July 4, 2008, - 10:39 am

What is Patriotism?: Is Buying American Patriotic?

By Debbie Schlussel
Yesterday, I told you about Presidential candidates John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s definitions of “patriotism.” How do you define it? Do you include buying American-made products as part of patriotism?
Living in Michigan, where our economy has collapsed because of its incongruous dependence on the American auto industry, many people believe it is unAmerican to buy a foreign made car.
In my family, my paternal grandfather, my father, and I have always owned or leased American-made cars. It wasn’t just a sign that we believed in America and American workers, but also supporting our local community, of which we are not only a part, but from which we benefited (in the ’70s and ’80s, many of my father’s patients were auto workers and execs, but that quickly changed with the advent of HMOs).


But we also believed in (and I continue to believe in) the free market. Competition is always good. The Japanese auto industry, in the 1980s, forced America’s auto industry to catch up and make better products. Today, America has fallen behind again, and that would be the case even without gas prices approaching $5.00.
Some of that is because of gargantuan retiree health plans (absurdly covering Viagra and costing $1,500 of every new GM car) and union demands and wages. But many auto workers have lost their jobs and many of those who did not have made considerable wage concessions. While I support competition, I also believe we can’t exist as merely a consumer society. If we don’t keep some production here, we’ll continue to fail economically. And while auto workers’ salad days are over, they shouldn’t be paid sweatshop or slave wages, either. That will be bad for America’s economy, too.
Today, there’s another issue, too: What does “Made in America” mean? Does it mean the parts were made here and assembled elsewhere? Does it mean the parts were made there, but assembled here? That’s the mix of many cars (and other products) today, and “Made in the U.S.A.” doesn’t really entirely mean it was made here, anymore.
If I had the money to buy a new car today, I’d stay in the tradition of my father and his father. I would NOT buy a foreign model. Never. I do believe that’s part of supporting America and being patriotic.
On the other hand, my late maternal grandfather–who came here with nothing and built a multi-million dollar business–bought Japanese cars after his American ones were in the shop so much. He felt it was American to buy the most competitive, well-built product. When my grandfather bought a Japanese car for my little brother, my father was sort of embarrassed that one of his kids would be seen in a non-American car. It was almost sacrilege.
So, what do you think? Is patriotism not just sacrificing for our country, but also “buying American”? Even though I’m a free marketeer–in this age of America shipping many of its manufacturing jobs away to foreign markets–I believe that it is.
We have to support our country’s economy, or pretty soon, we will be China’s China or China’s El Salvador or Bangladesh. In the past, we developed the great new inventions, like the automobile. And we built them for us. I’m afraid that if we don’t support our own economy, other markets will create the next big things. And we’ll be building it . . . for their consumers.
Something to think about on this 232nd Independence Day: How independent will we continue to be if we produce nothing and buy their products?
In the late ’70s and ’80s, our gasoline supply and auto industry crises were bad, but they were tempered by the strong American dollar.
Now, our dollar is weak, coupled with incarnations of both of those problems. So, we are in a worse Catch 22 than ever.
Would producing and buying more American products fix that? I’m not advocating protectionism (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the early 1900s “protected” our economy out of existence and into a steep depression), but part of my freedom–part of my independence–is to choose to buy American, whenever I can (which is, sadly, rarer and rarer an available choice, these days).
Does you patriotism include this view?

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25 Responses

I won’t buy gas at Citgo, and will avoid businesses that play up to Muslim fanatics and/or illegal aliens, such as some of the stores you have mentioned on this blog. However, I generally buy Japanese cars. I had a GM Citation in the 80s & after 30,000 miles there were leaks in three different places. One problem after another, and I had to pitch it after 90,000 miles. My Hondas have lasted at least 200,000 miles. This is a bread and butter issue to me, and while I agree we need a strong industrial base, the manufacturing companies do have some responsibility here.
Happy Independence Day.

c f on July 4, 2008 at 11:46 am

My father was in the military for 20+ years and always would be American cars. But he now only buys Toyota after a Mercury Sable had repair costs into the thousands after only 4 years and then a new Buick had problems after only a year.
I think it is patriotic to buy the best product. . .but only if the country they are from is an American ally. I have no problem with Japanese products because they have been a rock solid, conservative ally for the past few decades.
I will NEVER buy Korean products, and if anyone is patriotic you should avoid Samsung, LG, Kia, Hyundai, etc. . .anything Korean. I lived there from 1997-2002, and they were always demonstrating against America and making life miserable for the troops stationed there. There were always huge demonstrations and more demonstations against America everyone, and I never once saw a pro-U.S.A. demonstration. The last straw: When all the universities placed “doormats” of American flags for Korean students to spit and wipe their feet on. This was in 2002. This was in SOUTH Korea, our supposed “ally.”
To honor the troops who died in the Korean War, NEVER buy Korean. http://www.usinkorea.org/

