Made in USA

Before you go buying anything for Christmas this year, ask yourself this one question, “What would Jesus buy?”
What Would Jesus Buy? is the title of a documentary film all about the consumer craziness that has become Christmas. The film crew follows a comical Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir across country as they preach to people about the “Shopocalypse: the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!”
My Dad goes metal detecting religiously. He has found more artifacts from New England fields than most area museums have on display. He found the above razor buried near a house in Concord, NH. After polishing it up a bit, I’ve put it to use. If you look underneath the blade you’ll see the words, “Made in USA.” It’s as sturdy as the hard copper that it’s molded from and consists of three simply-engineered pieces, aside from the blade. This razor could be passed down to my kids’ kid. The above Gillette “safety razor” is similar to the one patented in1904.
I bought a similar razor while I was in Jordan. It was “Made in China.” The razor lasted me a couple weeks but then the top piece of metal snapped.
My razor experience got me thinking about the economy and the talk about jobs going “overseas.” Aren’t we to blame. The US made perfectly good razors, razors that only required the changing of a single $.10 steel blade every couple weeks (at least for me). Now we’re left purchasing a pack of four disposable MACH3 Turbo blades for $10.
When is the last time you bought anything that was made in the United States? If we don’t buy things from our country how can we expect to have jobs? Sure, we have the service industry, but the unemployed aren’t going to Red Lobster anytime soon.

Posted December 1st, 2008 in Uncategorized.


  1. Lau:

    Nice thoughts Jim, but not sure if buying american is always the best option. It might be for local employment. Maybe. How about world employment? Are we rich westerners solely
    responsible for jobs in our own countries? Or are we partly responsible for jobs throughout the world in order to stop poverty? Why produce razors in the
    US when we have to ship iron-ore or aluminiumore to your country? (i dont know if u have iron, in europe only sweden has, just an example)
    Might it not be better to produce locally; meaning produce razors in Surinam where they have iron? so we can ship light? Coal and ore, both needed to produce steel are never found in the same place. So 3 choices: produce where u have coal, produce where u have iron or produce where it is easiest
    and most efficient to ship them both? Should you close your borders and have high import taxes so stuff that is produced inefficiently by people that earn so much they can buy more stuff than they need, is favored over something else? Should we buy tomatoes grown in green houses in holland or sun-grown ones from Italy? Should we buy clothes
    made from american cotton or preferably have clothes made with fair-trade biological cotton from Mali? Tough questions. Not sure i agree
    with Obama’s ideas on this. Closing borders is not the way to reach a better world for people throughout the world. Regulating trade so that business is done in a more ethical and socially acceptable way is in my opinion.

  2. Jim Korpi:

    This is a macro-economics textbook argument FOR a strictly capitalist system without trade restrictions…
    You’re right. The wealthy countries have an obligation to the world, but it’s not an obligation to set up dependent economies of cheap plastic pollutants and monoculture crops in order to feed our insatiable desires for Christmas toys and bananas in the winter. Remember, these are not our needs. Countries, in my eyes, should learn to be self-sufficient, or as self-sufficient as possible. This means producing the basic needs and wants (energy, food…). Sure, not everyone has iron ore. But I tell you what, we’ve got more scrap metal in Ohio than we know what to do with. We could probably boil down all these scrap Chevys and Fords and meet our demand for steel…
    “A culture cannot survive long at the expense either of its agricultural or of its natural sources. To live at the expense of the source of life is obviously suicidal. Though we have no choice but to live at the expense of other life, it is necessary to recognize the limits and dangers involved: past a certain point in a unified system, “other life” is our own. Wendell Berry, Unsettling of America, pg. 47
    What no one seems to be willing to admit is that our “free” trade system has boiled itself down to a search for the lowest common standard of living, and then opening up shop there until the locals get a little too ambitious with their own personal desires. Then we move to Southeast Asia where we’re at now. Why not? The woman will work long hours for pennies without complaints. This way I can get my tee-shirts and underwear for under $5 for a three-pack at Wal-Mart. Sure, I’m putting “poor” people on the other side of the globe to work, but in the mean time I’m putting my neighbor, who works at the local Haines factory, in the growing line at the unemployment office. Not to mention I’ve unintentionally dried up the rural villages of these countries to the point where they can’t feed themselves (China…).
    So, you might say, “What can we do?” The answer is in the book I sent you, and it’s as simple as you want to make it. The answer isn’t in some “black” politician who gets elected in some country across the ocean from you. Don’t wait for our political leaders to CHANGE the world. Barak will do what they all have done in the past; break a whole bunch of promises.
    What you can do is put your money in a place where it will benefit the health of your family and your community, and there is a good chance that if you do this you’ll probably be doing just fine for the rest of the planet.

  3. Lau:

    Jimmy, had to smile when reading your comments. I am past page 47 already. You might have missed my last sentence. I am not proclaiming a strictly capitalist system at all. I happen to live in a country called socialist by many at the other side of the atlantic, and u know i feel our system has many advantages over ‘yours’. Many trade restrictions should be present, but import taxes just to protect inefficient working overly paid people in the western spoiled world? No way! In no way i agree with producing cheap clothing or toys or whatever by people anywhere on this planet. When China will be too expensive, companies will move on to Vietnam, Ghana. Already happening, happened to Mexico before. This not good at all and destructive for a society; they produce, but we decide. Not something i am striving for. One of the best things of the EU is the rise in minimum wages throughout the continent, so taking everybody to a next level.

