The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Should the United States move towards domestic manufacturing?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/22/2014 Category: Economics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 790 times Debate No: 55254
Debate Rounds (3)
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Ever since the United States has joined NAFTA, the economy has taken a turn for the worse. Yes, there have been economic gains, especially in Mexico and Canada; however, it's not the United States' job to let other nations prosper while it slowly and inevitably crumbles from the inside. I believe that the United States should make a gradual withdrawal from NAFTA. Many may say that this is a bad idea and impossible but I think it could work. Obviously the United States couldn't abandoned NAFTA in one day. Businesses and labor unions would be in an uproar. I think that Congress should pass a series of bills that allow for the resignation of the United States from NAFTA while at the same time guaranteeing financial protection for domestic businesses. The way this could work would be that possibly by a certain year, say 2035, all domestically based businesses must manufacture at least 15% of its goods in the United States; every five years or so the percentage could be higher and higher until all domestically based businesses produce nearly all of their goods in the United States. Some may say this would never work because businesses would crumble due to the labor costs but under the proposed bills, Congress would help pay for the costs of factory construction and of domestic labor until the change is complete. Yes, this would push the United States even further into debt; however, it would be a very lucrative investment for the United States. This movement of bringing manufacturing back home would be the "new industrial revolution" with ripple effects that would greatly impact the nation for the better. With all the manufacturing being done in the United States, many factories would spring up, thus creating thousands upon thousands of jobs for both construction workers and factory workers. With all these new jobs, millions of Americans would have full wallets to buy stuff, buy things, and not to mention buy more stuff. Being that the United States is a mass consumer economy, the creation of more jobs would lead to the growth of the economy. The United States' GDP would soar, just as it did with the manufacturing boom caused by World War 2. Another consequence of the "new industrial revolution" would be the reaffirmation of the United States as being the undisputed leader of the world. Without US dependence on foreign manufacturing, countries like China would fall far behind, leaving the United States on top of the world. In addiction, products manufactured in the United States would bring American ingenuity back to the United States and bring American pride with every domestically purchased item. It warms American's hearts when they see that glorious label, "Made in the U.S.A."


Hello. I look forward to a lively, informative, and interesting debate on a fascinating topic.


My case will be quite simple. I will advocate for the benefits of free trade throughout this debate. Pro is living in a world long-past; if the United States were to require domestic goods production and to enact tariffs and other protections to ensure this, massive problems would ensue.

I. Specialization

This contention can be quickly explained by the concept of comparative advantage. Comparative advantage is when one actor can produce a good at a lower marginal cost than another actor can [1]. For instance, both my friend Bob and I can make apples and bicycle. Bob can produce either 4 apples or 1 bicycle. I can produce either 3 apples or 2 bicycles. Thus, my marginal cost for bicycles is 1.5 apples, while Bob's is 2 apples. Thus, it would be more efficient if I produced bicycles, while Bob produced apples. This would result in more overall goods, which could be traded for a profit by both sides, yet bought by both sides at lower costs.

In addition to economic savings that I will expound upon later, specialization leads to better resource allocation [2]. What this means is that labor is used more efficiently, making more products and better utilizing the resources that a country has, while, simultaneously, ensuring that products can more easily reach those who demand it, due to lower prices and greater quantities.

What this specialization also allows is for economies of scale to develop, whereby actors can produce goods cheaper as more are produced. Without specialization, economies of scale for goods, such as cars, could not be created, thus causing a sharp rise in the cost and quantity of goods.

Finally, specialization fosters innovation. This should require little explanation, but as countries find their specialty, they find ways to produce it cheaper than others, so as to gain competitive advantage and profit. Without trade, the pressure for innovation lessens, though by no means disappears, thus causing a significant decrease in the rate of technological advancement.

II. Trade

In this contention, I will focus on the effects of Pro's proposal on trade itself and on international relations.

Firstly, enacting tariffs to protect ALL domestic industries would be catastrophic for all trade. This is the case because, when tariffs are applied on an industry universally, other countries respond by enacting similar tariffs on the same industry or on different industries, as they are bound by economics to do. To continue to operate without a tariff would, in most circumstances, create a loss for the responding country.

A universal tariff, like the one Pro is advocating, would serve to literally sever trade between the United States and the world. It would raise the prices of all United States goods worldwide, decrease the quantity of specialized goods we produce and drastically cut American GDP. 32%, and growing, of the United States GDP is export-based [3]. Most, if not all, of this would be completely destroyed, including, directly, the 16.4% of trade the US conducts with Canada [4]. The United States, with only 310+ million people, cannot possible compensate for a global demand that reaches 7 billion possible consumers.