Gabe on July 4, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Concerning the weak dollar, this has actually been a BOOST for some industries that manufacture products for export.
But you got it right – the REAL issue is labor unions, along with bad management. Big 3 actually are making money in Europe and elsewhere because THEY MADE WHAT PEOPLE ASKED FOR.
In contrast, Big 3 in USA had a “Here it is – take it or leave it” attitude.
Another issue – like retailers, there is excess manufacturing capacity. People simply don’t want all those new cars and trucks.
Concerning foreign cars, it’s AMERICANS that are selling and servicing them. And, really, almost all cars have foreign made parts.
When I shopped in 2004, I turned off on BMW’s because of Schroder’s carrying on about Iraq. I then shopped for Infinities; I discovered that Infinity was owned (in part) by Renault.
And how could anyone call Chrysler “American Made” when it was owned by Daimler?
These guys need to get off their Democratic —– and COMPETE.

Frank on July 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Speaking as an Englishman, you are lucky you still a car manufacturing industry, whether wholly or part American. We lost all of our brands years ago, I suppose the nearest to a British made car is Ford because they have been here so long and employ a large number of people. My uncle was in the Royal Navy in WWII and for years he would never but anything Ôø?Made in JapanÔø?, now of course he has no choice. My sympathies lay with you my American brothers. Enjoy your celebrations today, even though it was at my forefatherÔø?s expense.

anglicus on July 4, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Funny you should mention it. Last Monday, I just bought my first new car in 14 years. I chose a Chevy Impala LT. The primary reason for my choice was NOT because it was an “American car”. It’s final assembly was in Canada.
The single biggest feature was that it was big enough for me (I’m 6′-3″), but most important, it is FLEX FUEL and runs on E85. So maybe the final assembly was in Canada, but 85% of the fuel I put into that car will be MADE IN AMERCA.
This Independence Day, I’m happy to tell you that I refuse to subject myself to TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION by an evil King from far-off shores. King Abdullah and his American-traitors in the petrochemical lobby will have to sell their petroleum somewhere else.
BTW, if you hear or read any of the BS being spread about E85, ask yourself this: Does this defend the high cost of petroleum?
If it does, consider the high probability that the BS is just part of a full-court-press by the Saudi Petrochemical Lobby. Be highly suspect because most of the negative stuff you’re hearing about E85 is demonstrably false.

There is NO Santa Claus on July 4, 2008 at 1:34 pm

It’s buying American that put GM in the hole it’s in now…but soon the whole world will be “buying American” since this cuntry will be supplying goods for the dollar stores in China and India!!!

EminemsRevenge on July 4, 2008 at 1:43 pm

*Be highly suspect because most of the negative stuff you’re hearing about E85 is demonstrably false.*
There is NO Santa Claus,
I was visiting my parents in Kansas City two weeks ago, and we drove up to Iowa for a few days because my father had a conference there.
In Iowa, they have unleaded plus fuel that uses ethanol, which is actually cheaper than the regular unleaded. I experimented and bought the regular unleaded, which is more expensive, and another time bought the ethanol based plus fuel, which is cheaper.
The catch: Ethanol get MUCH WORSE gas mileage. It was noticeable. How does that help the average consumer? Ethanol is BS. What we need is to DRILL in ANWR and off our coasts. “Alternative” fuels are no solution.
But I totally agree with you about getting rid of importing Saudi oil.

