Saturday, July 21, 2007

The New Racism: Xenophobia and Protectionism

"Both major political parties (and most of the minor ones) are infested with protectionist fellow travelers, who would discriminate on the basis of national origin no less virulently that David Duke or any other overt racist would discriminate on the basis of skin color. But if racism is morally repugnant - and it is - then so is xenophobia (fear or dislike of foreigners), and for exactly the same reasons."

~Steven E. Landsbug, from the chapter "The New Racism" in his new book "More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics"

MP: The xenophobic sign above is posted in the parking lot of the UAW Local #659 in Flint, Michigan. As I queried in a comment on a previous post on this topic (and about this sign) last September, is there really any difference between a sign that says "No Mexicans allowed on this property," and "No cars built by Mexicans allowed on this property?" From a moral standpoint, I really don't think there is any difference. If you object morally to blatant discrimination and racism against people of Mexican or Chinese origin, then you can't logically support protectionism or discrimination against products made by Mexicans or Chinese.

(Corrected) As Landsburg points out, "If it's OK to enrich ourselves by denying foreigners the right to earn a living, why shouldn't we enrich ourselves by invading peaceful countries and seizing their assets? Most of us don't believe that's a good idea because we believe human beings have human rights, whatever their color and wherever they live. Stealing assets is wrong, and so is stealing the right to earn a living (with protectionism), no matter where the victim was born."

23 Comments:

At 7/21/2007 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they'll go home to their Japanese wide screen TV and a house stuffed full of foreign goods. They can afford them.

 
At 7/21/2007 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All protectionism has one purpose, to protect the domestic producers of goods and services from the greed of the consumer.
buck

 
At 7/21/2007 11:34 AM, Anonymous Mark Perry said...

I'd like to see them name which car is 100% "American" made parts anymore.

(Came across your blog when doing a Google search for my name)

 
At 7/21/2007 12:13 PM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

II believe people should be able to buy whatever they want to buy. That’s economic freedom. And, Americans have fought and died for freedom. At the same time, I am an ardent believer in property-right freedoms. You can buy whatever you want, but you might not be able to park it in my driveway and I might not do business with you. Your car: my property and money. It’s your freedom to make that choice.

As a member of UAW Local 659, I made a motion to have that sign removed because, as you correctly pointed out, American-made cannot easily be defined, so the sign is ambiguous and therefore pointless. My motion was unanimously voted down. I think I was called an idiot there, too.

In reality, though, the sign is only a symbol of nationalism just as the American flag because no cars have ever been towed. We don't expect to see a Japanese flag wherever we see an American flag: Do we? Isn’t that flag discrimination? Yet, for some reason, that's not considered morally wrong or racist. Buy what you want, but be prepared to park wherever you can. My drive way is not public property subject to your free passage; neither are private-membership Union Halls’ parking lots.

Is this a protectionist/racist or freedom issue? Only you can make that personal judgment. Some people see it one way and some see it another. That’s how America works, and that’s why it’s so great.

 
At 7/21/2007 5:05 PM, Blogger skh.pcola said...

Saying that xenophobia is a dislike of foreigners is more than a little dishonest. Redefining common terms is a weak method of making a point. I had a fear of being shot when I was in the Gulf, but I didn't dislike guns, gunshots, etc. "-Phobia" denotes "fear," not a "dislike," regardless of the analogy.

Landsburg says:
"If it's OK to enrich ourselves by denying foreigners the right to enrich ourselves by denying foreigners the right to earn a living, why shouldn't we enrich ourselves by invading peaceful countries and seizing their assets? "

Uh. What? Not only does that not make a lick of sense, it is circular and ridiculous. Scratch this economist off of my list of authors to look for at the B&N. He and Krugman should get together and start a "WTF Economics Club."

 
At 7/22/2007 6:30 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Just curious about the folks that wanted the billboard posted, how many of them I wonder shop at Wal-Mart/Sams?

Didn't something similer to this happen on auto-plant property some twenty plus years ago?

 
At 7/22/2007 6:50 AM, Blogger Gregory said...

