Have we already surrendered?
A few years ago, I wrote in this space about whether it made sense to buy U.S.-manufactured tools and products even at higher prices than imports. Time has marched on. I now wonder about our future as a viable independent nation.
By way of example, let’s examine computers, especially laptops. Stewardship Capital is 24 years old this month. In that time, we have only purchased Dell laptops. They have generally been efficient and reliable. Since Michael Dell assembled the first in his dormitory room, there has been a progression of manufacturing sites.
Early on I believe the laptops were still made in Texas. I just pulled out Workstation Number 4, a Latitude 5400 Model with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It was made in Malaysia, but I did not mind that. Malaysians need to eat also, and it lasted a long time. It dates from 2010.
My next one dates from about 2015. I guess I did not pay much attention at the time, but it was made in communist China. It worked extremely well for more than five years. But again, time marches on, Microsoft keeps supposedly improving the software and we must keep up. Even with an upgrade to Version 10, that laptop proved to be a keeper.
A year ago this month, we upgraded again to a newer laptop with the latest software packages. We ordered a Latitude 7410 with the Intel Core i5 vPro chip. I believe someone at the Chinese factory knew me to be the end user. This Latitude 7410 Model is the computer from hell. Within the first month, it required a new motherboard. It has given me hundreds of headaches at inopportune times. Our usually wonderful service folks have been unable to determine causes or solutions for its unreliability.
I recently decided that it would be worth spending the money to try to get a better machine made somewhere else than in communist China. My trusty associate, Luke, did his usual exhaustive investigation. He found that HP claimed to do final assembly at its factory in Indiana. Great! But of course, when it arrived last week, it was stamped Made in China. I sent it back. I already have one of those.
Why do I care? It occurs to me that at this point in history, if Xi Jinping, China's leader, decided to do so, he could embargo every piece of vital electronics we need to run our country until President Biden sang their national anthem every day. We would be out of business. But since Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is building a microchip plant in Arizona and Samsung is building one in Texas at a cost of $17 billion, perhaps the tide might still turn.
In the meantime, I love my wife, Karen, very much. That is why I am going to bite my tongue nearly off while getting her a new digital picture frame to replace the one currently malfunctioning in our home. Try an online search for one of these made in Korea or Taiwan or Malaysia, or any one of 200 other countries including the United States. I did. (Samsung makes a product that slightly resembles a digital frame, but it does not even operate wirelessly.) Santa will deliver this Saturday the one thing good little Karen has requested.
How is it possible that one nation, clearly not our friend or the friend of freedom-loving people of the world, controls the manufacture and distribution of every last item of household or business use in the world? This situation is more than a little disconcerting to me. We need someone to save us from ourselves, and to do it quickly.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)
Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at email@example.com.