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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Comments

Hi Mike,
I agree with pretty much all you are saying here. However here in the UK a company offering extended car warranties after the manufacturers three year warranty expires posted an interesting analysis of claims. The makes of cars most affected were Volkswagen and BMW and, if I remember clearly, most of these claims were engine related. So much for Germany making the best cars! My ten year old swedish car with over 90,000 miles has been superb.

Mike, that is a great story. Thanks for all the thought that you put into it. I hope your washer lasts forever. I wonder, though, what on Earth is that plumbing stack to the left of the Maytag? (I can make you a chair, as can many, many US woodworkers. But the cost to ship it to you is likely more than the price of a white PVC chair at K- or Wall- or whatever- Mart.)

My Mom bought a refurbished dryer, from a company that takes your old busted one, and refurbishes it as part of the deal of selling you your new refurbished one. It was a 70's model (it's actually the one in the basement of "That 70's Show!), and she bought it in the late 80's, and used it until she died, and we sold it in the house in 2012! When I see those ones at the appliance store that have digital read-outs, and look like escape pods for a space ship, a always wonder what they could be doing as well as drying clothes, 'cause this one worked great and dried clothes!

My Dad had kept an American made Toro lawnmower going for over 25 years, and when I needed to repair it, the corner hardware store fixed it fine for 35 dollars. My next door neighbor at the time, bought a new Chinese made two stage snow blower, for about 200 bucks less than a comparable American model from Toro, and in two years, the actual metal broke, and the big box department stores said ti was out of warranty, and even if it was "in", they couldn't fix it anyway...

There's a lot of things I'll buy that are made anywhere in the globe, and a lot of those things I consider "expendable", but when I remember these stories, I buy American for the stuff that I not only want to last a long time, but want to get repaired twenty years down the road...

You TOTALLY have made my day. An American Made Jean Company. I ordered a pair immediately. They have a Gussett, button fly, and I love it. Thanks Mike Johnson.

I recently purchased my first American car, a Ford Focus. It replaced an aging Audi that was very nice to drive, but getting exorbitantly expensive. I would have liked to have bought an American car before, but they made virtually nothing that interested me. That's gradually changing (in the case of the Focus it's basically a European car...)

Speaking of Detroit, check out Shinola, a company that is doing local production in Detroit of a number of goods like watches and bicycles.
http://www.shinola.com/

The watches are $500...for quartz (not mechanical/automatic). That's a lot, but we're used to paying Chinese labor prices (or robot assembly prices).

The NY Times series on the "iEconomy" is also worth a read. It focuses a lot on Apple, but the trends apply to almost any company that makes physical goods
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/ieconomy.html

If you're looking for a pool table, Mike, there's an American made A.E. Schmidt coming out of a film production house here in Chicago that's shutting down. A nine foot, single piece slate. But I'm guessing you've been browsing...

While my wife and I pray that our ancient North American-made appliances keep chugging along, my daughter and son-in-law have churned through recently purchased dishwashers/dryers/washing machines/stoves that have caught on fire, leaked, smoked, broken, stopped, and finally quit. They now will only buy very expensive German-made machines. This is progress?

I wonder how many Chinese assembly line workers making toasters actually use a toaster? I'd like to think that if they grabbed a toaster off the assembly line and used it in the lunchroom, someone might tell a foreman it's no damn good. Perhaps that might have happened in North America.

Buy the best product you can afford that offers the best value, no matter where it comes from. Do not reward crap.

Canada is even worse, we notoriously sold our natural resources in exchange for finished goods, from beaver pelts to petroleum. "Made in Canada" usually means either handmade by a small craft shop, or in a plant owned by a large corporation based in another country.
Of course there are exceptions, such as Bombardier or Blackberry, but by and large, there are no Canadian manufacturers...

It's not just that washing machines are made all over the world. It's that they are now built to be disposable. Replaced my vitage Maytag (when the transmission went) with a Kenmore/Whirlpool front-loader. Died in about 5 years when the low-bidder pot-metal spider that holds the stainless steel drum corroded and cracked. This causes so much damage that the machine is not salvageable. Drum has a lifetime warranty, but that doesn't cover the spider, even though you can't buy the spider without the drum. So not only is the quality gone, so is the "morality" of Sears Roebuck. Sears lost an appliance customer for life.

Decided to see if the Germans are trustworthy, so I replaced it by a Bosch. (Hey, they make good cars.)

Poor Maytag was done in by the silliness of "Energy Star" washing machines. They weren't "green" enough washers. Even through clothes washing is a pretty darned small part of our energy budget. But the appliance makers probably love selling us disposable washing machines.

Of course, many digital cameras, especially the compacts, are the same way -- not practical to repair. Disposable.

This doesn't show in the consumer price index, that we are now buying disposable products that can't be economically repaired. The 1972 Maytag is not the equivalent of any 2013 washing machine. I'd gladly have a working classic Maytag washer again.

I buy second hand a lot. You can get marvelous stuff no longer available, and it is even better for the environment.

Here ya go -- Maytag Washer/Dryer, Model A906, 1966:

image

Another of my prized possessions:

image

Kmart's old K-Gro premium garden hose, heavy brass fittings, non-kink, made in America:

image

image

When Sears bought Kmart here in California, it closed the Garden Shops as they were originally comprised, and discontinued the K-Gro brand of superior Garden Tools/Supplies. So sad, for the lower quality of most of the replacements is a travesty.

I'm not adverse to purchasing from other countries, but so much of what I have that is made in America is superior to similar made elsewhere.

I research as much as possible to avoid products made in unethical situations, but it's not always easy.

Richard

Well said, Mike!

I think there is a legitimate case to be made for purchasing out-of-country when the specific thing (car, camera, whatever…) is not made within your national, state/provincial, community borders. Personally I will happily pay more to support the economy of my local community (however you care to define it), in part because it supports me.

For the rest of the discussion, you've made the case beautifully.

I actually spent a year (2009) buying only American-made stuff. I was curious if it was possible, and what I would learn about how buying American could help. Or hurt. Or what, really, it would accomplish.

The good news is that when something is made in America these days, one of the side effects is that it tends to be really well made. It has to be, because it's usually way more expensive. That's the bad news. Americans, in general, don't do well with expensive. So not much stuff is made here.

You can read about my experience here: http://mitusa.wordpress.com

And if you'd care to start from the start, start here: http://mitusa.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/a-little-bit-of-bangladesh-right-here-at-home

What I find most frustrating is that when I want to buy something that will last (that Maytag washing machine, for instance) I rarely have the option.

I've recently found an uptick, microscopic though it may be, in American manufacturing. There are all sorts of reasons pertaining to the massive quantities and lead times that make importing from the other side of the world cost effective for a retailer. So some companies, especially small businesses and startups, find it more appealing to make things here. Not necessarily because they're virtuous, but because it can actually make business sense. Sometimes.