This is bad logic. We have no eliminated a Mexican's ability to make a living, he can go do something else for someone else, such as another Mexican. All we have done is slightly curtailed everyones rights, both Mexican and American, we have harmed each other equally (although some individuals are harmed more or less).

 
At 7/22/2007 11:15 AM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

As Juandos said:

"Didn't something similar to this happen on auto-plant property some twenty plus years ago?"

GM stipulates in their contacts that outsourced services only bring GM vehicles onto their property. Our security (outsourced) will not let imported vehicles into our front parking lot. Before you ask, security subjectively decides what is imported through the surveillance system to raise the automatic arm into our front parking lot. As far as I know, no one has ever filed a legal complaint. Although, if the vendors ask, they are allowed on the property and they can still park in the far lots, but this information is not voluntarily disclosed by security. Most of them just leave and call back the people who need the services or parts. I have my deliveries disrupted once or twice a week over this inane policy. It’s not only annoying, but it disrupts my scheduling thereby reducing efficiency and driving up projects costs.

What’s ironic about this policy is that most of the parts we are buying are imported for our imported machinery and imported office equipment. No, we don’t refuse those because we would go out of business if we did. Hypocrites—yes, stupid hypocrites-—no. It all seems sort of silly to me, but I just work there and get blamed for being an under-educated and under-worked UAW worker.

 
At 7/22/2007 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would they do with my Nissan Pathfinder? It was made in Tennessee. Is that sufficiently American made?

Many "American" GM cars are made in plants in Canada that, as an aside, have a better quality record than Detroit plants.

 
At 7/22/2007 2:11 PM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

If you are happy with your Nissan, that's all that matters. You might suddenly be unhappy with your purchase if you pull up in a UAW member's driveway to sell your products or services. It's your choice, though.

Union members tend to do business with people who support them. Isn't that how the business world actually operates? Why don't people expect union members to operate like ordinary businessmen?

 
At 7/22/2007 5:00 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"to protect the domestic producers of goods and services from the greed of the consumer"... LOL!

That's excellent buck!

walt g's comment about GM vehicles on GM property reminded me of something someone who is into drifting competition told me awhile back...

In Japan where drifting is apparently quite popular (I don't get it personally) also it seems that American made Toyotas and Hondas are much in demand for these competitions...

There was no reason offered but I'm thinking that between the Japanese tariff system and the costs of changing the steering wheel to the otherside, this can't be a cheap choice for those Japanese who want one of those vehicles...

A rebellion thingie maybe?

 
At 7/22/2007 7:12 PM, Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Why is Landsburg denying me the right to crash on his couch? He's enriching himself by denying me (and everyone else) that opportunity. Why doesn't he just go ahead and steal from people? It's the same thing.

 
At 7/22/2007 8:27 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

In reponse to skh.pcola, here is the definition of xenophobia from Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Xenophobia: "Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign."

I don't see how I was "redefining common terms" when I used xenophbia the way it is commonly used, exactly according to the standard dictionary definition?

 
At 7/23/2007 6:13 AM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

You might have defined the term correctly, but applied it wrongly. It's a leap of logic to go from loyalty to fear and hatred. I agree the wording on the sign is offensive; however, the intent, although poorly communicated, is to support Americans.

If I decide to buy a car from my neighbor instead of a "foreign" car dealer, it's not necessarily true that I hate or fear the local car dealer. That's a might be true conditional and not a must be true conditional using formal logic, so the truth value of your "hate" statement is questionable.

 
At 7/23/2007 4:00 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Landsburg wrote:

"But if racism is morally repugnant - and it is - then so is xenophobia (fear or dislike of foreigners), and for exactly the same reasons."

SKH commented:

"Saying that xenophobia is a dislike of foreigners is more than a little dishonest. Redefining common terms is a weak method of making a point. I had a fear of being shot when I was in the Gulf, but I didn't dislike guns, gunshots, etc. "-Phobia" denotes "fear," not a "dislike," regardless of the analogy."

