Tag: globalization

Is Buying an iPod Un-American?

We own three iPods at my house, including a recently purchased iPod Touch. Since many of the iPod parts are made abroad, is my family guilty of allowing our consumer spending to “leak” abroad, depriving the American economy of the consumer stimulus we are told it so desperately needs? If you believe the “Buy American” lectures and legislation coming out of Washington, the answer must be yes.

Our friends at ReasonTV have just posted a brilliant video short, “Is Your iPod Unpatriotic?” With government requiring its contractors to buy American-made steel, iron, and manufactured products, is it only a matter of time before the iPod—“Assembled in China,” of all places—comes under scrutiny? You can view the video here:

In my upcoming Cato book, Mad about Trade: Why Main Street America Should Embrace Globalization, I talk about how American companies are moving to the upper regions of the “smiley curve.” The smiley curve is a way of thinking about global supply chains where Americans reap the most value at the beginning and the end of the production process while China and other low-wage countries perform the low-value assembly in the middle. In the book, I hold up our family’s iPods as an example of the unappreciated benefits of a more globalized American economy:

The lesson of the smiley curve was brought home to me after a recent Christmas when I was admiring my two teen-age sons’ new iPod Nanos. Inscribed on the back was the telling label, “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” To the skeptics of trade, an imported Nano only adds to our disturbingly large bilateral trade deficit with China in “advanced technology products,” but here in the palm of a teenager’s hand was a perfect symbol of the win-win nature of our trade with China.

Assembling iPods obviously creates jobs for Chinese workers, jobs that probably pay higher-than-average wages in that country even though they labor in the lowest regions of the smiley curve. But Americans benefit even more from the deal. A team of economists from the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine applied the smiley curve to a typical $299 iPod and found just what you might suspect: Americans reap most of the value from its production. Although assembled in China, an American company supplies the processing chips, a Korean company the memory chip, and Japanese companies the hard drive and display screen. According to the authors, “The value added to the product through assembly in China is probably a few dollars at most.”

The biggest winner? Apple and its distributors. Standing atop the value chain, Apple reaps $80 in profit for each unit sold—an amount higher than the cost of any single component. Its distributors, on the opposite high end of the smiley curve, make another $75. And of course, American owners of the more than 100 million iPods sold since 2001—my teen-age sons included—pocket far more enjoyment from the devices than the Chinese workers who assembled them.

To learn a whole lot more about how American middle-class families benefit from trade and globalization, you can now pre-order the book at Amazon.com.

Canada and Jefferson’s Natural Progress

Thomas Jefferson famously opined that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground,” but Canada has bucked that gloomy forecast in recent years. As my co-authored op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday showed, Canada has:

  • Cut government spending
  • Cut government debt
  • Balanced its budget consistently
  • Pre-funded its version of Social Security to make it solvent
  • Decentralized power within its federation of provinces
  • Cut taxes, particularly corporate taxes 

Meanwhile, the United States has headed in the opposite direction in each of these policy areas. Consider further that Canada has other economic policy advantages over the increasingly uncompetitive welfare state to its south:

  • Canada has more liberal immigration policies for highly skilled workers than does the United States, which has added greatly to the entrepreneurial vibrancy of Canada’s economy.
  • Canada has long had a stable,  efficient, and competitive financial sector, which avoided the government-assisted meltdown that occurred in the United States.
  • Canada has a home ownership rate as high as the United States, yet it does not have a distortionary mortgage interest tax deduction.
  • Canada recently implemented large Roth IRA style savings accounts, which are much more flexible than the U.S. version.
  • The Canadian federal capital gains tax rate is 14.5 percent, which compares to the current 15 percent in the United States and 20 percent under Obama’s tax plan.
  • Canada has no federal ministry or department of education. The K-12 schools are the sole responsibility of the provinces, yet Canadian kids  generally do better than American kids on international tests.
  • In recent years, Canada has probably been more supportive of NAFTA, and free trade in general, than its main trading partner, the United States.

Major pro-market reforms are possible in advanced welfare states – Jefferson can be proven wrong, as Canada illustrates. U.S policymakers can prove Jefferson wrong as well. They can start by cutting spending, decentralizing power out of Washington, and making pro-growth tax reforms in response to globalization, as Canada has, rather than imposing self-defeating “Buy America” provisions and making childish rants about “corporations moving jobs offshore.”

Globalization and Tax Reform

Despite the recession, globalization continues to exert pressure for beneficial tax reforms. From Tax Notes International today:

Jordanian Finance Minister Bassem al-Salem on April 20 confirmed that the government is working on draft legislation that would cut corporate tax rates drastically, reducing them in some cases by more than half.

Al-Salem said the government will seek to introduce a single 12 percent tax rate for most corporate entities, although companies in the banking, insurance, and mining sectors would pay tax at a rate of 25 percent. The current corporate tax rates range from 15 percent to 35 percent for different profit levels and also differ by business sector.

The draft legislation would also rationalize individual income tax, custom duties, and other taxes to increase efficiency, al-Salem said. Jordan has about 100 different taxes.

Al-Salem said the tax cuts are needed because many countries in the region either don’t have taxes at all or have much lower tax rates than Jordan’s, making them more attractive jurisdictions for investment.

 The full story on taxation and globalization is here.

New Podcast: ‘El Salvador’s Choice’

El Salvador is becoming an economic success story in Central America, says Cato scholar Juan Carlos Hidalgo.

Since 1992, the country has undertaken an aggressive program of liberalization that has transformed its economy and yielded major improvements in various socioeconomic areas. In a new study, Hidalgo explains how El Salvador “is showing the rest of the region how economic freedom can pave the way for development and how globalization offers great opportunities for developing countries that are willing to implement a coherent set of mutually supportive market reforms.”

In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, Hidalgo explains how despite recent economic reforms, next week’s election in El Salvador could end with a  government that has great admiration for the policies of Hugo Chavez that would turn El Salvador away from market-based reforms.

A third of the [voting] population is under thirty. So that means many young voters don’t remember El Salvador as it was during the early 1990’s… Young people have trouble paying for their cell phone bills, have trouble paying their gas bills and have trouble paying for tuition in colleges. What they don’t remember is fifteen years ago they didn’t have cars, their parents didn’t have cars, their parents didn’t have any cell phones and their parents lived in shanty towns….

…Even though they talk about emulating the socialist revolution in Venezuela, they haven’t been explicit about dismantling democratic institutions in El Salvador.