [country A] from robbing us". Apparently they need to re-hear the most known parable that Jesus said; it makes me wonder just how "Christian" they really are...

  • MikeP2||

    Perhaps my bible literacy is rusty, but I don't ever recall Jesus stating that in was an imperative to freely open ones house to thieves and takers.

    The story of the Samaritan was of about a person who was kind and helpful and only hated for their beliefs and associations. It was to teach that intent and deeds are more important than superficial labels.

    You appear to expect the opposite, that superficial labels like "immigrant" are more important than the deeds and actions of the person the label applies to. It is perfectly Christian to be selective in helping neighbors, focusing aid and hospitality to those deserving and refusing to help those who are not. It is perfectly Christian to build a wall, provided there is a door, a welcome mat, and a light on in the window.

  • ace_m82||

    I don't ever recall Jesus stating that in was an imperative to freely open ones house to thieves and takers.

    He didn't. When people claim "country A is robbing us" I do hope they are using hyperbole. Either that or they are completely economically illiterate.

    You appear to expect the opposite, that superficial labels like "immigrant" are more important than the deeds and actions of the person the label applies to.

    I expect Christians to attempt to "do unto others" and make no distinction between American and foreign neighbors. To do anything less is to ignore Christ's most know parable.

    It is perfectly Christian to be selective in helping neighbors, focusing aid and hospitality to those deserving and refusing to help those who are not.

    Yes, though insisting that those who are "deserving" are only other Americans is completely contrary to what Christ actually said.

  • MikeP2||

    "When people claim "country A is robbing us" I do hope they are using hyperbole. Either that or they are completely economically illiterate."
    11 million+ illegal immigrants using the public services and infrastructure that are funded through tax dollars to which they contribute negligible amounts is a serious concern of many. It is not hyperbole to question the actions of a country like Mexico which actively supports illegal entry of its citizens into its neighboring country. Yes, there are many good people here illegally, but it is a very big problem that impacts a lot of people. To dismiss them as "un-Christian" is laughably childish.

    "I expect Christians to attempt to "do unto others" and make no distinction between American and foreign neighbors. To do anything less is to ignore Christ's most know parable."
    You obviously do not understand that parable. It was about actions, not labels. A Christian can certainly choose to preferentially aid those who conduct themselves with Christian ideals over those who do not. While there are many immigrants deserving of support, there are also many who are not. It is not un-Christian to close the door on those who are undeserving of support while helping those who are. You seem to believe that any immigrant by definition must be helped. Childish.

  • ace_m82||

    11 million+ illegal immigrants using the public services and infrastructure that are funded through tax dollars to which they contribute negligible amounts is a serious concern of many

    Proof of my point. There are more American citizens using these same "public services" and those ones also contribute negligible amounts. If it's evil for immigrants to be transferred wealth, then it's evil for Americans, too. It's a red herring.

    Yes, there are many good people here illegally, but it is a very big problem that impacts a lot of people.

    Property rights solve this. If you want to stop "thieves and takers", stop Washington DC first. Again, more people are harmed by American citizens than non-citizens. And if you stop the government from doing their particular brand of evil, you will stop the illegals from "harming" you.

    You obviously do not understand that parable. It was about actions, not labels.

    Precisely. Ergo, treat all people as you would want to be treated. Ergo, treat Americans and foreigners the same.

    While there are many immigrants deserving of support, there are also many who are not.

    No-one "deserves" support. Misuse of the term. However, there are many cases in which the support given to anyone harms the giver and receiver.

    You seem to believe that any immigrant by definition must be helped.

    I've neither said nor implied any such thing.

  • Baron Von Weinermobile||

    It is not Christian to refuse aid to anyone, even those we deem "undeserving". It is an explicit command to help all, even your enemies. Your version would be a lot easier, I grant you that, unfortunately it not correct.

  • Suicidy||

    The parable of the Good Samaritan...........

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OIVB3DdRgqU

  • Ron||

    "if Lindell bought foreign-made parts, he would pay for them with dollars. But his foreign vendors can't spend dollars in their home countries," What the hell are you talking about all the money is virtual through the bank so yes my virtual American dollar can be spent in any country and vicaversa. With such a flawed ass statement there was no need to read any further.