The pernicious 'prime directives' of capitalism (to lower and/or socialize all costs, evade meaningful regulation and taxation and maximize owner profit regardless of consequence to others) are brutalizing the entire planet these days, even if you ignore climate change, which is the greatest 'socialized cost' conceivable.

A generation ago, much U.S. manufacturing fled to Mexico after NAFTA was enacted. But the benefits to Mexican workers were limited and temporary, largely by design. Manufacturing moved to China the instant Mexican wages began to rise. Now it's moving to even lower cost locations. Where factories were once substantial brick buildings, most are now prefab metal shells erected on concrete slabs. As James Fallows has noted, factory machinery is now designed to be unbolted from the floor and shipped to a cheaper locale the moment worker pay rises or environmental regulations become meaningful. The recent horrific factory collapse in Bangladesh is an utterly predictable result of this 'race to the bottom' on cost and regulation. And it won't stop until wealthy owners actually go to jail.

I saw large sacks of cheap, low quality carrots in my local supermarket this morning.

From China.

Probably 30% of our local economy is farming.
And we grow decent carrots here in Wales.

"And our own neighbors go unemployed, the middle class declines, inequality imposes endless stressors on society, etc., etc."

- This is true. And it happens all too often. On the other hand, there is another very important reason for not buying only domestic products - in the long run it harms the domestic economy by protecting it from outside competition, which leads to a lack of innovation, higher prices and, eventually job losses. There's no easy answer to this.

I try to buy American whenever possible. People ask me why I care, since I do not work in a factory, and no one in my family does. Thing is, as a professional photographer, I need our country to have a prosperous middle class so that there are people who can buy my photos.

There are still a lot of American made products if you look for them. Domke camera bags, Tiffen Filters, higher-end Tamrac bags, Spectra light meters, and Kodak film are all American made photographic items.

If I cannot buy made in USA, because no one makes the item I want here, I try to buy from high-wage countries like Germany, Japan, and France. At least I'm not supporting slavery when I buy from them.

The tough part about following your newly embraced approach is that, unlike decades ago, the age of globalization has made it very difficult to assess what country, or countries, should be credited with any given product. The following example using the iPod is illustrative...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/28/business/worldbusiness/28scene.html?_r=0

Bravo! You've summed it up perfectly.

Hopefully one of the big changes from the rising cost of oil is more local manufacturing. Cheap oil means cheap transport from China. I've heard of several examples of manufacturing coming back to the US because it was no longer cost-effective to do it overseas. Look at the Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes plants opening in the States.

But as for small electronics and such, it comes down to this: Do you expect a DVD player to cost $15 at Walmart? Well, then it has to be made in China. We are addicted to cheap stuff, and lots of it. I expected to pay $50-60 for my slow cooker, but found all of the Crockpots for around $18-30 at Target. This kind of cheap attainability is not sustainable. My parents' Crockpot was made in the US and is 40 years old. I don't expect mine to last 40 years. No one seems to want a small amount of quality products anymore - they want lots of cheap crap.

Let's see - we've had Made in America, The Preakness, Flying Toasters, Expectations of Privacy, The Jaws of Death, False Shopping, Starship Building, And now Hebrew, Canon 6D - hey, that's an article about photography, where'd that come from?

[I told you, it's off-topic week. --Mike]

Growing up we had a 1974 Maytag washer that made it to 2004. After 30 years of faithful service my mother replaced it with a new Maytag and that piece of junk lasted only 2 years before needing replacement in 2006. She now has a made-in-America Speed Queen washer and loves it. It is all mechanical and very stoutly built.

Global trade helps countries evolve rapidly. Thanks to the US exports, China is now #1 nation in tourism. I own a vacation home in France and I witness the shift. It is the Chinese that come in large numbers, even off season. Here's an interesting CNN piece http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/05/travel/china-tourists-spend

Your post raises the old joke:

In heaven, the police are British, the chefs are French, the cars are German, and the women are Italian.

In hell, the police are German, the chefs are British, the cars are French, and the women are Italian.

Dean

Mike wrote, "Of course, it does make some sense for production to be specialized. The Germans make the best cars... "

Define "best."

Different people define it differently, especially when it comes to cars. A buyer wants the best product at the best price and for some the nation of manufacture is part of the "best" calculation. When I bought my current car, the best product at the best price for me was made by a Japanese company at a plant in Ohio. But that was a tiny tiny factor in my buying decision.

It's an interesting post from Geoff Wittig. Markets and capitalism have their faults for sure, but alternative systems were quite widespread until recently and I'm not too sure anyone can argue that the populations concerned benefitted much from ideological purity.

I'm British and I buy locally made stuff when I can. I don't grudge my money going workers at Leica because I find their products enjoyable to use and we don't make a UK equivalent. I don't grudge my money going to the people who made the Japanese cameras I own either.

When it comes to goods made in the Third World we can't ignore the harsh consequences of industrialisation even if we want to. They are often on TV. It is so much easier to ignore the even greater hardships suffered by impoverished farmers in areas which aren't developing because we just don't hear so much about them. I'm a surveyor (maps) and I worked for 10-15 years in tropical countries from W Africa to SE Asia. I don't find it at all surprising that young people from the countryside leave home to work in urban industries while knowing full well that they are going to be exploited. Frankly I am delighted to help pay their wages by buying the goods they make. The early stages of industrialisation are always harsh, Americans and British know that full well, but the alternative is usually even harsher, however beautiful the rural scenery.

I don't know whether buying goods manufactured in the United States is buying local or not. My Subaru was made in a zero landfill plant in the USA. Where does the money go? I don't know.

What does it mean to buy American? Is it about employment or design or finance or none of the above? By the way one of my pet peeves is the way we define America as the USA. It really shows our provincial outlook.

"...there is another very important reason for not buying only domestic products - in the long run it harms the domestic economy by protecting it from outside competition, which leads to a lack of innovation..."

I was going to compose a comment detailing what product characteristics defines "best" for me, the absurdity of "free trade," why import tariffs to eliminate all advantage of sub-minimum wage, unsafe/unhealthy environmentally disastrous offshore manufacturing are necessary and how my approach has always been to purchase few, highest-quality products, even if imported and more expensive than lower quality domestic alternatives. However, the above comment quote changed my mind.

Innovation is grossly overrated. We purchase vastly too much "stuff," frequently because it's "new and improved." Only a small fraction of the "progress" seen in manufactured goods offers any real benefit to humankind. The rest simply adds to landfill volume.

Does a Leica M9 with a Kodak Sensor qualify?
How about if I print only using Moab paper?

