Homo economicus is a rational person when seeking to achieve their ends. Whether that is deciding what to buy, or how to live, that is the guiding principle.
So what to make of a recent Rational Response Squad (RRS) email that has gone beyond encouraging atheism?
The average American spends $700 on holiday gifts and goodies, totaling more
than $465 billion. If that money was spent entirely on US made products it
would create 4.6 million jobs. If every American spent $64 on American made
goods during holiday shopping, the result would be 200,000 jobs.
So much for humanism being a global unifying theme. Economic decisions are not always a zero sum game. The king in the market should be the consumer – that is you and me. What we need to buy, and what we want to buy, is what the market should be responding to. That way people are employed, and resources used, based on our choices.
Plus in what sense is “buying American” the thing to consider. All raw materials coming from the USA to maximise American employment? Well, without foreign oil most American production would cease to exist. That illustrates the importance of a global market to achieve output by being able to make imports of essential inputs. Insisting on domestic inputs which may be more expensive than imports pushes costs onto consumers.
Perhaps RRS mean assembled in the US, though often 100% assembly again does not happen because it either is not made domestically or components from abroad are cheaper and better quality. Those things again benefit the consumer. You get a product that either would not exist if left 100% to domestic production, or the competition gives you more choice. The modern assembly line is often a global factory.
The caricature view of globalisation above – actually a powerful tool for raising living standards when embraced wisely.
Should you buy Richard Dawkins (British author) books, if they were printed in the USA over Sam Harris (US author) if printed in Canada? Of if both printed in USA favour Sam by buying all American? Or would we agree your driving factor in making the decision is whose book you want to read first!
Patriotism is fine, the issue I have is that the solution to any countries economic development and growth is not going towards autarky. Being able to trade with other countries in an open market is one of the most significant reasons for prosperity in the modern era, together with the industrial revolution.
There are issues to do with the environment, and international labour standards which are very creditable things to be concerned about. Equally, giving the low paid in the developing world higher living standard should be as much an issue for a humanist as the poor in their own developed world. Globalisation is a significant means in achieving that goal.
So my message is clear. Be thoughtful about what you want to buy, and need to buy. I trust you to make your own choices in an open free trade economy.
Enjoy your shopping.
If you want a much more detailed economic answer to trade, and the impact of going only domestic you may want to read this from Cato The High Cost of Protectionism.
UPDATE: 29/11 see comments for Brian Sapient’s (of RRS) reply.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog