Cultural Capitalsim: What’s So Great About America?

America seems to import a lot from China, India and the rest of the world, but America does have one major export or “comparative advantage” as world trade theorists would say. Whether it be American news, American movies, or American music, our art is seen watched, read, and listened to all over the planet. To use the words of trade theorists, America has a “comparative advantage” in mass media. So why does America specialize in producing mass media? The process can be explained though the “law of comparative advantage” which states people will be most productive if they specialize according to their strengths. Since capital is cheap in America, a capital intensive industry like mass media is definetly a strength for the US and hence it specializes in that industry. Some, like news anchor “Lou Dobbs,” doubt the law of comparative advantage is real, as they have trouble seeing what America’s comparative advantage is. Lou Dobbs position is ironic however, as he himself specializes in providing news, one of the very industries America is specializing in. Just remember that if you picked a major you yourself have chosen to specialize in, a certain study as the law of comparative advantage says you would. America is not with out competition of course. “Bollywood” actually produces more movies than America or anyone else in the world. Japanimation is a strong competitor to American cartoons, and BBC news is a worthy competitor to CNN across the world. Even so, Bollywood’s movies do not sell nearly as well as American movies and neither Japan nor England can compete as well with the US in all forms of media. There are problems with America specializing in mass media. Just as people in America worry about cheap Chinese imports putting our manufacturing workers out of work, so do people in other nations worry that American mass media will erode their culture. And just like our workers might call for protective tariffs to help them, people in other nations might call for media restrictions to help local culture. However, unlike the calls for protective tariffs by American workers, calls for media restrictions have been heeded. Tyrannical nations like China already limit media, and even democratic nations like Canada and France have laws limiting the amount of foreign media that can be shown in their nations. Whether or not American media will erode other cultures, there is little reason to think that the country will lose its comparative advantage anytime soon, so while Americans might be worried about that rising trade deficit with China, they can at least take comfort knowing they, and Lou Dobbs, control the air waves.