Eh, I own a Panosaurus 2.0.....(hand)made in America....does that count?

Greets, Ed.

Mike,

Be careful of putting the kybosh on the chances of continuing homeland made goods by using the term "And so it goes." I love Vonnegut too much to ever forget how he used the device.

Walter

Dear David,

Expectations of Privacy, The Jaws of Death, and False Shopping all WERE photography columns, within the scope of the very broadly drawn photography coverage that characterizes TOP.

That may not be aspects of the photography realm that interest you, or be reflected in the direction the comments went (over which authors do not have control), but that doesn't make them off-topic.

pax / Ctein

The best recent book on what's gone wrong with USA is Michael Lind's "Land of Promise: an economic history of the United States". Both in 1929 and 2008 we had the lowest levels of government regulation and highest levels of income disparity. He suggests returning to our most prosperous era - the 50s & 60s - for guidance on what worked.

Being German, I have been raised with the philosophy of buying something that's well-made and keeping it as long as possible. More and more I realize that whenever I buy things simply because they are cheap- like some digital cameras that go on sale - I end up not using them much. And this is besides the fact that I am so over the fact that every piece of electronic equipment uses different batteries and chargers and AC adapters.

I know people like to complain about the prices of Leica cameras, but on a cost per use basis, my M9 will turn out to be the cheapest camera I've ever owned.

I try to buy less stuff and I spend the money on what I really want.

Interesting attitudes toward capitalism and trade in many of these comments. Here is a great clip of Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue:
http://youtu.be/RWsx1X8PV_A

I have a Maytag washer (1980's built in the USA) and a Kenmore dryer (1990's made by Inglis in Canada and branded by Sears). My dishwasher is a Maytag (made in USA too) from the 1980's.

Over the years, they have all needed parts of one sort or another. Both Maytags are both going strong, but they have new motors, belts, hoses, springs and timers. Today replacement parts are much harder to find.

Two weeks ago, my Kenmore dryer motor stopped starting so I needed to get a replacement. The original dryer was made in Canada by Inglis and also had a made in Canada motor which failed after 25 years of regular service. (In some cases you can get electric motors rebuilt at a reasonable price, I did this with my Saab alternator since the rebuild was $150 and there were no replacements). However, I bought a new replacement motor for about $150 and it is made in Mexico. I noticed right away that the copper coils were not as heavy as the original so I doubt that I will get another 25 years of service out of the replacement motor. The motor from Mexico is cost reduced.

Since I am a regular customer of the appliance parts store, I asked them if I should get a new model instead of keeping the old units going and I was told that the build of the made in North America appliances were much better. I asked if the computer controls made the new appliances better and I was told that these were expensive replacement parts and needed frequent replacement since a washing machine and dish washer are harsh environments for sensitive computer components.

So keep your old Maytags in service for as long as you can and buy some extra belts and hoses for the time that you need them and they are no longer available.

Many great manufacturers are no more in the USA. Singer Company closed down a huge operation in Eliazbeth NJ (a company I worked for) and moved the production to Taiwan and Brazil.

Kodak made some of the best lenses and view cameras (Master View) in Rochester. And Deardorff's were hand-crafted in Chicago.

The good thing is that most of these products will work longer than the people who own them, none of my Kodak lenses or cameras are new since they were all made before I was born. And I hope that somebody else will enjoy them after I am gone.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I am going to re-foam my made in USA JBL speakers, they have a nasty buzz because the foam has disintegrated. Happily you can buy a kit to fix them.

Just to confuse things, here in Australia we had a Labor government (left-wing, for those who don't follow our politics. And who would?) in the 90's that reduced tariffs and opened up Australian industry to foreign competition.
The outcomes were mixed.
Less industry, but better.
Much lower cost of manufactured goods.
An overall rise in standard of living (bearing in mind that our poorer people are very well protected by social security).
An economy heavily based on mining and farming (oddly, a primitive economy run by some very sophisticated people), with a lot of tertiary industries.
Reduced job security, but also a lower unemployment rate.
An overall rise in standard of living (I know I listed that one already, but it seemed kind of important).

Regarding American Made and American Heritage:
Fortunately there is a company that offers leather called "American Heritage" that is actually made in America. It is J.W. Hulme in Minnesota. They belong to a group promoting American Made items. Details can be seen here:
http://www.jwhulmeco.com/category-s/219.htm

I have enjoyed their products for years and they stand behind their products for a lifetime. A carry-on bag I bought in American Heritage leather will last twenty times longer than the usual digital camera. Perhaps Hulme should do camera bags next?

http://www.jwhulmeco.com

After reading Mike's thoughtful post and the comments, I am struck by how civil the discussion is on this volatile topic. Speaks well of the blog readership.

Here in Australia, local businesses advertise about being, not only Australia owned, but by ownership at the state level. Australia-made takes a back seat to that, but it is still important here.

The real business powerhouse here is the import and distribution business because there is so little real manufacturing here.

We are raising a generation of young Americans whose fingers get sore from texting, not from assembling machines with tools. With unemployment at their age group being so high, it worries me that the future is bleak for young people to learn real skills for a productive career.

My wife is STILL using a 1974 Maytag washer and a dryer made in America; most of the "stuff" made overseas lasts less than 10 years!!!!!!!!!

The thing I lament most is that while stuff is now cheaper, it also breaks far more quickly. Back in the early 1980s my parents spent a good chunk of money on an expensive Hotpoint (Made in Britain at the time) fridge-freezer. It works to this day, being used as a second fridge out in the shed for the last decade and a half. In the same 15 years the kitchen has seen 2 or 3 cheaper refrigerators pass through, which didn't cool half as well and didn't last a fraction of the years before quitting.

The area just south of here used to be renowned across the nation for furniture manufacture, just about all of those manufacturers stopped manufacturing and now import from China. Sad.

As a Brit ex-pat living in the USA, I am proud to say that I have both Ilford and Kodak product in my fridge, both made by properly paid workers in sensible working conditions in the UK and USA.