Trade is also beneficial for international relations. As countries become more economically dependent, two things happen: 1) The risk of conflict decreases because disruption in one economy causes a global disruption, and 2) Norms, ideas, and relations can be facilitated because economic interdependence necessitates peace, as mentioned earlier. As, for instance, America's, or the EU's, economic clout increases with more trade partners, the willingness of a foreign power to invade or disrupt it decreases, and the relations with other countries are fomented as a result of economic necessity.

For instance, the United States has somewhat friendly, but not perfect, relationships with China and Saudi Arabia, among others as a result of trade, which gives the United States unique leverage to respond to other geopolitical concerns in these respective regions, a pull that it would not have had otherwise.

III. Effects on Domestic Consumers

This contention does not require too much explanation. I have already discussed how trade isolationism leads to higher prices. The flip-side of this is that export-related jobs in the technology and service industries, toward which the United States is increasingly heading, pay more than lower manufacturing jobs [2]. Moreover, manufacturing jobs are, generally, more environmentally damaging. These affects accrue to catastrophe.

As the average person in the United States makes less, and the costs of goods rise, the average consumer will, by necessity, spend less in the economy. This accrues to an economic collapse, a loss in GDP, and a complete loss of United States' economic power. What this means is that the average person's standard of living in the United States will be tangibly damaged, quite significantly.

There is unemployment in the United States; however, at 6.3% and falling, this is clearly becoming less and less of an issue. The cause of unemployment was the recession, not a lack of manufacturing jobs. Moreover, natural unemployment, the amount necessary in an economy for efficient replacement of workers, is between 4 and 5%, which the United States is nearing [7]. Pro will have to state more persuasively why unemployment will be decreased under the proposal.


Unfortunately, Pro's proposal is based completely on nationalism and hearsay. Pro gives neither argumentation nor sourcing to back up the claims made; thus, they can be denied on face alone. However, I have provided extensive argumentation for why a withdrawal from NAFTA and a blanket tariff forcing domestic manufacturing would be disastrous. The idea that the federal government, $17+ trillion in debt and counting, can absorb a 32%+ deadweight loss blow in GDP while facilitating this, and then absorb the massive rise in unemployment and welfare benefits as the standard of living falls, is comical. Pro simply needs to provide argumentation for why this would be a sound investment; unfortunately, the 21st Century is not World War II. World War II's economic growth was a result of extraordinarily high demand forced by extraordinary circumstances; do not forget that, when demand fell to normal, there was a significant recession in 1948-9. The United States GDP has been rising steadily for decades; why Pro views this as a problem is for anyone to guess.

Thank you for an interesting topic, and I look forward to reading Pro's further argumentation.








Debate Round No. 1


You have very good points. I'm no economist. I'm only a patriotic 17 year old with a concern for where the nation is headed. I don't have much of an argument back but I am curious as to what you think the United States could do to bring itself back to its former glory as the leading economic powerhouse.


Thanks, and, before I answer the question posed by Pro, simply extend all of my arguments.

Now, I generally push back on the notion that the United States was ever more economically powerful or prosperous above what it already is today. To think about this, let's discuss power in two terms: absolute and relative.

In international relations, the school referred to as the realists believe that international relations is a zero-sum game; that is, states should seek power, and this power should be understood relatively. Conversely, the liberals believes that international relations is positive-sum; that is, states should still be seeking power, but it should be understood in absolute terms.

If you take the realist standpoint, the United States has lost power relative to other countries, simply because other countries, like China, Germany, etc. have become more powerful and productive. Liberals will find that the United States has roughly the same amount of absolute power, in terms of dollars and growth.

The realist standpoint in this issue is somewhat, well, unrealistic. The idea that countries with massive land, labor, capital, and resources, like China, are going to remain an economic backwater is simply unrealistic; moreover, most of the world was devastated following World War II, where the US was perceived to be at the top of the world economy, simply because fighting did not take place in the States.

Obviously, countries will recover from the ruins, the phoenix will rise from the ashes, and countries like Germany, China, et. al. have regained their economic might. This does not mean that the US is not still incredibly powerful and critical to the world economy, only that other countries are growing, too. In fact, I would argue that this is a good thing; it increases foreign markets for the more expensive goods and services that the US produces, and the competition lowers prices.

For the US to continue to be powerful, it should continue to innovate, invest, and produce in industries where it has comparative advantage, fields like medicine, technology, environmentally-friendly technology, financial services, etc. This will allow the US to continue to be critical to the world economy, foment a robust domestic economy, and make the standard of living for the average America better.
Debate Round No. 2


jakeleventhal forfeited this round.


Extend my arguments, and, since there has been no opposition, vote Con!
Debate Round No. 3
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by FuzzyCatPotato 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con won. I would also mention that U.S. produces 22.5% of value added manufacturing to China's 17.5%, so even in realist terms we're fine.