Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What is American?

As the US auto industry collapses, I've heard an increasing number of calls to local radio stations claiming that to drive a foreign auto is anti-American. Some callers even claim that not buying American is treasonous! Is there even a hint of truth to these claims?

If you limit your understanding of America to a set of lines on a map, then maybe so. If you believe that the actions of government and large corporations are to be left unquestioned, then again, maybe you have a claim.

Our Founding Fathers described a condition to which all men are born and should strive to -- a condition of liberty and self-reliance. The American attitude of rewarding hard-won success, encouraging risk-taking and experimentation, and accepting failure as another tough lesson is what has made us the great nation we are. To reward failure and not demand success is the truly anti-American act.

Several years ago, wanting to buy American, I traded my two imports for American-made cars. The experiment was a disaster. Both cars failed prematurely and catastrophically. They were replaced by Toyotas, one of which was made in the US. I would claim that the truly American thing to do is to buy good value. Reward companies that offer superior product at good prices, and punish those that don't. To be American is to do more than study lines on a map. If all things are equal, then certainly chose the American product, even if it costs a little more. In the case of the automobile industry, I believe the evidence is all too clear. I feel bad for any good people that may lose their jobs as a result of near-criminal mismanagement, but to reward these terrible companies with my money is the real un-American act.

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