I recently read a story in the Wall Street Journal bemoaning the losses in American manufacturing...but what somewhat surprised me with all the publicity that we've seen about it, is how much is still done here...and how much large American brands, of things manufactured here, can dominate the trade (on the large end, like Caterpillar and John Deere.) Both Americans and the British make excellent hand and garden tools, and always have. I was once asked by an Israeli archaeologist to bring a suitcase full of Marshalltown Trowels to Israel, because they are the best archaeological trowels in the world...made in Marshalltown, Iowa. (I did that, with momentarily frightening results in Frankfurt, Germany, but that's another story.) But, I basically agree with your column -- and your point of view is not a new one. As John Ruskin once said, back in the 19th century, “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man's lawful prey.” That's what we've been living on, from Walmart -- products made in sweatshops by people given no job protections at all (read the horrifying stories about the factory collapse that killed more than a thousand workers a few weeks ago), made with the cheapest materials, and made to be thrown away. The landfills are full of this crap. (Including, probably, the Newton, Iowa, landfill, because Newton has a Walmart super-center, the worst of the worst.) The sad thing is, the sweatshop jobs are often the best jobs some third-world people can get right now...As that changes (and it will) manufacturing will begin to grow here again. Hopefully, the made-in-America ethic will come to mean quality (as it already does, to some extent.) I currently own German cars, but on a trip these past two weeks, I've driven a series of American cars, and I found them to be surprisingly comfortable and entertaining. And I gotta tell you, if you like to drink coffee or soda while you drive, you need American cup-holder technology, the most advanced in the world. The Germans couldn't make a decent cup-holder to save their lives.

One of the issues not mentioned is "Price Point". Say the manufacturer decides that market testing shows what price the market will bear for an item. As the costs of production rises the manufacturer will look at any way to lower the costs so that price point is not exceeded. Metal parts become plastic. Lesser quality metals get substituted for the better choices. And the modern era has lead to moving factories around the world for the cheapest labor. Manning Bowman lead the way in the early 1930's. Before that period, the workers were proud they made products to last a lifetime. MB instituted planned obsolescence and eventually they were absorbed by McGraw Electrical after WW2. McGraw Electrical owned Toastmaster.

Hi Mike,
American Giant is a pretty cool site for sweatshirts and t-shirts made (for the casual hipster) in America.
I know you're sick of it, but we have a Cloer toaster (German?) that was inexpensive and works well.
I think that Dwell magazine has made in America issues every now and again. Design is still very much alive here.
Long live TOP (entirely made in America!) Cheers, SJ

I am figuratively driven mad by people who abuse "literally".

To toasters and washing machines you can also add can openers. The best manual can opener, IMHO, was the Swing-A-Way. My mother had the wall-mount version for 40 years, and it passed to my sister on her death. So I went to get one of my own to use at work for making lunch. In the interval for some reason, the houseware stores in Canada stopped carrying the brand, and substituted Chinese can openers that never work well and stop working after about 30 cans. They obviously base their design on the old Swing-A-way, but it's junk, and not cheap junk either. Charging 10 bucks for a can opener whose steel is too soft to cut the deliberately soft metal used in cans is theft.

Just wanted to get that off my chest. P.S. all my digital SLRs have been very reliable over the years, regardless of country of origin.

I'm with you to a point -- I don't care that things break, I just want them to work well and after their useful lifespan, I want to be able to replace them.

Here's the main thing for me: removing industry may also mean removing the know-how, innovation, and knowledge behind the product. That for me is the real loss.

I'm a computer scientist and Americans still make the best search engine (Google), the best mainstream operating system (Windows), most of the main underlying protocols used on the Internet, and a whole bunch of other cool tech things...

I for one, am very glad for made in America!

Pak

p.s. I've only seen Maytags in laundromats in Australia, and even then they were rare, but given the use case, I've always assumed they were built to last the distance!

I don't think buying local is the solution to trying to maintain a middle class. Classes are set up through the distribution of wealth. Wealth comes as the fruit of our labour. If you were trying to support my job to help keep a middle class by purchasing my services you would be doing significantly more to extend the inequity between working and wealthy classes by giving my boss $3 and me $1 . I would rather you bought the dam toaster in China and gave me $4 this would significantly help reduce the inequality. Except for the guy in China, maybe what we should do is support universal labour laws for products and services being sold in our community, knowing that whomever made this product got an equal share.

This is a great OT although steering perilously close to the no politics wind. It is an area of history I find fascinating, how the current distribution of wealth was established and how those with the wealth interact with those who don't. I’m sure some of your other readers could recommend a book on this I would be grateful.

PS thank you for the blog

I agree with Geoff & Chris -- buy the best quality you can afford; pay cash (or cash equivalent) even if you have to save to do so.

My 9-year old CR-V runs pretty much like the day I bought it new -- it's Japanese brand, but was made, of all places, in the UK. OK, assembled in the UK. There are no more vehicles that have totally domestic production. North American CR-Vs are now made in Alliston, Ontario, IIRC. I am scared to buy any vehicle other than a Honda in the future, that is how good my experience has been.

The conundrum, however, is that if we truly support quality it may be sourced in one of the low wage, environmentally damaging countries. My Chamonix was made in China but is of very high quality, and represents hand craftsmanship, which I love to reward. How else can those who have lived in poverty become more prosperous and thus support the social advances the west has enjoyed?

My Velbon carbon fibre tripod was made in ... well, I don't really know where. It is just good quality. The Acratech head is American made, my film is mostly British.

My current amp for music is actually a restored Fisher receiver, American made in the 60s, driving American made speakers (DCM Time Window 1a) from the early 90s. The home theatre speakers are Canadian (Angstrom) but all the electronics are either Japanese or Chinese.

Everything was chosen for the quality/value ratio that made sense.

I don't buy much stuff. I'd love to busy American clothes but the only ones I find arebat ludicrous prices, and I live on a modest income. Luckily, pool cues, about which I do care quite a lot, are mostly made in the US or Canada. Except for very cheap ones that aren't worth bothering with. I shoot with a Joss, a lovely and distinctive cue I adore. Even house cues (at bars and pool halls) are often made in Canada, by Dufferin. And most good tables are still made here. Olhausen, the biggest maker of home tables, makes theirs in Tennessee. Even though they make aot of tables, the quality is quite nice. I like how Diamonds look and play and would be happy to own one. Or an old Brunswick commercial table. A member of my team has a Gold Crown 2 that is close to 50 years old and still plays like new. Looks a little rough, bit nothing that can't be easily fixed.

As for other stuff, about all I buy is electronics and none of it is made here entirely. I used to buy Dells that were assembled in Texas, but now it could be made in Taiwan. At least I mostly buy American brands so there are employees here at their headquarters. I have a Google/Asus tablet (nice) and an HP computer. The printer is Epson, but they are one of those rare companies who have never disappointed me. The current beast is wonderful.

If I'm buying imports I try not to buy from repressive regimes, though it's almost impossible to completely avoid China. I am very comfortable buying Japanese, Korean, Mexican, and Taiwanese goods. Both because they are stable democracies and because they seem to care about quality. Consumer Reports often has LG and Samsung near the top of appliance ratings. LG laundry product have excellent reliability ratings.

