There's a great article today on the NBC news site about how more Americans are making the choice to buy U.S. made products. I know that this story certainly crystalizes my own thoughts about the matter, considering how I've been acting when purchasing things over the last 24 months. I've found myself more and more reluctant to 'take the deal' when I'm presented with a cheap item that's clearly been made in China (or Vietnam, or Ukraine, or even Mexico.) As the article states, a small portion of the U.S. population has started to make a connection between the economic troulbes of the last few years, and the fact that more and more of those cheap overseas goods come with the loss of U.S. jobs. And every job lost here means that our culture and economy suffers more.
I don't buy exclusively American-made goods. How can you even attempt that these days? But if I'm presented with the option, I almost always choose to buy the 'Made in USA' item. The funny thing is . . . they aren't even always the more expensive item. When you go to Home Depot these days, for example, the least expensive, most production-automated goods tend to be made in the U.S., probably because those manufacturers are the few that have figured out how to survive in competition with Chinese goods. Yes, when you get to the high end, the American goods tend to be a LOT more expensive than the high-end imports, but there's usually a reason. I've had the choice over the past five years, when outfitting my own hobby woodworking shop at home, whether to buy the cheap Wood River hand planes and tools that WoodCraft has brought in from China, or to pay a lot more for Lie-Nielsen tools. With a few exceptions, I've waited and saved so that I can buy the Lie-Nielsen good. (I even tend to avoid Lee Valley/Veritas these days. The Canadians are doing fairly well maintaining their production base, so I don't feel the need to go out of my way to support their stores and manufactories.)
And the fact is, this behavior, since more and more Americans are deciding to go this route, IS changing the economic reality. The rust belt towns are finally starting to recover a bit. Some manufacturing is starting to come back. Some more jobs are starting to show up in U.S. cities and states.
I particularly like the fact that we are finally starting to re-learn our respect for those manufacturing jobs that we've spent the last few decades denigrating. When Apple recently mentioned that they'd like to bring back more high tech production jobs to the U.S., but that frankly they can't find the workers who know how to do the skilled production jobs . . . I think they were speaking the truth. We've spent a generation giving all of the more skilled produciton jobs to China. Now it's time to take them back. There is honor in honest work. It's one of the reasons I go home from my paper-pusher, computer keypad puncher daytime job and spend time working wood. And we have a lot of people in this country who would love to do high quality work creating real goods . . .if we'd just give them the chance. So I pay a bit more on average, and buy the U.S. made products. I hope others will as well.