Gabe on July 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Deb, I’m all for buying American made whenever possible, but, as you said, we don’t always have the choice. We are now faced with a “global economy”, not just a little closed American economy. Those days are over. For years, we heard the refrain that we needed to help backwards countries learn to become more industrialized and self sufficient. Well, now that is a reality and they are prospering because they are part of the “global economy” that we and others in the civilized world promoted. We can’t have it both ways anymore. So we live with it. When faced with a purchase, you have only what you are presented with, or go without. Not always an attractive choice, but it’s the way it is. I have owned many American cars of the past and most were strong and trustworthy. The last two, sadly, gave up long before they should have. I have returned to Volvo, the older models from the 80s and am well satisfied. Bottom line of money’s-worth, best bang for the buck. They are over designed and over built like American cars used to be. I haven’t owned any vehicle newer than the 80s. Can’t afford even a “cheap” car with a price tag in the 5 digits. It’s absurd. I drive what I can afford and still fix myself. “Fix it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” is still true. Would love to have a new Dodge, but not a $35K per. Can’t justify it. Sad. I believe in financial responsibility, living within my (our) means. Gotta do what we gotta do. Sad that America is ceasing to be a producer and has become a consumer society. Signs of the times…

Floyd R. Turbo on July 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm

BTW, I realize that Volvos are associated with the phrase “Volvo driving, latte sipping liberals”. NOT THIS KID! That ain’t me. Not by a long shot. Just sayin’, in case someone made that wrong assumption…! Like Volvos. Like lattes. Ain’t no way a liberal, pilgrim! Yo!

Floyd R. Turbo on July 4, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Self-reliance is patriotic.
There is a LDS prophesy made by Apostle Marion G. Romney back in 1975’s General Conference. He said, “…we will see the day when we will live on what we produce.” He didn’t mean by national or state economies, he meant by individual households and families.
Perhaps we’re approaching this time. Since major corporations are willing to screw us over and the pols are power-mad sociopaths, coupled with all the other troubles this could happen soon.
Build and produce everything you can by yourselves. Buy American from your neighbors and kin who practice self-reliance also. Buy from companies that prove their loyalty to your country, and if you can’t make their product. That’s freedom.

bhparkman on July 4, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Its very hard to find any made in America. We’re not the only ones to have that problem, so its not unique to America in a global economy. People won’t buy America made just out of a feeling of patriotism. They will buy if its well made and dependable. There’s now that difference in attitude, especially among our generation, Debbie in which we buy foreign made products out of choice because they’re better made than their American equivalents. Then too, there’s the other side of the coin: we are forced to buy foreign made due to the scarcity of well made American goods. That’s what I don’t like. I believe in a free country, we should be able to buy our own manufactured good when we want to. The point of free I think, is to sustain yourself. If we’re dependent on our enemies to keep our economy running, how really free are we? I have nothing against the rest of the world. Japan, Germany and increasingly China, make some great products. That doesn’t mean I want our country to be completely dependent on them. No American does so I hope we can bring back Made In USA.

NormanF on July 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

There is some loss of milage with E85. The lower cost is washed out by this. The price is the same but we’re BUYING AMERICAN (Remember? That’s what this topic is about.)
Buying E85 means we make motor vehcile fuels here instead of spending $500 Billion a year (or more) defending thankless Iraqis who still won’t recognize Israel after all we’ve done for them. Buying E85 means we won’t be funding 25,000 Madrassas worldwide. Buying E85 means we won’t be putting money into the hands of people who fly airplanes into skyscrapers. (Have you any idea of the public cost of 9/11?)
I lose 2-3 mpg on the highway with E85; not sure what I’m losing in town yet. What you need to realize is that once we have CHOICE in fuels, the Saudis and OPEC will have to compete. That will break the back of the OPEC cartel and all that goes with it. PLUS, we’ll always be able to drive our cars; even if ethanol doesn’t quite pack as much energy as gasoline (Ethanol has 75% the fuel density or BTU/Gallon as gasoline).
There are MANY hidden costs of petroleum, chief of which is America’s enormous expense of maintaining security in the Persian Gulf so hostile anti-American, anti-Semitic Arabs can continue to tax us. TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!
Now think about it! Think about it this July 4th! What did Chaim Solomen’s, John Adams’, George Washington’s and their generation sacrifice to end TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. When you think of what they sacrificed and what ultimately became of their efforts, it begs the question: Is buying (American) E85 too much to ask?