We also have a Korea Hyundai Elantra we bought recently and think very highly of. It was better equipped and just nicer than similarly priced American, German, and Japanese cars. No, it doesn't drive like a German car, but it's OK, and the Germans still are erratic when it comes to reliability. Some of the simpler models rate well, but their complex cars are disastrously expensive to maintain and repair. The Hyundai will be cheap to own and I trust it was made in a modern factory by a workforce that is paid well (for Korea).

+1000 on this one Mike. In the 80s I thought it was a form of protectionism to buy American, when cheaper and often better made foreign products were available. But now, with a little more seasoning under my belt, I see the corrosive effects of racing to the bottom and try to buy domestically when possible and when the quality warrants the price.

BTW, should your Maytag perish, you may try to reincarnate it as an electric motorcycle, like this...

http://vimeo.com/62226203

"Of course there are exceptions, such as Bombardier or Blackberry, but by and large, there are no Canadian manufacturers..."

Don't tell the folks at Magna International (who make most of the parts inside the "USA-made" cars and trucks). Magna is a huge Canadian company and employer, and adds more to the domestic economy than RIM/BlackBerry ever did.

To bring this a little bit back on topic, I am frequently amazed at how many Canadians complain (in online forums and in person) about the marginally higher prices for cameras and lenses up here, and use this as justification to buy from B&H or Adorama. Where does that leave the Canadian subsidiary, or the Canadian distributor, or the Canadian retailer of those products? Oh yeah, keeping prices up to keep the lights on...

Thanks for a very thought-provoking post, Mike. This is a complicated issue, and Rahul is correct -- there's no easy anwser. You observe, sensibly, that "An economy grows prosperous through people making things and buying and selling things to their neighbors." Well I suppose we could ask, who do we consider our neighbors? In a world made smaller by technology, communications, and intercontinental travel, aren't Chinese and Bangladeshi workers also our neighbors, and doesn't their well-being impact us as well? I'd like to think that as prosperity is shared more evenly throughout the globe, the world might gradually become a more peaceful place. But clearly, it's a very uneven, stop-start kind of process, and as you correctly point out, there are lots of individuals and communities that have been seriously hurt.

I tend to think the problems that beset many American communities these days have less to do with globalization per se than they do with stagnant real wages, and the hollowing out of labor unions that we've seen over the last generation or so. We've tended to look at our economic lives more and more from the standpoint of ourselves as consumers, and less from the standpoint of ourselves as workers. We spend a great deal of time and energy trying to get the most stuff for our hard-earned dollar, but we've largely forgotten how to stick together to demand a living wage. Whether it's Wal-Mart or foreign cars made in non-union American factories, we've traded our rights as workers for a discount price tag.

Recently I was shopping for shoes in Marshall's, and bought a pair of Perry Ellis America shoes, which of course were made in China. I have an ancient pair of Dexter boots that were actually made in America. I wish I could buy more stuff made here, but the MBA types infesting corporate America won't allow it. Regardless of which party they support.

The Maytags from late 60's and early 70's were marvels of simple and reliable design. I had one, took the front panel off, and wondered at the lack of big metal that the Kenmore machines had. Maytag blue cheese is still good, though.

Had a VW Rabbit back in the mid 70's that soured me on VW's for good.

Quality tends to move around with as much volatility as manufacturing, but to different places. No rules of "so and so always make good whatevers" lasts for the long term.

Textile manufacturers in New England got decimated by the migration of manufacturing to the low-wage non-union South, who in turn got decimated by off-shore manufacturers, and that industry seems to be chasing the poorer labor markets around the world. Been happening for at least my 70 years.

Ayn Rand talks about "enlightened self-interest" guiding capitalism to decisions that result in greater social good. I used to believe that. Then the evidence came in. Just so much feel-good BS to justify rapacity.

End of rant. (I really hate getting started on this.)

Sorry, but I can't stop laughing at the "Germans make good cars" line. That would have been true before globalization started. Better check where BMW and VW/Audi/Porsche have their factories.
Hint: no, it is NOT in Germany...

In spite of my huge populist leanings, consider the possible alternatives at the end of the Cold War... and those billion idle Chinese. We could have blissfully isolated and ignored them until we woke up to face a gigantic and biligerent North Korean-style Stalinist state "on steroids"... But instead we engaged them in peaceful commerce, to their betterment and our loss.

Making a partner of a potential foe may have been the smartest or luckiest thing that could have happened, considering the circumstances. Evil heartless global capitalism may just be what saved us from blowing up the planet with World War III.

Mike,
I was just having a discussion today with my daughter about consistency of thought. About how you lose credibility if you are not consistent in your actions and words.

It's odd to see the angst coming from you about lost American manufacturing when the cars that you have mentioned that you own(ed) are a Miata, Mercedes C280 and a Toyota Rav4? Which of those has a high USA percent of parts or assembly?

Did you look at an American manufactured vacuum before you bought the Dyson?

I have started to look for the best quality I can afford, and then stick with that brand to reward the manufacturer in return for getting great products.

Btw, my Subaru WRX is the first non-American made (all Japan content and assembly) car I have owned and it has been by far the best car I have ever owned.

[Been down that road...in the '90s I bought a Dodge Neon chiefly because it was manufactured in Belvidere, Illinois, and I lived in Chicago at the time. I haven't owned many cars in my life, but that was easily the worst--after three years it felt older than my previous-to-that Mazda had felt at age nine.

Ironic because Chrysler's Belvidere plant was later its first one to go completely robotic. No clue who builds the robots....

My RAV4 was built in Canada. --Mike]

I completely agree with your views on quality and much of the sentiment in your post. However, I have to offer a small counterpoint to some of the ideas you present against globalization.

As someone who often travels to much poorer nations, I find people there are deprived of opportunities to work. Seeing as there is no social safety net, the situation is even more depraved. And we see jobs, many of which require little to no skills, move into these places because labor is much cheaper when compared to the US. In many ways, as you clearly point out, this is a zero sum game for the individuals involved. But I have to ask, what makes an American more entitled to a particular job over an individual in a much poorer country, who is also trying to feed their family?

While I disagree with child labor, there is a counter point to that as well. When children worked on a farm, it wasn't considered child labor, it was helping out with the family (business). When the US was establishing laws against child labor, it was groups like the Irish Catholics who were against them the most, as they were impoverished immigrants who relied on their children to help in supporting the family. This is the case in many countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh where children are not children after the age of 12, and there are no secondary schools available. Without school, and without work (in a protected and regulated environment), what can they do? Everyone can agree this is not ideal, but these changes don't happen over night.

I think you highlight some very real problems we face with globalization, be it quality issues or exporting our pollution. Living in one of these developing countries, quality is a major issue. You only have to Google "China food scandal" to find out how dangerous water, food, and even air can be. America was once in the same position. The Cuyahoga River caught fire as recently as 1969. I think we've since progressed and hope countries like China have begun their turn in the right direction.

As Americans, we have many more educational opportunities and social insurances, which are not available to people in developing countries. I feel fortunate I was able to take student loans and study my choice of subjects. America's talented are given the opportunity to pursue those talents. It's not easy, but nothing in life has ever been.

It feels great to run in my American made New Balance, but I don't worry that my socks were made in Indonesia or begrudge the individuals who are willing to work much longer for less money to make them. I'm sure if given the choice, they would gladly switch places with even the poorest American in an instant (and it's proven by the number of immigrants that risk their lives for the chance).

I surely don't mean to start a debate, but it's a complicated topic for sure.

Thanks for the great blog,

Scotto

So, since this is a camera forum, if I had the most recent & greatest (as to build & image quality) American-made camera and lens - would it be a Canham or Deardorff 4x5 with a 60's era Kodak Commercial Ektar (or, perhaps an Ilex Acuton)? Kodak film, of course! A Ries Tripod? Might have trouble finding a Weston meter that actually works.

Fiskars makes the best rakes in the world.

I had come to the conclusion that American business managers were simply evil, corrupted by MBAs, until this week.
Futurity, the university R&D newsletter ran an article about some research done by U. Buffalo. It's not that executives are necessarily evil, but they succeed because they are bullies.
"They use those skills to strategically abuse their coworkers, yet still receive positive evaluations from their supervisors, according to a recent study that is one of the first attempts to measure the relationship between being a bully and job performance."
Yep, your boss is likely a bully and probably enjoys making you miserable - or putting you out of work!
Read it yourself:
http://www.futurity.org/top-stories/why-bullies-succeed-on-the-job/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=931dfcd6bc-May_17_20135_17_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-931dfcd6bc-203921845

Re-the misuse of "literally" my daughters will never let me forget an interview I did with local TV some years back. Most of my week is spent running training/therapy sessions for people with disabilities on a horticultural nursery. To my horror, when watching the broadcast that evening I heard myself claim that "..our clients literally blossom!"

Ah, my last German car was an Audi A3 2.0 TDI, and it needed a whole new enginblock afer 130.000 km....the engineblock developed a crack, so it started loosing water. Next car will be French.....just as badly build but a lot cheaper.

The problem these days is the way cars (and everything else) is developed. Development cycles aren't driven by technical personel but by the marketing department. A Golf generation used to last 12 to 14 years back in the 70th and 80th, now they pump out a new generation every 4 years....something has to give.

Greets, Ed.

The worlds first industrial suburb, that's how my neighbourhood is often described. Ancoats, in Manchester, was cotttonopolis quite some time before Lewis Hine was born. It was the Detroit of cotton, and suffered a similar fate when our industry took a slow boat to china, leaving the Rochdale canal, and our mills, empty. Almost everybody I know
is unemployed. It's not just a British made garment they can't find

On the bright side, we are due a Starbucks soon (gentrifactions in full swing) so every cloud...

I live in Italy, and I don`t buy italian "per se", because I feel too much times the nationalistic jingle is used to deviate buyer attention from item quality. IF a thing is of good quality and at an honest price, I'll buy italian. But if it is of substandard quality, no moaning about "helping the locals" will fool me, sorry. It is exactly this line of toughts that encourages poor manufacturing.

Remember when "Made in Germany" meant "cheap knock-off"?

Of course you don't. But that was the reason why the Brits forced the international adoption of the merchandise origin mark with their Merchandise Marks Act in 1887. In due course, "Made in Germany" came to signify "high quality", while "Made in Great Britain" more often than not meant "tough luck, mate, especially on a Monday or after a strike".
Same, a few decades later, with "Made in Japan".

It would take a lot more than "voting with our wallets" to change things. It would take, first, foremost, and always, a vote for sustainability. And, sooner than you'd like, you're talking politics.

Apple announced they will move Mac mini production to USA sometime. Maybe this is a sign that they will start paying their full share of tax in UK and acknowledging UK (and EU) law on warranties but I am not holding my breath.

It may have a lot to do with how you do your sums. Companies shift production to areas of cheap labour. Why wouldn't they? They make more money that way. But what does it cost? No company takes those costs into account, there is no way to do so, it's outside their frame of reference.

So Chinese workers get jobs and local folk lose theirs. Competition is good in a lot of ways. We get cheap cameras and cars, good ones too. But at least part of what keeps things cheap overseas is a legal environment that lets companies get away with a lot that would not be permitted in more "advanced" countries. Ok, so that's their problem, isn't it? I mean it's terrible when a factory full of foreigners dies, but they should have more stringent building codes and worker safety rules, shouldn't they? It's their problem. Until you discover that the multi-national forces at work may have prevented that from happening. Do those workers have freedom of association? Can they protect themselves? Can they influence decision-making in their own country? If not, why not. Who benefits.

Funny how when capital moves overseas and exports modern manufacturing, we don't simultaneously export worker safety rules or modern building codes. That's none of our business, of course.

Traditionally, government was the mediator in these society-wide contracts, but government is bad now. So we more or less accept it as given that governments are in place to help business grow and make money, as if they can't look after themselves. It's becoming old-fashioned to think that governments should represent all citizens, not just some citizens. There does not seem to be a good way to account for societal mediation on the part of representative government on the balance sheets, so we don't even try anymore.

Not sure if this has been raised as I don't have the time to read all the comments, but I'm sure you are aware of the excessive water usage of that old washing machine along with concurrent increased energy usage. It's not the bargain you think it is. The new front-loaders use less than a quarter of the water and are much more efficient.
Mark

ours was a 1973 model.

an older local guy and his son kept it running up to last spring. they couldn't get parts any longer.

our solution...buy the absolute least expensive (sale or clearance) and replace at the first repair.

it sounds wrong (and probably is) but our elctricity bill is down and the next gen will likely be even more efficient, so it is the course we,ve decided to pursue.

Lucky we all don't buy 'locally made' when it comes to our film blogs Mike!

There are lots of people here equating "made overseas" with "poorly made", of course it is, that's how you want it. They are also wishfully implying that American made would be automatically superior, stop kidding yourselves. As a Brit I can remember (60s/70s) when American made meant "shoddy" and we bought Japanese stuff in preference. In America you had to have "Buy American" campaigns because people weren't doing so, because a lot of American made stuff was shoddy (and overpriced for what it was).

Stuff is made overseas because it can be made more cheaply, this stuff is also made to a lower quality because it can be made more cheaply. These things happen because people want cheap. You, the people voted with your wallets and now you've got what you asked for (and deserve).

I thought top load washing machine does not work well (based on experience using four since 1960s to 1990s). Only front load one did it good. It is first time I heard any top load one really work. May be it is American. What is its water pipe position. Well, my top load always come from Japan with low water pipe position and front load always come from Europe with high water pipe position.

