Read The Label: Slave-made Isn't Always Cheaper Than American

Two small examples:

  1. Before a recent vacation, I shopped for 35mm. film. The “American” brand,Kodak, was labelled “Made In China”. It cost $0.95 more for a 4 pack than the “Japanese” Fuji cost for a 5-pack. The" Japanese" film was made in South Carolina.

  2. Loratidine ( generic version of Claritin), 10 tablets made in India, purchased at the local grocery store, –4.29. 10 tablets of Target Brand, marked "manufactured by Novartis Labs, Lincoln, Nebraska-- 2.50.

Read labels before assuming your fellow “overprivileged,spoiled, pampered” American factory worker is the reason for higher prices. More likely the reason is price-gouging slavedrivers in cahoots with corrupt foreign governments.

First, I’ve never heard someone refering to the American factory worker in that way. Second off, why do you assume that anything made in China or India must be made by “price-gouging slavedrivers in cahoots with corrupt foreign governments”? Couldn’t it just be people trying to make a living, just like here?

Finally, mightn’t the reason for the higher prices be because labor costs are only a small part of the overall costs for the product, or shipping costs are higher?

I’ve been trying to buy American, or at least buy North American plus developed nations, whenever it’s feasible.

I found GE light bulbs from two different origins – the US and Hungary – with the same type and wattage, on the same shelf at Target. Literally, one box of four 100 watt standard GE bulbs might be made in Cleveland, while the box of four 100 watt standard bulbs next to it is made in Dvjrlnczk. Both are marked with the same price, too; the Hungarian GE 100 watt bulbs are no cheaper than the US 100 watt bulbs.

That was my first thought, shipping and import taxes or customs fees. The name-brand film and allergy pills are coming from China and India, so the shipping fees need to be built in. Aren’t there some sort of import taxes and customs fees, once it gets here? Then it sits in a warehouse before it has to be shipped again.
With the US-made products, the shipping costs are probably a fraction of the imported products. Just a WAG, of course; I have no idea what those costs are.

I look to buy not from China, and have found that many ‘American’ companies do sell chinese made products, but are able to charge more due to the name brand appeal (like the OP mentioned kodak).

In the future increased automation may make origin irrelevent. Most regions will buy products made within that region because foreign goods have little value added.

I’ve also heard that this is already beginning, and that both the 1st and 3rd world are actually losing manufacturing jobs as a relative percent of the population.

Why? How are less developed nations supposed to become developed if they can’t export their goods-- IOW, what if everyone had your attitude attitude?

Why is that surprising? GE probably has plants all over the world making similar products. In fact, large corporations will almost always seek geographic diversification for a number of reasons (natural disasters, serving local markets, tax purposes, labor costs, etc). Manufucaturing costs might be just a fraction of the total costs of any given product, so it’s unlcear that manufacturing location for a product is going to make it cheaper, more expensive, or the same price when sold in the US.

Yeah, I have to agree with John Mace on this one. This is a truly unfortunate point of view (I have stronger words, but this is not the place). Do you assume that all labor in developing nations is slave labor, or is it a case of believing only North Americans have a divine right to work? I don’t understand the motivations behind this point of view.

If this attitude is common, it is potentially worse than developed nations farm subsidies or other barriers to free trade. Any legitimate attempt by a country, say Botswana, to sell its goods on the international market will be thwarted.

I went to Kroger this morning and, among other things, bought bananas from Nicaragua and dried apricots from Turkey. And my big bottle of Kroger Lemon Juice From Concentrate says, “Contains concentrate from Argentina and Mexico”. And my gallon of Kroger brand orange juice says it has concentrate from the USA, Mexico, and Brazil.

Don’t Nicaraguan banana growers and Turkish apricot farmers and Argentinian and Mexican citrus planters and Brazilian orange growers have a right to export their products to wherever anyone will buy them?

“Buy USA” is pretty to think about, but why should I forego purchasing bananas and thus indirectly punish the nice people of Nicaragua, who are busy making a living growing bananas for me to put into banana bread? What happens if nobody buys their bananas anymore? What are they supposed to do for an economy?

Why is your free choice not to buy from someone ‘punishing’ them, this makes no sense. If you want to look at it that way, may I suggest the term should be that you chose not to ‘reward’ them, and you are in no way obligated to do so.

Commerse/capitalism is a system of mutual benifits. When you buy a banana you trade one thing (money) for the product you are getting (banana).

You perceive the value of the banana to be greater then the value of the money you are paying (or you would not pay). The opposite is true for the banana seller, they will only sell you that banana if they are getting something that they perceive it of greater value.

You are free to establish you own value to items, and in a free country you may consider things as national ‘pride’, or not wanting to trade w/ a potential enemy of your country. If you fear that Nicaragua is taking most of that money to fund it’s millitary, so it can take over Taiwan and sink our aircraft carriers, this may factor into your buying habbits.

