Home » Analysis » Globalization’s Abject Failure–Household Appliances Were Cheaper and Better 40 Years Ago

Globalization’s Abject Failure–Household Appliances Were Cheaper and Better 40 Years Ago

[ Ed. note – Back in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton started signing the first free trade agreements into law, people warned that globalization would have severe consequences for average working Americans. I remember attending a protest against NAFTA back in, I think, 1992 or 93.

But economists kept telling us, “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong!” Globalization will be good for the economy! Wealth would “trickle down” to the lower classes. And while some manufacturing jobs might be lost, these would be replaced, the economists assured us, with even better jobs. Moreover, there was supposed to be a golden upside to it all: Goods produced in factories in places like China and Mexico would flood the market, resulting in reduced prices for things like household appliances. A new refrigerator imported from China, say, assembled by workers being paid as little as a dollar an hour, would cost less–maybe a hundred or even two hundred dollars less–than the old “made in America” refrigerators. And if you didn’t believe this, you just weren’t with it and thinking progressively.

Clinton bought into it (although with all the corporate contributions pouring into his campaign, he in reality probably didn’t need much persuading). At any rate, NAFTA went into effect in 1994, and the World Trade Organization officially began operations one year later.

In the article below, Spencer Morrison does an analysis of the cost of home appliances before all these trade agreements went into effect, comparing them with the prices of appliances today. His conclusion: that appliances 40 years ago were not only cheaper but were better made and lasted longer (almost twice as long) than the appliances of today. It’s quite a fascinating read. (Hat tip Ariadna ). ]

Household Appliances Were Cheaper 40 Years Ago–the Truth About Economic Globalization and ‘Cheap Goods’

By Spencer P. Morrison

What do flat-earthers and economists have in common?

They both mistake their models for reality.  They confuse what ought to be with what is.

And that’s why economists are often wrong—even when they all agree, like when it comes to global free trade.

Ask 10 economists about global free trade, and 10 will say it’s good.  Always good.

It’s one of the few things economists agree on.


The logic’s clean: freer trade allows greater specialization, and therefore the maximization of comparative advantage.  That means cheaper, and better stuff—in theory.

But are they right?  Has freer trade with the developing world, with countries like China and Mexico, benefited American consumers?


There are lots of reasons why economic globalization doesn’t work, but in this article, we’re going to look specifically at the cost of household appliances, since they’re some of the biggest purchases people make in their lives.

Also, appliances haven’t changed that much—a dryer from 1976 will get your clothes just as dry as one from 2017.  This means we can compare the products more-or-less directly.

The data shows that freer trade, and offshoring hasn’t made household appliances cheaper.

See for yourself:

Continued here

3 thoughts on “Globalization’s Abject Failure–Household Appliances Were Cheaper and Better 40 Years Ago

  1. It’s not the Chinese worker, but planned obsolesce. In the last 10 years, I’ve had two fridges, two washing machines and one microwave go broke shortly after the warranty expired.

    When the appliances were being built in the USA, they would last a LONG time. Most factories were unionized, paying a good wage and benefit package and the company still made money, but they wanted more $$$, so NAFTA, CAFTA and other ‘free trade’ BS got shoved down our throats.

    The Chinese can make wonderful things, check out this spoke-less Ferris Wheel.


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