After decades of decline, GE has been reinvesting in its massive Appliance Park in Louisville. It's third new product line, washing machines! (Sadly, I doubt they will match the longevity of the 60's Maytag. ) For the full story, see the Atlantic article in the second link below.

New GE Laundry Appliance Manufacturing Lines Starts at Appliance Park
...
The startup of the two laundry lines completes the new product platforms that GE committed to bring to Appliance Park in 2010.

The 2010 announcement said that GE would invest $1 billion to transform its U.S. appliances business and products. Since the announcement, GE Appliances has hired 3,000 new employees in Louisville--2,500 of those were in 2012 alone.
...

http://www.appliancemagazine.com/news.php?article=1669314&zone=0&first=1


The Insourcing Boom

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/12/the-insourcing-boom/309166/

And of course, Apple stuff is made in China. and I've never heard that stuff called shoddy. That is because it is made to a high standard not to a low price.

This link will send you to a web page that lists full information regarding the ownership of household appliance manufacturers. Admittedly some of the makes might not be familier to the US reader but it might prove interesting to see where the German brands are manufactured.

http://www.ukwhitegoods.co.uk/help/about-the-appliance-industry/manufacturer-information.html

@latent-image "I wonder how many Chinese assembly line workers making toasters actually use a toaster?"

It's highly likely none of them do. I travel to China almost every year and I have yet to see toast being eaten anywhere, even in homes. Just not part of their diet.

My thoughts generally echo yours, Mike. If it's all or pretty much the same I'll prefer it made here.

But there's something I've noticed while shopping around. In those rare instances when a similar product is made in America it's often not much more expensive (if any!) than what comes from China.

Your jeans example, and there's another at texasjeans.com, reveal that they don't really have to cost more than whatever's at the local mall. So what's really going on here?

A lot of what we buy are commodity items and the market will determine what they will cost. This means that foreign-made goods will naturally rise at retail, and that the labor savings is being eaten up by profits.

Cost advantages, especially in a global economy, are temporary.

Think about the advice you gave to the photographer when setting print prices. Build value (or, expectation) simply by asking for more money (or words to that effect.)

See also Tim Cook's recent comments about Apple to make some Macs here in the States beginning this year. In fact the 21.5" iMac is now made here. http://arstechnica.com/apple/2013/05/apple-ceo-were-going-very-deep-with-us-manufacturing/

At one point he said it wasn't cost holding them back, but sufficient pool of qualified workers and other infrastructure. Tim used to be their finance guy; no one knows better than he what it costs to make a Mac.

**************
The dryer you have is early-'80s I think. That's about when my parents' 1964 Maytag set was replaced with a new set. They still have them both. My grandparents also got new Maytags in '64 and both the washer and dryer outlived them both some 20-30 years later.

Last year I decided to buy my S.O. an umbrella because the freebies she kept getting at conventions and conferences would only last a year or so. I went searching for one that wasn't made in China. I did find one. For a little over $200.00

Well, it's cheaper than that $250.00 toaster. (She loves the umbrella, BTW)

I was born in Hong Kong to an American mother. My dad was a subject of the British Monarchy. I have a US passport but I never lived in the US until I was in my teens. I consider myself an American, but I certainly wasn't made in America. Given my provenance, I like the idea of American quality and foreign manufacture, and am hoping they aren't incompatible.

Toys from Hong Kong tend not to last too long.

Another good made-in-the-USA clothing manufacturer is American Apparel ( http://americanapparel.net ). I love their women’s jeans the most but have other items I like, including their thigh-high socks.

(But, yeah, my car was made in Germany... my photography gear in Japan and Thailand... my computers, phone, and TV in China... my bicycle in Japan. I look for top quality items but most are not manufactured in the US.)

Two small examples come to mind when I think "Made in Portugal".
1. Last year I bought a pair of sneakers branded "Sanjo". This is a trademark of a company that used to be a major name in footwear here in Portugal, competing with Adidas and Converse in its glory days, but the company struggled under the effects of all those free trade treaties that are ruining national economies. Recently they launched a very attractive line of All Star-like sneakers. I bought a pair, believing I was buying "Made in Portugal", thus helping our ailing economy. Turns out they were made in China! Their soles wore out after less than a year, making Formula 1's Pirelli supersoft tyres seem long-lasting in comparison.
Example #2: when you buy a Leica M, you may be misled by the "Made in Germany" engraving. The bodies are actually made in Portugal. Although many components come from Germany and Belgium (the Leica M sensor is sourced from CMOSIS, a belgian company), the body shells are made in Portugal and assembly takes place at a portuguese factory a mere 15 miles from my hometown. Of course, Leica wouldn't sell if they stuck a "Made in Portugal" inscription on those expensive bodies, but I dare anyone to find any build quality issues in a Leica M body.
You see, buying "national" is only part of the story. It can be misleading sometimes.

How about the people who - literally - cannot pronounce 'literally'?

(skip to the 3:40 mark)

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-may-16-2013/the-road-to-the-road-to-the-road-to-the-white-house

I generally try and source my purchases within Switzerland, where I live, and where I have a vested interest in seeing availability of niche local markets, but I'm also a big fan of Made-in-USA Gordy's Camera straps, so here's the link in a feeble effort at dragging the blog back on topic.

http://www.gordyscamerastraps.com/

Whew! Reading other comments make me think of my past. Wand as four or five years of age my parents purchased a front load wahser, a Bendix! A lady arrived in a formal dress and high heels shortly thereafter to instruct my mother on how to use said Bendix washer. Being who I was and still to this day a trouble maker, asked the lady why we had to squeeze the clothes after they had been spin dried when the Caulfield tub washer with ringer (made in nearby Hamilton Ontario)
did a better job. I was told to go upstairs into the house. The Bendix died maybe ten years later, we bought an Inglis washer and dryer set from the local Eaton's department store (now gone along with Simpsons).
The Caulfield was still in the basement still working on the heavy things like bedspreads andthe like as the other machines couldn't handle the load.
Fast forward to 2010. The house was sold sold, after our family had lived there since
1948. The Caulfield was still there, still working with replacement rollers and functioning gearbox. The 25 cycle motor had been replaced with a 60 cycle in 1957, however it too was still working. I purchased my own home (have never married and lived with my now deceased parents (Dad in 1982, Mu in 2011) for years. the Caulfield now sits and still works in the basement of my new bungalow, along with the small built in Mexico space ship related washer, which doesn't sound like a washer.

