Here’s the story of two men, Dave and Phil. Both are careful with their money. Both need white dress shirts for work. They go shopping. Dave finds shirts made in China. They are $25.00. He buys four. Phil finds a shirt made in America. It costs $100. He buys one. It would seem that Dave has found the better of the deals. While both spent the same amount, Dave has four shirts while Phil has only one. But let’s take a closer look.

Dave’s Chinese shirts are made by slaves. China has no free speech, no free press, no freedom of religion. China is a totalitarian state. It’s people toil under the threat of violence. Phil’s American shirt is made by a well-paid craftsperson in safe conditions with rights protecting both his humanity and his labor. Not coincidentally, many of the shirts of the type that Phil has selected are made by people who have left the oppression of China for the freedom of The United States. Does that matter to you?

Dave’s shirts hurt the environment. China is relatively poor and cannot afford the environmental safeguards that other nations have in place. China is also corrupt, so bribes can often circumvent any laws designed to give the appearance of environmental consciousness. And then, of course, the shirts have to be shipped halfway around the world on Chinese container ships that have the same level of respect for the environment as is prevalent among its clothing manufacturers. Phil’s shirt, on the other hand, is made under strict environmental laws and regulations. This process is overseen not only by a government less susceptible to corruption, but by a citizen population with both freedom and power to hold the government and the manufacturers to account. And since it is made in America it doesn’t have to be shipped as far. Does this matter to you?

Dave’s shirts hurt the world economy. China’s business practices are some of the most corrupt on earth. Their currency is manipulated. Intellectual theft is rampant. Government intervention is oppressive. International accountability is nearly non-existent. Transparency is lacking. These practices are a drag on the world economy because they make the whole system less reliable and more perilous. The design for Dave’s shirt was stolen. It was made on machines whose designs were stolen. Its logo and label are fakes that were stolen too. Phil’s shirt was made following international and national laws and regulations that help provide the world marketplace with certainty, reliability and accountability. Does this matter to you?

Dave’s shirts send money to China. Dave’s shirt is made of cotton grown in China. Of cloth produced in China. On machines made in China. In buildings built in China. By Chinese. Who pay taxes to China. Phil’s shirt is made from cotton grown in Texas, made into cloth in North Carolina, on machines made in Wisconsin, in a factory made by a New York construction company, by workers in California who pay taxes to the United States. Does this matter to you?

Maybe none of those things matter to you. Maybe that’s even okay. After all, it’s your money and your business. But let’s see how Dave and Phil’s story plays out…

Dave’s shirts are no bargain. While Dave had four times more shirts, he didn’t look as good in any of them as Phil did in his one shirt. At the end of a year, they showed noticeable wear and had to be discarded and replaced, while Phil’s shirt still looked almost brand new and could continue to hang in his wardrobe. During the year of use people noticed that Dave’s shirts were cheap-looking while Phil received many compliments on his shirt. Phil’s shirt was easier to care for and felt better on his skin. Dave paid less, and he got less. While Phil spent the year feeling and looking good, Dave spent the year miserly counting his imaginary savings.

At first glance, it seems as if Dave made the better deal. A closer look, like a closer look at the shirts themselves, shows this to be anything but the case. Phil made a better choice for himself, for his community, and for the future. His shirt is made by free people, respecting the environment and honest business, by members of his own community, and reflects the high quality he demands of, and for, himself. Does this matter to you? It matters to me because even though I like to think of myself as frugal, I also like to think of myself as conscientious. I think I’ll shop where Phil shops.