    Self-sufficiency is a great goal but am afraid it can be achieved by countries at the latitude and climate of the US and Europe only, but what if u are born in Niger or Chad? Should we not live there? Just move away? Do we feel happy if we have plenty of food and can buy a locally produced 2nd TV for our bathroom, knowing that 1 billion people are starving?

    Just mentioned Obama cause he said closing your borders to protect your workers might be a good idea, which is totally against what the european ‘socialist’ countries believe. Opening up our borders within the EU has created huge amounts of jobs everywhere. Its just easier to grow tomatoes in Italy and apples here.

    I do agree with the idea of self-sufficiency. But, we all travel, we all like tomatoes, oranges and bananas and rice. So if i want to eat them, i have to import if i dont want to have my green houses. But i dont think there is any contradiction between trying to be self-sufficient and having open borders. The idea behind closing borders presently is to protect a home-country’s inefficiently producing energy-consuming industries. Not sure if this is the right goal. Its not about agriculture.

    Buying local: of course! Totally agree in the long run thats the best option for most items. Try to do as much as I can, but love to drink wine sometimes, and to dress in wool only is not the most convenient. There has been trade always, and there will always be. Farmers traded back in the days; one guy having sheep, his neighbour growing corn. So buying as much local as u can is only part of a solution. Do really hope the present crisis makes people think more rather than flying in a private jet (6!) to DC to ask for financial assistance, so they can keep on producing too much cars.

  4. Jim Korpi:

    We agree on many things, but what I think we tend to butt heads on is this word efficiency. The first formal introduction I had to economic theory was in a macro-economics class in Jordan. I quit the class after three sessions. Maybe I shouldn’t have.
    Trade has indeed existed for the length of time that humans have populated the planet. I’m sure there are groups of monkeys who trade to some degree. One cashew for one banana.
    What economic theory tries to explain to us is this model of efficiency. Country “A” produces wine “W.” Country “B” produces cheese “C.” Country A only has small farms which produce cheese at a higher cost than Country B can produce it on its larger factory farms. So, naturally Country A trades wine for Country B’s cheese. Perfect. Everyone benefits. Everyone eats cheese and drinks wine. What this model fails to take into consideration, is human beings need for community and the desire to possibly start a dairy farm in Country A or a winery in Country B . What if I live in Country A (wine producer…like France) and I want to have a small community farm, but I don’t want to grow grapes? What if I want to make cheese? Sure, I’m not the most efficient cheese maker in the region, but my cheese is hand made and tastes like it was made with the milk of a holy cow. I would indeed have to compete with the Petite Wal-Marche down the street who sells cheese from Country B at a price no hand-made cheese maker could ever compete with. My farm would not be sustainable.
    Why not protect a small farmer like myself in order to help provide my immediate community with local cheese? Why should this small village cheese only be available to wealthy city folks who shop at their trendy urban farmer’s markets? Or even worse, why should this cheese only be for sale on a foreign market.
    Lau, if your neighbor was selling photographs for $150, would you purchase them before buying a much cheaper online image from some Chinese photographer in Beijing? Both images are just as powerful to you.
    What you might decide is you would want to support your friendly neighbor, your community and the efforts this artist has put into his craft. It’s important to support the art of China as well, but you would probably opt for the support of someone who will add to the quality of your community and in turn the lives of all those around you. Why not? I would too. So, on a larger scale, shouldn’t a country protect and support its craftsman, farmers, artists and communities even if they aren’t the most efficient at what they do?
    Efficiency is a word economists often use to justify a lack of conscience.

  5. Anonymous:

    🙂 🙂

  6. Lau:

    Jimmy, these economists would not include me, and u know i am one. If not being efficient would mean that my whole board can have its own private yet, i would rather be efficient. I would define efficiency in a different way. Do not mix efficiency with cost effectiveness. Thats something different. Efficiency to me means keeping the right balance between our sources: land, capital, raw materials, people. While at the same time keeping in mind the long-term effects, including climate, social aspects, use of land. This means that stuff is not always produced where it is cheapest. Being efficient does not mean one needs to lose its conscience. There is a lot of unconscience in efficiency.

    In trade there is one aspect that should not be denied. It is not only about you wanting to make cheese. Talent is important. Some people are just more able than I am to weave and make sheets or build

    Also dont forget that unfortunately there is a lot of psychology in economics, that make people believe they have certain needs. Hard to change i think. Jealousy plays a big role in this. How will we ever change this?

    I do agree with you on the agricultural aspect for the most part. But you seem to forget that boundaries are being created to protect local industries (that produce things we dont need for the most part) Industrial produce in its present ways should change, its not about craftsmanship anymore. Many inefficiencies should disappear, including the salaries that are being paid throughout the western world, cause people only use them to buy stuff they dont need.

    You know i would buy the local image, but i also buy shirts from a brand that is produced out here is more expensive and only uses fair trade organic cotton from Mali. Being self sufficient for a country is maybe somewhat easier if u have your scale. In a city-state like ours it is somewhat hard. And yes, there maybe is some bias cause trade made my country what it is now. Luckily. I do believe being so international and cosmopolitan as we are is resulting from trade. This is why we do well in design, painting, architecture. We get inspiration from everywhere. Side-effect, but not to be denied.

Leave a response: