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Monday, November 22, 2010

Made in America! Response

As I don’t have commenting ability here at work, here is the continuation of the Made in America! Post in response to comments.

First off – I want to make this clear: I am NOT doing this to prove a point about any humanitarian conditions. Period. To be honest, I don’t care enough about that aspect to be motivating to do something hard and difficult. Not to mention that buying American made goods to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries is making judgments that I feel I am neither knowledgeable or educated enough to do. Finally – to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries, and to be consistent in doing so means that the entire supply chain is in question. It’s also not about supporting the American economy – otherwise buying foreign isn’t a problem – foreign goods still help American businesses. It’s about something more intangible that I’m having a problem defining right now.

Of course – this is where I am now. At the end of the year, I may look at the issue very differently – which is why my first post on the subject is very general and non-specific. Until I’ve lived it, I’m not going to understand the issue thoroughly enough to have a real opinion.

I’m so happy everyone took the time to comment! What that means is I get to explore some questions that I’m curious about, but I didn’t want to make judgments on right away in my first post on the subject. Such as:
  • How do I feel about buying used? Ie – can I buy a jacket in a thrift store that isn’t made in America if I can buy an American made jacket new?
  • What exactly, in today’s “global economy” (I hate this phrase and will be using a different one as soon as I can think of one!), does “Made in America” or any other country actually MEAN? Is it the manufacturing process that’s the most important, or origin of ingredients? Clothes come to mind specifically – most fabrics will come from overseas – but most other raw materials like biothane.
  • Buying something foreign still supports American companies. Is it right/consistent to exclude those companies? What about buying a made-in-America good that is manufactured by an American Company that also manufactures and sells good in the US that are manufactured overseas? Or what about a foreign company that manufactures their products here in the US and sells them here (Toyota is a good example)
  • Why should I support my country to the exclusion of others? Is this a fair view that is consistent with the other areas of my life?
  • If I do decide that buying American as much as possible is important to me – WHY is it important to me? If it isn’t humanitarian-based or economics, why is it important at all?

Those of you that brought up those very issues and described the whole idea as “complicated” are absolutely right! It IS complicated. I currently work for a manufacturing company whose emphasis is on local and quality. I shrugged off the importance of local (and really, buying American goods is an expansion of local) and quality until working here for 5 years. Now I’m not so sure the bottom line is my best guiding factor as a buying consumer. Working through some of the bulleted issues outlined above will be interesting, no matter what decisions I make in the end.

Consistency is very important in my life.

  • I may decide there is no way to be consistent in this and it doesn't really matter to me - and I will go back to deciding that the bottom line is my best decision maker when I purchase something.
  • I may discover that this issue really does matter to me and continue to do the “best I can” and be the most educated consumer that I can be.

I think I answered most of the concerns/comments here. One additional note to the anonymous commenter regarding vegetables – I’m very lucky to live in California which makes eating local/US veggies extremely easy. I already make a point to only eat US vegetables, as I work in the food industry and have come to mistrust veggies etc. that are coming out of places like Mexico.

I will not achieve total consistency even if what/where I buy DOES become very important to me – the global community “web” is too complicated. However, I feel it is best to have a few guiding principles and then really consider WHY there is an exception to the rule, rather than to not have thought about it at all.


  1. I'm gonna come comment over here, cause Buzz is lonely.

    My husband and I have been buying non-Chinese for 3 or 4 years now. Quite simply, we don't trust the quality of stuff that comes from China. Look at the Chinese sulfur drywall, those Chinese flipflops that chemical burned people's feet, the adulterated Chinese milk replacer (only sold in China), all the lead toys, etc. Do a search on Consumerist for "china."

    It's impossible to find some consumer goods that aren't made in China. We have gone without a waffle iron for 2+ years now! We could buy an Italian pizzelle-type hold-it-over-the-fire waffle iron, or we could buy a Chinese one. That's it.

    I also buy almost exclusively North American food. Same reason - quality control. The big exception is cured meats/cheeses from Europe.

    Ines pointed out that there are a lot of possible reasons to make a purchase based on its country of origin. I have secondary reasons to help me decide between a T-shirt from Lesotho or Vietnam or America (HQ of the company, human rights, etc), but it's almost never going to be a Chinese T-shirt.

    (Ok, Apple is the big Chinese exception. I love me some Apple products, and I know their manufacturer is terrible, but I'm not a saint!)

  2. International Marketplace is the term we used in college. Just out of curiosity, what are you going to do if the raw materials are foreign but the final product was manufactured domestically or visa versa?


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