I don't think SKH's comment was about whether the UAW sign is xenophobic, but about the definition of the word in general. Landsburg and I are both using the standard, common dictionary definition of the word "xenophobia," and I think SKH's issue is therefore really more with Merriam-Webster than with Landsurg or me.

 
At 7/23/2007 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrorists might seem an odd addition to this discussion and I bring them up only for tactical reasons. Al queda is losing support and membership in Iraq and Afghanistan because of their extremism and attacks in all directions. They forget they are outnumbered everywhere by people who aren't Al queda and the blowback comes from a large population.

UAW workers are a small percentage of U.S. citizens. If they act to annoy a large percentage of U.S. citizens the blowback is going to leave them with nothing to eat but their union cards.

 
At 7/24/2007 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all seems so ridiculous...No form of protectionism can stay for too long...it will be certainly crushed by the superior common ideologies. And what are they?? Simple...At the end of the day 'everyone' wants higher quality for lower cost or "Value for Money"....be it large corporations seeking cost advantages or the ultimate king/Queen: The CUSTOMER waiting to be delighted.

Bottomline: The customer has to win ....or else everone loses...the big jumbo companies, and ultimately the economy. Don't forget it is the american public with its massive buying that has been saving the economy during many of near depression like situations.

Also if a group potrays xenophobia, protectionism ....oh whatever you call it; it is attempting to take on the majority....it is more like infringing someone's Freedom of Choice!. It's like saying, "if you wear a flourescent yellow colored boxer and enter my driveway, I will get you towed, deflate your tires and perhaps also see you in court."
A spring shouldn't be pressed too hard....It will BOUNCCE back!

 
At 7/24/2007 10:31 AM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

It's illegal to trespass on private property for any reason--even fluorescent boxer shorts. A sign containing the wording below spelling out the Michigan state law violation would be much more appropriate than the current sign, and just as effective.

Unauthorized parking will subject violators to criminal prosecution for trespass, pursuant to MCLA 750.552.

 
At 7/24/2007 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While we all agree that protectionism does not lead to good, it is just sensationalism and playing on people's emotions to equate that sign with "racism" or "xenophobia", to echo 'walt g's earlier comments. Landsburg probably knows using those words will create a buzz and generate more hits on his blog. Although misguided, the UAW workers are just doing what they perceive to be helpful to preserving their jobs.

 
At 7/25/2007 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the law is protecting private property owners to write anything , it is equivalent to allowing ingrown extremism. UAW is at a micro level, things ought to be seen at the macro level. It is like saying don't eat pork and enter my house. Coming to think of it, ultimately we are not helping society to be healthy by supporting 'the law protected private property owner'!!

 
At 7/25/2007 12:59 PM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

"Coming to think of it, ultimately we are not helping society to be healthy by supporting 'the law protected private property owner'!!"

So, you don't mind if I park my fifth-wheel trailer in your driveway and dump my holding tanks in your sewer? Thanks. I'll be right over. I suppose it would be OK with any non-racist homeowner.

There's a difference between offensive and illegal. One doesn't necessarily include the other. Like it or not, to be legally offensive is one of the American freedoms we enjoy.

 
At 7/25/2007 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for making the point so clear...
that's what it is all about...'legally offensive'..to what extent can one be legally offensive? To any extent? Sure it is legal!! Yes everyone has freedom of speech. So let it be misused. Well who is there to define the 'extent of misuse' or for that matter 'misuse' itself? It is an issue of freedom at both ends. Freedom to write what one wants versus freedom to buy the best or the worst form of four wheeler and not be discriminated. What if tomorrow a sign comes up at a parking lot stating, "Only Aston Martins allowed"?

 
At 7/25/2007 5:11 PM, Anonymous Walt G. said...

"What if tomorrow a sign comes up at a parking lot stating, "Only Aston Martins allowed"?"

It's possible in an Aston Martin employees' parking lot, but it's probably economically prohibitive anywhere else.

Although it’s best not to alienate people by being offensive to them, private property ownership is essential for a capitalistic economic system. Failure to use good sense results in lost business, but not incarceration. That’s a good thing because I don’t think we have enough jails for all the stupid people in the United States.

 

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