Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

“Buy American!” Use Prison Labor. Uncle Sam Does.

Posted by M. C. on January 7, 2019

He left out the room and board.

Gary North

If a U.S. government agency wants to buy solar panels, it must buy them from a U.S. government corporation. This corporation uses federal prisoners to assemble the panels. Prisoners are paid between 23 cents an hour and $1.15.

This sounds like slave labor to me.

But can slave labor produce sophisticated solar cells? Of course not. Then where do the prisons get solar cells? From Taiwan.

You mean “buy American” means using American prisoners to assemble panels? By law, yes.

How much does the Taiwanese firm get out of the deal? Initially, $218.6 million.

The contract can be renewed.

It turns out that this use of prison labor has been going on ever since 1934. The company is known as UNICOR: the Federal Prison Industries.

UNICOR says the panels are made in America. Assembled, yes. Made, no. But the law says that “assembled = made.”

UNICOR has a captive market: the U.S. government.

This is not free enterprise. This is government-run economics. The big winner is the Taiwanese firm that manufactures the cells…

Be seeing you



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