Made in Texas

According to The Texas Tribune, “Under federal law, wine can have an appellation of origin from a state if a minimum 75 percent of its grapes are grown in that state. The other 25 percent can come from anywhere.” The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that will require Texas winemakers to use 100 percent Texas-grown grapes if they label their products “made in Texas.”

The wine industry is divided on the proposal. As one proponent put it, a company could import wine from California, “slap a picture of the Alamo or a longhorn on it” and label it “made in Texas.” Certainly, a product made in California shouldn’t be labeled “made in Texas,” but should the government (federal or state) be stipulating what constitutes “made in Texas”? And why is the government involving itself in such matters?

Some might argue, as the proponent of the law implies, that labeling a product made in California “made in Texas” is fraudulent. And that would be true. Since fraud is a violation of individual rights, it might seem that government should be setting the standards for what constitutes “made in Texas.” But before we can address that issue, we must first identify and examine the premise that underlies this concern about where a product is made.

For decades, we have exhorted to “buy American.” We have been told that buying American products will create and sustain American jobs. We have been told that buying American products is patriotic. But as philosopher Harry Binswanger explains, “buy American” is un-American:

Giving preference to American-made products over German or Japanese products is the same injustice as giving preference to products made by whites over those made by blacks. Economic nationalism, like racism, means judging men and their products by the group from which they come, not by merit.

This same collectivist premise underlies concerns about “made in Texas.”

The mere fact that a product is made in Texas does not make it better. Rational individuals recognize that fact and seek the products that best meet their needs and desires. This is true of smart phones, automobiles, and wines.

Instead of worrying about where a product is made or how it is labeled, legislators should be concerned about protecting our freedom to produce and trade. Removing the regulations and controls that restrict our economic freedom will do far more to stimulate the Texas economy than a law stipulating the proper labeling of wine.

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