Ford Employees Learn Economics 101

I know this is going to sound harsh, but the economic realities that Ford employees are discovering are the same lessons everyone must learn in order to thrive in our current economy. During an interview on ABC News Nightline an employee was asked about the cause of the company’s decline. She replied it was because Americans selfishly bought foreign cars at the expense of their fellow Americans. The interviewer asked a question that was shockingly perceptive in our current political environment, (paraphrase) “could it be that Americans don’t want to pay for the amazing salaries and benefits that you boasted about earlier? Wouldn’t they rather pay for the lower cost of buying a car made by Toyota with lower wages and benefits?” (One thing all the Ford employees discussed was how good it was for them financially).

The look on her face was amazing. It was like she had a “V-8” moment, but the negative type, not the one you see in the commercials. She said “the benefits are amazing, but I hate to think that is why they did it.” But that is exactly why we — all of us — “did it.” The economy is a lot of things, but it isn’t personal. The invisible hand that Adam Smith discussed in the 18th century is alive and well today. People actively make self interested decisions daily, even as we criticize the ability of other countries in competing against us. The invisible hand, a force we can’t see but is all so powerful, creates supply and demand, and controls our economy unless harassed by government.

A great example of this is Wal-Mart. If everyone I talk to about this “job exporting,” “people exploiting,” “made in the USA destroying” company is telling the truth, this company should be on the brink of bankruptcy and not, arguably, the most economically powerful company in the world. But people, even as they drive to the “hated” store, will decry the injustice of goods made by cheap labor and walk out with not a single item made in the USA (with the possible exception of a tag that was made in a US territory). In essence, they cry all the way to the bank in savings.
Is this a bad thing? Certainly not, in my opinion. Our country has an unemployment of only 4.4 percent at this writing, that is virtually zero unemployment when you consider the large number estimated who are voluntarily unemployed (seasonally employed, criminals, etc., equals around 4 percent). Because we are free to get what we want, largely from where we want, we are able to get Ford subcompacts for only $14,000 (since they make much of their cars in “cheap labor” countries rather than $60,000 a year (which is what they would likely cost if made bumper to bumper in the US). I’m able to eliminate poverty voluntarily and long term in countries like China and India through my purchases (like we did in Japan 40 years ago) without the United Nations taking my money through redistribution as that organization is attempting to do (leading to corruption and international welfare dependency). We are able to truly take advantage of the law of comparative advantage (things being made were they most make sense economically) and the whole world benefits from it.

I believe people should give up the notion of stopping the imports and embrace them. They are making us richer, not poorer (by the way, our longest period of trade surpluses was during the Great Depression; trade deficits mean we can afford more than other countries). Instead of grumbling about our imports, we should appreciate the good things we are doing for the world economy and simple common sense with our purchases. We don’t make these purchase because they are bad, but because they are good for everyone.

What about the nice Americans who lost their jobs at Ford, GM and other companies? The reality is, most of them will quickly find themselves back on their feet, with either new jobs or created businesses as they pursue becoming their own boss. This loss, though sad, will be temporary, but the American resolve to prosper is permanent.

Kevin Price is Host of the Houston Business Show on CNN 650 and is Publisher of the Houston Business Review. He is also the Managing Editior of Houston Business Daily. He is an award winning author of several books and is well known as a media consultant. You can read his blog, Business Plus, at []. Kevin speaks frequently on business, political, and cultural issues. He has a BA in economic history from Abilene Christian University.

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