I don’t think anyone is claiming you should be forced to buy from a certain country. If you decide not to buy your bananas from Nicaragua because you think you get a better deal buying them from Sweden* then I would not consider this a punishment. If you decide not to buy your bananas from Nicaragua because you think the people of Nicaragua are a bunch of slave traders then I would consider this a punishment.

It is a punishment you are perfectly legally entitled to make. But I would still consider it a punishment. You are free to make it, but in this case I think it a harmful and nationalistic way of thinking. I view it as similar to saying “All black people are lazy. I will never buy anything from a black person”. Completely legal, and a choice you are free to make. I will however, think very little of anyone who thinks like that.

There almost certainly are situations where you could say “I am not buying these Nikes because the company is exploiting workers in Sri Lanka”. A justified punishment of the Nike corporation, I would say. But to write off the entire developing world as a slave trading wasteland and refuse to do business with it is inaccurate and extremely harmful.

*I’m no expert on the international banana industry, so this country is completely random.

Driver8 I would still say you are not rewarding the Nicaragua banana trader. You are not taking anything from him, nor are you inflicting any physical pain, nor restricting his movements. You are in a position only to give him something ($), which would qualify as a reward. Well I guess you can start a campain to ban his bananas in your country, which I guess could accept as a penality, as well as damaging his products in the stores. The real issue I have with viewing it as a penality, is it obligates the buyer to buy so they will not feel guilty, which is the wrong way to view it IMHO.

Not always legal. If you are trying to buy labor this line of thinking could get you in trouble.

Although I generally agree that more open markets tend to be a good thing (as long as they aren’t forced to be open to the products of actual slave labor, environmental or political destruction, or other genuinely nasty business practices), I’m always a little puzzled by this argument.

Clearly, it can’t be literally true that closed markets = no economy. After all, the whole kit and caboodle of us are permanently stuck in a totally closed market consisting of one measly planet, and yet we’ve still got an economy. I don’t hear any economists yelping that we have to go find some extraterrestrials and liberalize trade relations with them in order for our global economy to prosper.

If a closed market of seven billion people can produce a thriving economy, I don’t see why a closed market of, say, one large resource-rich country with one billion people, or half a billion people, couldn’t also have a thriving economy.

Mind you, I’m not saying that a closed-market economy would be optimal; the theoretical advantages of open markets are always there, and in most cases they produce genuine practical advantages too. I’m just skeptical of sweeping-sounding doomsday arguments that imply that closed national markets must necessarily spell economic death.

The original post was an eye opener. I have always looked at the label of clothing and consumer products but never thought to look at drugs or things like film.

I’ve found in many cases you can get something made in the US from a company that imports a lot of their products. As an example, New Balance makes some of the tennis shoes in America.

Yes, but I thought I made it clear that there should be no obligation either way. If the buyer is obligated to buy because he feels guilty then he is just as silly as someone who doesn’t buy due to some ill concieved nationalism. Rewarding or punishing people is fine if there is specific behaviour that you admire or dislike (and if your decision to not buy is based on some activity you do not approve of, that is a punishment).

I am referring to the specific behaviour of punishing people for not being American, under the false impression that every single person in the outside world is a slave owner or slave (or perhaps under some even more malignant feeling of superiority).

Americans are always quoting low environmental standards, poor labour rights and greed as reasons for not buying products made in the Third World.

The EU has higher environmental standards, better rights for employees and lower corporate profits/executive pay than the US.

Therefore Americans should only buy products made in the EU.



The Kroger manager gave me a funny look when I asked him why he didn’t carry Swedish bananas.

This is as xenophobic as anything I’ve seen here. Do you have anything specific? How much manufacturing in India is done by slaves? Cites?

Why not completely boycott all Chinese products or products with Chinese parts in them? Don’t buy Dell computers, among other products. My “American” company now produces products in China. We work with a private Chinese company, which employs normal Chinese labor, and saved money by firing the guy with the whips. Not having to chain people to their stations anymore was a real bonus.

My favorite is the “Assembled in America” claim. In other words, all the parts were made in China, sent across the Pacific, and put in a box somewhere in the US.

I don’t think it’s that simple.

India was a closed market for a very long time. The idea initially was to foster local industrial growth, which was a good thing, since at the time of our independence from the British, we produced very little in-house. India very quickly began manufacturing most things needed, thus justifying the closed market. There is a shelf life for this kind of policy though. Once self-sustainability is attained, you need to open up, you need competition. Otherwise where’s the incentive for progress?

Despite a wealth of natural resources and a reasonably well educated workforce, India was almost bankrupt by the late '80s. The quality of manufactured goods was abysmal, there were looong waiting lists for everything (cars, telephone lines, etc.), and governments blamed all our woes on ‘the foreign hand’ (seriously). In India’s case, a closed market ended up fostering inefficiency, corruption and worst of all, complaisance. I imagine the situation in China before they started market reforms couldn’t have been very different.