You know what really grinds my gears?

Let’s say you’re going to buy a T-shirt. You’ve narrowed it down to two identical shirts, one of which costs $12 and was made by a surgeon and another which cost $10 and was made by a poor high school dropout. You can spare a couple extra bucks so you’ve decided to make your decision based purely on ethics. I think most of us would agree that you should buy the $10 shirt. First off, whoever made it probably needs the money more than the surgeon. Perhaps more importantly, you shouldn’t be encouraging the surgeon to waste her capacity to create value by saving lives.

Okay, what if the poor dropout is really really poor? Same decision. Shirt costs $5? Same decision.

Alright, what if the more expensive shirt isn’t made by a surgeon, but by someone who is ten times as wealthy as the person who made the $5 shirt? Same decision. Five times as wealthy? Twice as wealthy? Same decision, same decision.

This is why that marketing gem “Made in the USA!” really grinds my gears. American workers are lucky enough to work in a place with good institutions and a capital structure that allows them to be incredibly productive while working in comfort. Using this productivity to deny opportunities to the poor is morally reprehensible. Using this productivity to do something a poor person wants to do is morally reprehensible (okay, none of us want to go to work, but we’d all prefer some jobs to others or to no job at all).

Caveat: If something is made in the USA and is higher quality I’m fine with that if the selling point is the quality and not that it was made by rich (in relative and historical terms) Americans.