There is NO Santa Claus on July 4, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I’ve never had the mechanical problems with American Cars that people talk about. Mostly Because I have stuck to the models that have essentially been refined over decades. The maintenance, wear and tear have been remarkably consistent. Many 1970s US made cars, like the Barracuda, are selling for over one hundred thousand dollars today! How many classic Japanese cars from the 70s are selling for more than ten cents? Don’t forget that Alfred Deming, an American, made the Japanese auto industries’ quality what it is today. Before him, “Made in Japan” meant something was cheap and junky.
Even the ridiculous British models of the late 1970s are kind of cool today. I wouldn’t mind having a real Mini or the V8 TR8.
If you like puzzles, working on the British cars can give you immense satisfaction because they drive all day on two bucks and there is little competition for the parts.

code7 on July 4, 2008 at 4:40 pm

I’d rather drive American, but you can’t beat the dependability and price of the rice burners. If I did buy American it would be the hearse-like Dodge Magnum. Something uniquely Yankeeish about that big box. But for now, I drive a Yota, the wife has a Honda and both have a 180k+ on the odometer. Gotta vote the pocketbook these days.
Happy B-day America!

Southernops on July 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm

What is Patriotism?
God, Family, and Country…
He grew up in a time,
When a third-grade education,
Was all the school you needed,
To work the family farm.
He’d take time off on Sunday,
Him and all his family,
warm a pew,
And give thanks to the Lord.
There was no gray, only black and white.
Didn’t need no-one to tell him,
What was wrong or right.
‘Cause he had God, Family, and Country.
He set aside his plow,
In early 1940,
Said goodbye to his small town,
And put on the Army green.
Hard Times on the front lines,
Writin’ letters on wet paper,
Not one word about the awful things he’d seen.
His was a generation,
That answered without question.
They knew they had to win,
‘Cause they were fightin’ for…
God, Family, and Country.
On the coffee table,
Sits the family Bible,
Where just last year he added,
A little boy to the family tree.
There’s the folded flag they gave us,
On the day he left us.
But the thing that I remember most,
Is the way that he…
In God, Family, and Country…
Ohhh, we’ve got God…
And Country……

Jackson Pearson on July 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

[In the past, we developed the great new inventions, like the automobile. And we built them for us. I’m afraid that if we don’t support our own economy, other markets will create the next big things. And we’ll be building it . . . for their consumers. – Debbie]
First of all, a happy July 4th!!!
Right now, I’m posting this from India, and I see more Ford cars here than I did in CA – there I would see either Hondas, Toyotas, Porsches or BMWs. Don’t you think that US exports abroad – particularly to China and India – is something desirable? In which case, you WANT to service their 2 billion population – that would be a gateway to a resurrection of the prosperity.
I believe in buying American as well – I first owned a Chrysler Sebring (before Chrysler was bought by Daimler, and later re-spun off), and then 2 Saturns. Unfortunately, the fact that the Sebring had a delicate body and depreciated more sharply, and even the Saturn, which once seemed to do well in terms of retaining its value, seems to have much less of it these days. Rush once pointed out during NAFTA that one of the implications of protectionism would be equating patriotism with paying higher prices – is that something you endorse?
Also, those Honda and Toyota plants in Alabama, Tennessee… – do you consider them American cars or Japanese? If the latter, then would a GM car assembled in Mexico pass as an American car for you? In the past, entire things were made in the same country, whereas these days, the manufacturing is highly distributed. Take for example, semiconductors, where you could have them conceived and planned here, designed in India, fabbed in Japan, assembled in Taiwan, tested in Thailand and shipped out from test to customers. According to international law, that chip will have ‘Made in Taiwan’ on it, as part of the packaging label. I don’t know how distributed auto manufacturing is, but the question is – to what extent is ‘Made in America’ American?

Infidel Pride on July 4, 2008 at 10:27 pm

By ‘here’ above, I meant US.

Infidel Pride on July 4, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Debbie…what percentage of autoworkers in the Detroit/Dearbornistan area are muslim or islamofascist? Isn’t buying a Detroit manufactured vehicle actually buying muslim? Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t buying a Detroit vehicle actually helping finance jihad??

joesixpack31 on July 5, 2008 at 2:22 am

Debbie, I’ve never had an American car, and I don’t see any point in supporting obsolete business models. In the interest of full disclosure, I drive a German car: I figured all the Nazis were on fixed pensions anyway, Germany is a good ally to Israel, and nothing produced here can remotely touch it. Still, as a Jew, I feel a bit gulity, and when it’s time to get a new car, I will probably buy Japanese.

Anonymous1 on July 5, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I believe this is not just an economic issue. The issue is also one of national security. It is in our national interests to have countries other than the US with growing economies. That way those countries are less likely to support socialism and more likely to be pro USA. Protectionism (either legal or through personal choice) here makes it less likely for other countries to have booming economies.
The loss of jobs and other hits on our economy can be dealt with. Retraining and financial incentives for R&D and innovation are among those tools that will keep our economy growing.

I_am_me on July 6, 2008 at 1:20 am

I have owned General Motors for many years. The quality has imporved so much over the last 8 years that it is better than Toyota & Honda as we speak. I have a 2008 Corvette, 2007 Impala (flex-fuel) and a 2002 Silverado. No problems with any of them. As for the Japanese, thanks for the $1 million dollars your country sent to the Katrina Relief Fund….Wow! Why bother! And for South Korea, we need to pull all of our troops out of that country immediately. They do not like us and they make junk cars anyway.

Instant Rebates on July 6, 2008 at 11:37 am

Recently I have gotten into buying American, I think that it helps our economy. I also think that buying American IS indeed patriotic. American cars have been improving, and in general are better made now than the japanese ones. I try and only buy American Companies- because at the end of the day- even if it was built in Taiwan, the profit stays in America. I will only buy Motorola phones, HP or Dell Computers and of course only American cars. TV’s on the other hand are harder to find— any help?

Skoch44 on July 6, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Japanese cars got to where they are because of decades of protectionism. So, its ironic that people say its patriotic to buy the most competative. Their view of patriotism worked out very well for them.
The US got a triple whammy in the late 70’s, early 80’s. First, they were saddled with safety, emissions, and MPG standards from the Peanut Farmer that were cadenced faster than US makers took to make a car. Coincidentally (or maybe not), these new regulations fit small cars like the ones Japanese were already making like a glove. Then there was recession and Japan’s currency fixing. Rushing product to market under those circumstances and trying to be competitive made the US makers stumble in a way not seen before.
After a stumble and reinforcement by a gloating media, the perception hasn’t caught up with the fact the differences have been a thing of history for a while, now.

jpm100 on July 6, 2008 at 7:59 pm

When Bush 43 put on tarifs from illegal foriegn steel producers, the UAW was outraged and DEMANDED Bush remove the tariffs. The union claimed the cheaper steel would benefit the legacy costs. Trade Representative Zollick explained the tarifs were neccesary to save American steel jobs. The UAW esentially said” The hell with the U.S. steel worker”. Labor solidarity? I myself, being from a steel region has since bought Honda products made in Ohio.
High quality , low labor cost, and with no mob run unions involved. Having met many other military members from the auto region, they tell similar stories of woker greed, apathy, and union corruption at the Big Three. They need to become competitive or become extinct. As the labor bosses complain about corporate welfare, isn’t the hypocracy of the TARP bailout with monies going into unio coffers rather than a sensible reorganization plan. American cars are unattractive, over priced, ( due in part to corrupt unions ), and lose value faster than Toyots, Honds, BMW ect. Where were the autoworkers when other industries lost jobs? What goes around comes around. Why does Chrystler have there palm out when their parent company reported a net gain last year of nealy a billion dollars?
GM has been shackled by union strikes and union bosses involved in the quality of production from repeated strikes to litigations. The EPA and the governmental roadblocks are hostile to the Big Three. Research the Anti Dumping Law Section 208.
Every G.O.P president has used this to protect U.S. industrial workers while every DEM president has removed it. The unions get what they deserve!

Mark James on December 12, 2008 at 10:38 am

its a nice idea… but anyone knows that patriotism, when it comes to spending, is nothing but problems for the US economy, providing that you took international economics.

why keep the money at home? no matter where it ends up, the US dollar is only good in one country, the US. all of that money ends up back here and supporting other businesses. patriotic protectionism only serves to raise prices, lower options, and hurt other industries. i agree with the person that said that this kind of behavior is what put us in the situation that we are currently trying to claw our way out of. it’s nice for the auto manufacturers, but had they actually been listening to the market that was based in reality and not “but American” land, they wouldn’t be begging with their hands out.

i live in Michigan, and i say F-you, auto industry. you had the money, you had the upper hand… and you failed. you failed, failed, failed… and we should let you fail. Michigan would be better off in the long run if we just let them die. it’s the transition to a new industry that is painful… and it’s more painful trying to hold on to the ones that just prolong the process. look to the future Michigan, you have a lot going for you… and a lot of “patriots” holding you back from realizing your economic dreams. just buy whatever the heck makes you the happiest consumer, and let the free market do what it does best.

philip on November 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm

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