BTW today is Victoria Day a National Holiday in Canada (we still have ties to the British Commonwealth of Nations)as I write this the Caulfield is washing my bedspread and it will be sent through the ringer and then hung on the line at the back of the house. Yes I have a second hand clothes dryer but the sun was meant for drying things, and the clothes smell so nice afterwards unlike all those artifical flavours and smells of the detergent.
BTW is the sun Canadian, American or foreign?
I am using the domestic sun to dry my clothes!

The Japanese make the best cameras?

Not according to you!

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/12/the-best-camera-in-the-world.html

[No, I stick by both statements. Very few people would take pictures at all if Leica was the only camera there was. And Leica needed an "angel" (a very wealthy owner willing to make huge investments not strictly on a hardheaded business basis) just to survive the digital transition. --Mike]

A similar question used to come up periodically on a cycling list i followed for years: is it possible to build a bike of completely American-made parts? There has been a big resurgence of craft framebuilding in the last decade, so that's easy. The problem is in sourcing all the small parts: wheel components, pedals, bearings, etc. There are a few options for boutique American parts (brakes, saddles, seat posts), but AFAIK derailers and tires simply aren't made in the USA any more. The closest you can get in a complete package is a Worksman, which is a heavy-duty bike primarily sold for factory transportation and beach rentals.

Quality is a reflection of sales trends and the policies of supermarkets and big stores. Buy in bulk at the cheapest price, sell stuff that breaks and charge people again and again. Perfect business sense.

People who are very price sensitive seldom understand the value of a properly made item, in which case they deserve to get skinned.

And then we have consumer electronics. Every year brings upgrades and advances, and the victims want to buy the latest - this dictates the planned lifespan, price, volume and therefore place of manufacture.

You want to make 5,000 high class amplifiers? Use a plant in the US, UK, Czech Republic or New Zealand. You want to build 100,000 cheap ones, you have to head East.

But if you look for specialist equipment, such as scientific instruments, racing car parts, turbine blades, power station generators, or even just high quality goods such as professional power tools, high end hi-fi, racing bicycles, furniture, kitchens, kitchen tools etc. you will be amazed how much of it is made in the USA, UK, Germany, Italy etc. And don't forget the US still makes all the worlds most advanced weapons!

So consumer goods and indeed processed food could be made anywhere, but that artists brush may be made in Wisconsin (with imported llama hair). And the US now makes a lot of good quality beers and wines too. You make a lot of stuff, not least software which you export to most of the known world.

And there is a gradual swing away from outsourcing too, or at least off-shoring. What looks good on a balance sheet can end up being a logistical nightmare, but also may not represent equivalent value to what it replaced. Then there are the local business practices to contend with. China is starting to stall under a million tons of corruption and red tape.

But in the end, globalisation of production and supply is the ONLY way that many countries can lift themselves out of poverty. However it helps if Western governments place some ethical controls over the conditions under which goods imported and sold in their countries are produced and fine manufacturers who ignore it. Off-shoring should not mean washing your hands of humanitarian concerns.

On the topic of quality made goods, I happened into this shop in Munich while visiting for Oktoberfest a few years back and have wished that their distribution to the US was better ever since -

http://manufactum.com/

Their about-us intro echos many of the notes above:
"Dear Reader,
"There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper". Over a century later and John Ruskin's observation is still valid; what's more, we believe it says a lot about the products on offer today. There was a time when the only problem facing quality goods was competition from goods of an even higher quality, now it seems that inferior goods are the main problem.

Certainly, as far as household goods are concerned, there are very few high quality products which are not diminished by the proliferation of paler imitations, produced by unimaginative competitors at the lowest possible price."

http://www.manufactum.com/us-c-4/

Those of you in the EU and Britain, if you've not checked out one of these shops, you should.

I'm an Australian living in Australia but I have a "Made in America" story. It has to do with Hewlett Packard calculators. I'm an engineer and in the 1980s when I was an engineering student a good calculator could save your neck or at least a lot of your time.

Back in high school (probably 1983) my father brought home a Hewlett Packard 32E calculator for me. It was solid as a rock, durable and, once you understood how it worked, very easy and fast to use. It was made in Colorado.

It broke down in 1985, I took it to the local HP service centre and they replaced it for free something like eight years out of warranty.

I subsequently replaced it with other HP calculators and stupidly threw it out. Recently I thought I'd lost my HP calculator (a HP 42s) and tried to buy a replacement. HP is not what it was. The new calculator is designed and made in China. The build quality is average (it had a fault out of the box) and I was told by the seller that warranty repairs don't happen.

This is a crying shame. HP calculators have or had a fervent following (see www.hpmuseum.org) but now they are a thing of the past. You can buy a HP 42s used on ebay for several time its original retail price.

Regards,

Bruce

@Bruce:
Like you I was brought up on a steady diet of RPN HP calculators. Want the next best thing?
Try this: if you have a iPhone, go to itunes and search for ClassicRPN. It is cheap and gives you an 11C, 12C, 15C and 16C all in one app.
And NO! - you cannot have my 16C Programmer: it'll follow me into the grave!

Vance Packard, an American, 1960, The Waste Makers and the concept of "planned obsolescence". It's not new.

When our Maytag dryer kicked the bucket we checked with a local appliance dealer for a replacement.
We bought a Maytag Centennial dryer which the store owner said was made in Ohio (not Newton, but in the USA).
He told us that machine was built on the chassis normally reserved for the coin operated units so it should be pretty tough.
I don't know if any of that is true but the dryer is terrific and appears to be built like a tank.

My favourite use of "literally" was heard on the radio here in the UK when they handed over to a reporter commenting on the dramatic conclusion to a football match, with the crowd going wild. The reporter opened with "Hell has literally broken loose here..." Dramatic indeed!

I was in my hardware store and am told by the salesperson that Leatherman tools are proudly made in the USA because the owner wanted it that way.

Many things that were made in USA (or for that matter from the country of original manufacture) are no longer so and one can debate till the cows come home as to why that is so. Apparently, labour costs, union issues, new partnerships, global villaging, and various matters peculiar to the human psyche made such developments all tenable or perhaps even unavoidable.

Anything that was proudly made to last (like cameras manufactured in the 50s) eventually backfired except one.

Leicas seem to have endured the test of time. At a time when this brand should go the way of dinosaurs as seen in Rolleis, Contaxes, Alpas, Pentaxes and Yashicas just to name a few, it survived after losing one arm namely the R system. The M system survived cos lenses manufactured almost 80 years ago are still compatible with the current crop of M digital cameras. Then there is this brand name that people would beg, borrow and steal for.

Despite all the bragging hype about megapixels and sensor sizes, the heart of every camera is the quality of the lens. The body is just a light tight box to exclude light when the imaging takes place. Who talks about lens fingerprinting these days?

Leica made great lenses and still makes them that way. It's the heart that endures and sells.

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