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Buy American? How?

Ted Balaker
June 28, 2007, 9:41am

Just about any kind of interaction with foreigners is enough to get the Lou Dobbs's among us hot and bothered. Pitchfork Lou has compiled a list of "traitorous" companies that make use of offshore outsourcing and countless bumper stickers urge us to "Buy American," often adding an ominous extra prod along the lines of "while there's still time" or "the job you save might be your own." Leaving aside all the reasons to ignore the "Buy American" imperative, let's say you really do want to buy stuff made in the good ol' USA. How would you do it? The buy American crowd probably doesn't care for Toyotas. But what if they're built in Tennessee by Americans? Nothing could be as American as Ford, yet as Adrian and I point out in our 2005 study Offshoring and Public Fear, the guts of a Ford Escort may be more foreign than the guts of a Honda Civic (where 75 percent of parts are made in the USA). Today we're in the midst of iPhone-mania, and Apple watchers are eager to see if the new gadget will be the next iPod. In a NYT piece Hal P. Varian tries to answer what turns out to be a tough question: Should we take a $299 video iPod apart and figure out where the most expensive parts come from? Examine the value each nation involved adds to the product? Consider something else? After walking through some number crunching, Varian gives up--sort of: Related: Are you driving on a foreign road?

Ted Balaker is Producer


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