Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"Buy Local' is stupid

Lots of people support the idea of buying local goods and service rather than goods and services from elsewhere.  (Usually these people have Japanese cars; and their Japanese cars occasionally even have a "buy local" bumper sticker on them.)  This idea is stupid.

First some preparing thoughts.

Not all buying local is stupid.  If your only option is local, then no one will fault you for buying local.  And if your only option is something made a ways away, then that is your only option.

When the people who promote buying local seem to mean (excepting their own cars, and undoubtedly: their cell phones, tvs, computers...) is that buying locally supports your neighbors and is good.

There are many problems with this.

Buying local is not always an option, which means that you are either going to buy "distantly made" things or avoid that product altogether.

We can grow things like citrus fruits in places like New York, but the costs to do so will be nearly immeasurable.  We'd need heated greenhouses, sun lamps, etc.

Why is buying oranges from Florida worse than buying oranges grown in expensive (read as: required much electricity, manpower, and materials) greenhouses locally?

Why is are transportation costs worse than production costs?

Have you considered the transportation jobs lost by buying locally?

There are fundamental thoughts on economics ignored by avoiding the allowance of specialization.  Buy not allowing specialization (by not buying things made more efficiently) we would be made poorer by either not having many items or by producing them at much higher costs.

What the "buy local" crowd really seems to want us to do is to choose the local option when there is a local option easily available; shop at the local grocery store not Walmart, etc.  If they took their slogan literally they'd obviously need to give up their cars, tvs, cell phones, coffee, etc.

What this is is another way to feel good about doing good in a way that does not actually cost anyone any money or effort.  Or does it.

It seems to me that when comparing a local to non-local item, there are three options: the local item is better, the non-local item is better, the items are similar.

In the case of the local item being better than the non-local item, it makes sense to buy local, and so what is the point of a "buy local" slogan?

In the case of the non-local item being better, buying the local item instead means that a local producer is able to continue to make things worse, the better creator is not sustained, and you get a worse item.  The local producer is "helped," but everyone else is worse off.  In this case "buying local" is encouraging you to waste resources by buying worse items.

it is only in the case of the local and non-local items being of comparable quality and price that "buying locally" makes any sense.


Specialization is a wonderful thing.  It is by specializing one one, or few, things that we can all acquire the wealth generated when someone does not need to spend time doing lots of different things, and can spend all his time on one.

Buy whatever is best, at the best price, and resources won't be wasted making inferior products.

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