  • Foo_dd||

    this has got to be one of the worst logic fails i have ever seen on this site. of course, when dealing with economics, the over simplified view tends to miss important and relevant factors, but his is just pathetic. his argument is basically that buying foreign stuff is better for America because they invest it back in America.... because it is impossible to imagine the American company you bought from instead investing back into America? impossible that money can be spent on our economy, unless it leaves our economy first?

    i want to agree, because there are many ways trade with other countries does help our economy, but the reason he is giving is just stupid.

  • Old Mexican Ad Portas||

    Re: Foo-dd,

    [...] his argument is basically that buying foreign stuff is better for America because they invest it back in America....


    Don't let your strawman catch fire because you're getting too close to the fireplace.

    That is not Richman's argument at all. He's pointing out that there's an underlying fallacy in the argument that buying "American-made" is better for the economy. Instead, the argument is a moral one, not an economic one.

    because it is impossible to imagine the American company you bought from instead investing back into America?


    This question is unintelligible.

    [...] impossible that money can be spent on our economy, unless it leaves our economy first?


    That's not his argument.

    i want to agree, because there are many ways trade with other countries does help our economy, but the reason he is giving is just stupid.


    You misconstrued it. That doesn't mean ipso facto his argument is stupid.

  • Suicidy||

    It all comes down to 'America is evil' in Shekdon's twisted mind.

  • Foo_dd||

    his exact words:

    "if Lindell bought foreign-made parts, he would pay for them with dollars. But his foreign vendors can't spend dollars in their home countries, just as Americans can't buy groceries with Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, or euros. Foreign vendors, however, can use dollars to buy American products or invest in the U.S. part of the world economy. "

    and..

    "So if Lindell really buys all his parts from Americans, other Americans lose out because some sales and investments don't happen."

    i am misconstruing nothing. he point blank says that buying American prevents investment in America.

    buying American made products will increase costs, will hurt your profit margin, and will drive up inflation, if everyone does it.... like i said, i want to agree that "American made" is not a universally good thing.... but it will not prevent money from being spent in America... which is what he says.

    I'm not sure why anyone would even attempt to defend this drivel.

  • Ron||

    Buy American so that you aren't supporting communist dictatorial assholes. Oh wait I just described Obama

  • EscherEnigma||

    "Again, my point is not to criticize Lindell."
    ... the entire article is criticizing Lindell. If that's not the point, it's one hell of a incidental.

    That said, when Free Trade deals stop harming the American middle-class, then this article will be more reasonable.

  • Robert||

    What if his product were certified kosher? (And when I woke up, my pillow was gone.) Or made of stuff sourced entirely in Kentucky? Or came only in purple? Would any of those things bother you too, if it were advertised?

  • jennifergtabarez||

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  • BambiB||

    This column is pure bullshit.

    "If the grass on his business property is cut with a Japanese lawnmower or the coffee he provides his employees is grown in Colombia, his statement is inaccurate."

    What part of the coffee or grass goes into the pillow? If none, then they are irrelevant.

  • jjjjj||

    The pillow guy says every part of his product is made in America.

    Sheldon does a fine job of destroying the strawman claims that "every aspect of my product is made in America" and that "making my product in America helps America." Well done.

  • Suicidy||

    Yeah!!!!!! Take that pillow vendor! Now we can sleep safe in our beds........with our pillows........or something.

  • VartAndelay||

    Dey terk er jerbs !!!!!!

  • XM||

    I don't know if a country of America's population can thrive by relying purely on domestic production. China's economy would be half dead without American investment and manufacturing. We borrow a lot of money from the reds, but they really need us more than we need them.

    It's pretty clear that Americans will not "pay a little more" to help out their fellow men. If a toaster made by a Japanese robot cost 75 cent less than an American toaster assembled by workers earning 15 bucks an hour, they'll choose the former.

    This country needs a lot of outside help to sustain its entitlement program. Half the people don't pay a cent in income tax. If American companies can't make money abroad the revenue will shrink immediately and businesses won't have money to hire anyone, American or otherwise. We would be just like Japan, where big companies intend to hire you and incorporate you into the company's culture for LIFE because it's too much of a hassle to hire new people or fire existing ones.

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