Sun, 30 Nov 2008

"Shop Local" is Nonsense!

The local newspaper editor again exhorted us to "Shop Local This Christmas!" Frigging moron. If A has been selling to B and B selling to A, and then A decides that he should be buying from C, because C is "local" (whatever THAT means), then B can't afford to buy A's stuff anymore, so A runs out of money to buy from C. "Oh, but C has started buying from A." Maybe. Maybe not. You're waving your hands at a coordination problem which is not so easily solved. And so what of it? What if B's stuff is better than C's stuff, so that A has now made himself worse off by "local" trade. How does this make A better, when A has to make a worse choice? If shopping "local" does not produce an immediate benefit to A, they shouldn't do it. They should continue to buy from B.

Whatever benefits anybody construes from "local" shopping, they should be reflected in the price. This let people weigh the advantages of "local" shopping versus "remote" shopping. And yet this is exactly what happens when shipping charges are assessed (and don't be confused by "free" shipping, which is merely included in the price). If "local" is better than "remove", it will be because the product is better or cheaper.

You may wonder why I've been putting "local" and "remote" in quotes. Well, exactly what does "local" mean? Does it mean on your block? In your neighborhood? In your community? In your city? State? Country? When does local become remote? What if you live on the border such that crossing into the next level of remoteness is actually more local than remote?

Eventually, any rational definition of "local" devolves into shipping cost, so that telling people they should "Shop Local" just means that people should save money on their shipping costs. Well duh! Or maybe they should save money by buying the plain one rather than the fancy one? Or maybe they should buy in bulk? Or .... well, it's clear at this point that "local" is just another word for "you should sit down, shut up, stop thinking and do what I say."

If you want me to do that, you're going to have to persuade me. And so far, "Shop Local" hasn't persuaded me.

Posted [22:57] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] local,economics,shoplocal [digg this]