Buying patriotism in the age of transparency

by Kai Hsing

Obama’s push to “Buy American” should make us all realize the need for real, raw information to be made readily available to consumers.

via NotionsCapital.com

via NotionsCapital.com

Going to work today, I took a train made by an Italian company that was assembled here in California while sipping Ethiopian coffee and reading a book printed in China – a now almost-cliché scenario replicated across communities throughout the U.S. with any combination of products and origins. Whether it’s a car instead of a train or Mexico instead of China, it’s nothing new to say that our economy has long been inevitably and inextricably global.

Which is why President Obama’s push for all of us to “Buy American” seemed to be a rather tired rhetorical device aimed at placating the xenophobic masses. Indeed, we all know that conditions of a globalized economy can be questionable at best, but there will be no return to a feudalistic retrofuturism anytime soon.

But what has changed in our lifetime is that global capitalism has gotten so complex and shape-shifting that we’ve long needed a redefinition of what “Buy American” really means.

A recent article in the New York Times that tried to sort out the anguishing identity crises of labeling automobiles as “American” or “foreign” found that:

… “domestic content” is not domestic at all. For the purposes of the window sticker, the government has decided that domestic content will include parts made in Canada. Under the North American Free Trade Act, domestic is even less clear because it also includes Mexico.

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