Misplaced – Displaced? – Patriotism

I’m not “unAmerican”, but overdone patriotism really gets on my nerves. It’s not just the “America, everything it does is great, love it or leave it” crowd of ultranationalist zealots that chafe my patience, either. Rather, it’s the economically confusing “buy American, just because” crowd who really irritate me. Support the “local” businesses, even if they can’t otherwise be competitive in the market? Yeah, whatever. I’m not going to compromise my (admittedly flexible) quality-first approach just to appease the domestic ultranationalists. Pay a premium for something that’s inferior? No thanks – I don’t play the whole “my country is better than yours” game.

Or do I? I had a weird realization the other day…

I was watching one of those incredibly annoying commercials on television for the Shamwow chamois cloth thingies, and in it, the freakishly obnoxious presenter says something like “Shamwow is made in Germany; you know the Germans always make great stuff, right?”. The thing is, I was totally like “yeah, that’s true”. Because, let’s face it, the Germans do make a lot of good stuff – cars, planes, guns, wine, chocolate, electronics and technology, to name just a few. The Shamwow commercials are so annoying that I’ve vowed never to own one of their products (the same is true of Mentos, Head-On, and the iPod, among others) but I still found myself totally agreeing with the sentiment about German craftsmanship.

That worries me, a little bit. Is that hypocrisy? I don’t think so. The funny thing about the people who tout ‘Made in America’ as a selling point – or purchasing criteria – of products, is that they rarely claim the American-made stuff is otherwise truly “great”. Yeah, Ford owners think their cars are better than Chevy products, and vice versa – but even the most rabid hater of Daewoos, Hyundais, and Mitsubishis, I’ve found, generally would love to own a Mercedes-Benz, or a Porsche, or a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini, which has long led me to suspect that the “Buy American” crowd isn’t really patriotic, per se – just strongly biased against, say, Asia. (And, you know, that’s fine, really. It’d be better if they were honest about it, but if pretending to be patriots makes them feel better, so what.) Do the Chinese make some god-awful crap? Yes, yes they do. And do they dump it on the market at uncompetitively low prices? Sometimes, yeah. But, you know, it’s not the 1950s anymore; the Red Menace is a thing of the past. China isn’t going to attack the United States, however much the hawks might worry – not because they aren’t devious yellow devils, but because they need the food we sell them too much. Hating “those Commie bastards” has gone out of fashion in the decades since Joe McCarthy had his fifteen minutes of infamy.

America may have once produced some uniformly high-quality products – but that golden era of manufacturing ended about when the war in Viet Nam did. Now, let’s face it, we make cheap disposable crap, just like most of the rest of the world. (And the stuff we make that doesn’t suck, isn’t priced competitively, because a century after the rest of the world got on with their lives, we’re still resisting the industrial revolution – so what if huge workforces are expensive, and drive up the cost of finished goods? American manufacturing is all about the number of jobs, the efficiencies of automated production be damned.) Buying American on philosophical grounds doesn’t achieve anything at all productive – in fact, it could be argued that it’s a weird form of socialism, wherein domestic companies that can’t compete in the marketplace are propped up by the proletariat in an arbitrary defiance of basic market forces. Capitalism – the free market – is what America’s supposed to be about, right? So buy high-quality, affordable goods – even if they come from Taiwan, or France, or Russia – or, yes, Germany – and may the companies that don’t suck, win.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General, History | on July 29th, 2008| 2 Comments »

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  1. On 7/31/2008 at 11:16 am Beadwench Said:

    Germans don’t make very good wine, Austrians make good wine and they do not take well to be called Germans. Now beer is a different story. 🙂

  2. On 11/30/2008 at 5:55 pm Gene Cash Said:

    Already there, man… I try to avoid anything made in America, as I know the crap we make, and I don’t want any of it.

    I shop at Harbor Freight instead of Sears. I drive Japanese motorcycles and cars instead of American ones. Nothing in my house is American made except the range and the water heater. I run Linux instead of Windows. Heck, I even watch BBC America instead of network TV.

    The funny thing is the cheap Chinese stuff I get at Harbor Freight, I can’t even FIND at Sears, like the vise-mounted press brake, or the adjustable X-Y table for a drill press.

    If GM files Chapter 11, I will be a very very happy camper.