Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Un-American 'Buy American' Crusade

New Jersey is considering a law, S1811 , that

Requires use of goods made in the United States for State contracts; requires businesses that receive State contracts or economic development assistance to disclose job exportation information.

In response, Nancy McLernon, president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment, “which represents the U.S. operations of many of the world’s leading global companies that insource millions of American jobs,” penned a New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed calling the law a “boondoggle”.

That didn’t sit well with a letter writer, John Hessel, who wrote:

With reference to the op-ed by Nancy McLernon ("New Jersey’s ‘Buy American’ boondoggle," June 11), the CEO of an organization that advocates for American corporations that have systematically moved offshore: What chutzpah.

. . . What she ignores is all the jobs American corporations have outsourced to increase profits at the expense of millions of unemployed Americans. It seems "Buy American" is a noble thought of a bygone era, like the slogan "Proud to be an American," or the pride in being a member of the AFL or CIO, earning a decent hourly wage.

I left these comments:

So, I have a few questions:

  • Does an American worker have a right to go to work for a foreign-owned company operating in the U.S.?
  • Does an American worker have a right not to work for a company that wants to hire him?
  • Does an American worker have a right to quit a job to pursue better life opportunities?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, I say; What Chutzpah, John Hessel!

Just as workers have these rights, so American businesses have a right to operate facilities and hire workers in foreign countries; to not hire workers it doesn't want to hire; and to terminate employment for workers that no longer fit its corporate goals. American businessmen are no different than anyone else: They have a right to pursue their own interests, just as much as American workers do. Would you say that an American who works in a domestic subsidiary of a foreign-owned company "profits at the expense of thousands of American companies?" No? Likewise, American companies who operate overseas don’t "profit at the expense of millions of American workers," because, just as no company has a moral claim on workers, so no worker has a moral claim on the jobs these companies create and maintain.

"Buy American" smacks of nationalism, a fundamentally un-American concept. In America, individuals, not the state, are sovereign, having inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The owners of corporations are individuals. They are sovereign citizens, not subjects of a collective labeled “the nation”. Nor are they slaves who exist at the pleasure of "American workers," any more than American workers are slaves to American businesses. Companies don't exist to employ people. They exist to make profits, just as American workers exist to earn wages.

Aside from the immorality of "Buy American," it is economically destructive. International trade enriches trading individuals (and businesses) in both countries, feeding the growth of both domestic and exporting industries in each country.

"Buy American" is not a "noble thought" of a bygone era. Buy American has never been an American ideal. In fact, it is a collectivistic, and thus Un-American, concept.  A proud American upholds individualism, the foundation of this country.

FYI: I am a life-long member of a construction trade union (ret.) affiliated with the AFL-CIO. But I do not think the world owes me a living just because I'm a "worker". I respect the moral right of companies to do business how and where they please. Rather than demonize these companies, we should consider why they move abroad. To the extent that American companies are incentivized by government policy to operate abroad—as our corporate income tax structure does—we should advocate changing those policies. Now, that would be pro-American.

Related Reading:

'Buy American' is UN-American—Harry Binswanger

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