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Bumpersticker Protectionism

Because I was getting ready to move from Alexandria, VA, to Charlottesville to start my classes in law school, I remember clearly that it was the summer of 1989.  One day that summer I was driving on the Washington beltway when I noticed in front of me a 1963 Buick Skylark.  This car captured my attention because my family’s car during my childhood was a 1963 Buick Skylark. (My family’s car was a two-door black Skylark, very much like the one shown here, except ours had a white vinyl top.)  I noticed also on that day in 1989 that this 1963-model car sported what was once a rather familiar bumpersticker – one identical to the bumpersticker pictured here:

It took me only a second or two to detect – and to detest – the economic ignorance and hypocrisy that I witnessed that day on the beltway.  (I’m not talking here about the estimate of 10 Americans put out of work.  That number is vastly exaggerated.  But ignore here that particular issue.)

“Ignorance and hypocrisy?” you ask rhetorically.  “There’s no ignorance or hypocrisy!  A Buick is an American-made car!”

Well yes.  That 1963 Buick Skylark was indeed made in America – more than a quarter-century earlier.  It was probably purchased off of a used-car lot.  How many American auto workers were thus put to work by this Skylark’s owner when he or she bought this car used?  (Answer: None.)  But even if this car in 1989 was still owned and driven by the person who bought it new 26 years earlier, how many American auto workers had this person put to work in 1989 – or in 1979 – or in 1969 – or, for that matter, in 1964?  (Answer: None.)

If to buy a foreign car is to “Put 10 Americans out of work!” then so, too, is to buy a used car an activity that puts ten Americans out of work.  Likewise, ten Americans are put out of work by simply continuing to drive a car already acquired.


Protectionists’ assertions and arguments are dumb.  I confess to taking great pleasure in exposing the fallacies that infect them all.