Since I was young enough to spend my own quarter, I’ve heard the slogan, “Buy American.” If we live in the US we should support our own, right? Well, I’m not so sure.
I’m not against helping my neighbor and supporting our nation’s economy, but when you consider that, generally, we live in luxury compared to the majority of the world it seems quite selfish to want to make sure our wealth stays within our own borders. So I ask you, where are the boundaries of our social community…the edge of town, the state line, or the fences we are building around our nation?
People asking me to draw the borders tight and buy locally seem to feel that helping my own neighbors survive and prosper is the highest priority. Doesn’t that imply one group of people (those in my vicinity) are more important, more deserving, or, ultimately, more human than somebody five states away? I’m all for eliminating poverty at home, but generally it less about that and more about the marketing campaign for those wanting my business.
Buying locally can reduce the impact on the environment by reducing packaging and transportation resources, which is a solid argument. But normally the message is crafted to appeal to my need to support and belong to the people around me. Again, where are the boundaries of my social community? Is it more important to “buy American” and help my neighbor who lives in a nice middle class house than buy a product from China (for considerably less money) and help somebody who lives in complete poverty?
Recently, Bush commented that food costs are rising because the standard of living in India is rising. Workers in India are willing to do a given job at a fraction of what US workers demand. This is sending money to India and creating jobs which has created a significant increase in India’s middle class. With more money, their demand for food and household items has skyrocketed. Higher demand means higher prices, and this has rippled through the world and directly affected our costs here in the USA. China is on the cusp of breaking into a new age of prosperity and I can promise you that will cause more than just a ripple through the world economy.
The ease of worldwide communication and travel has transformed us into a global society. No nation is an island, metaphorically of course. American business has branched out, reaching out across the world to subcontract and create factories where costs are low. We forced them to do it by shopping at Wal-Mart. We push jobs and business out of the US, but I don’t think it is such a bad thing. Why? Again, because we are a global community.
The world does not have the resources to support a population living the American dream…our high standard of living. That means one thing. If ever there is to be a more equalized standard of living, we are going to have to make some sacrifices. But you don’t have to consciously cut back; it will come naturally from our desire for lots of stuff at the lowest price possible. Our quest for a good deal slowly spreads the wealth across the world as jobs are sent to China and India where poverty guarantees lower production costs. Eventually, this business will help lift them out of poverty and then as worldwide resources diminish, costs in the US will increase. As we lose jobs, wages in the US will decrease to compete globally and the world will begin to become more balanced. This is good news for poor countries but not so good for the more developed ones. Unless of course, you feel that a more equalized standard of living for every human being, not just your neighbor, is a good thing.
You don’t even have to try, our own selfish desires drive this forward. Every time we try and save money by buying a less expensive product made in Japan, we have cast our vote for fairness in the world. When we complain about the cost of Microsoft Office, we cast another vote and drive outsourcing to India. It will take time. Initially there are sweat shops and near slave labor as industry takes advantage of the situation. I’m not against trying to put a stop to this sort of exploitation, but at the same time it is nice to know that it is the beginning of change as it drives jobs and money where there are neither.
But there is more good news, I believe. The scarcity of resources will also push research and development. I believe we will develop new ways to generate power more efficiently. Solar power, cold fusion, or some undiscovered process may eventually offer us an almost free source of energy. New methods to recycle will transform our reliance on metals and minerals. We will have to make sacrifices in the near future as we break out of our gluttonous ways (example: rising gas prices), but I also believe our standard of living as a whole will continue to increase. I believe the human spirit to be innovative, caring, industrious, and succor for a good deal…all characteristics required to move us forward into a better and more fair tomorrow. Just remember, we are no longer just the USA. We are a global society.