Buy Loco

It is loco to buy local, as so-called local merchants urge us to do.

What is the point of buying local? More to the point: How does one decide whether a business is local?

The ultimate in local buying is to buy from oneself, that is, to make with one’s own brain and hands everything that one consumes and uses, and to do so by drawing only on the resources that are available on one’s property. Absurd, you say? Of course.

But if we admit the absurdity of self-sufficiency (except for the rare bird who is willing to dress in animal skins, live in a lean-to without electricity, and subsist on a limited diet), we must admit that trade is necessary. And once we admit the necessity of trade, we are hard-pressed to say how far it can reach.

In terms of the buy-local movement (if it may be called that), are we to boycott a locally owned hardware store because most of what it sells is made elsewhere — and most of that in far-flung places, even including Asia? What makes the locally owned hardware store any more local than a Lowe’s or Home Depot? Certainly not the source of its goods. Certainly not the source of its labor.

Ah, but, there are all those employees (some of them extremely well-paid) who work and live elsewhere. And there are of those shareholders and bondholders, who live as far away as China. How dare they “suck” money out of the local economy.

But they are not “sucking” money out of the local economy. They, along with local employees and suppliers far and wide, are providing items of value to the local economy, in return for which they are paid in dollars that they often spend on products and services of local origin.

The moral of this tale: If you are not willing and able to be truly self-sufficient, you cannot in good conscience subscribe to the buy-local movement.