Posted by Wayne Moncla on Jan 30, 2013

made in the USAEvery election season discussions of US manufacturing and purchasing American made products finds their way into the public discourse, but just because the election has come and gone doesn't mean the discussion should stop. The argument that buying American helps create and maintain American jobs and bolsters the US economy is one of the mainstays of the Made in the USA movement. While creating US jobs is certainly one of the best known arguments for buying American, there are other arguments as well.

1. Going Green

Public consciousness of the environmental impact of manufacturing has never been higher, and it's impacting the purchasing decisions of Americans across the country.  US environmental standards are constantly evolving, and there is always going to be room for improvement, but when compared with many foreign nations our domestic environmental standards are much higher.

When considering the environmental impact of buying foreign products you also need to consider shipping. A product made in China is going to have to travel farther than a product made in the US to reach US consumers. Greater distances travelled means a bigger environmental impact. So even if you purchase from a country with comparable environmental standards a US made product will still be a better environmental bet.

2.  Quality

Just as the US has higher environmental standards for manufacturing, it also tends to have stricture quality control guidelines and standards. There is a perception that foreign made products, especially those made in China, are less expensive than their American counterparts. Sometimes the sticker price of a foreign product is less, but there is more involved in "cost" than just a price. A product that has a lower sticker price, but last half as long as its US competitor doesn't really end up "costing" you less. If you want a quality product that retains its value over time, there is a cost for that quality and durability. This means that sometimes a product made in the US has a higher sticker price than a foreign alternative, but ultimately the higher price you pay is buying you a longer lasting quality product.

3. Social Costs

Another aspect of the "cost" of an item is the social cost. The US labor force has fought long and hard for fair labor laws. When you purchase a product made in the US you know that the workers who made the product were making a livable wage and had safe working conditions. You also know that your product wasn't manufactured using underpaid child labor. Foreign labor laws are often a draw for companies looking to cut costs, because foreign employers don't have to guarantee the same workers rights as a US employer. When you purchase a foreign made product, you might pay a lower dollar amount but it comes at a much higher social cost.

I've heard the argument made that it can be hard to purchase American made products because it is hard to find them. The good news is that outsourcing is becoming less and less of the cost cutting lure that it used to be. The Atlantic recently published an article by Charles Fishman which lays out why bringing outsourced jobs back to the US actually makes more financial sense than continuing to outsource. If the trends laid out in The Insourcing Boom continue, buying American made will only get easier and easier to do.

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