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Buy Local Or Buy Where You Want?

Guilt should never play a role in economic decisions. Especially when so many are struggling to make ends meet.

And yet the “Buy Local” chorus continues here in Jackson and around the  country as a pseudo-economic movement meant, supposedly, to bring more  revenue to hometown-based merchants and put more “revenue” into the ol’ tax  coffer. And shame on your if you don’t patronize the corner store!

I’ve noticed that the loudest voices in this chorus are the ones who can afford to spend more at local shops even if they can get the same product elsewhere much cheaper. Not only does this make them feel good about themselves, i.e., selfless and “community minded,” most of these types wouldn’t be caught dead in WalMart, Fred’s or Dollar General.

Isn’t it rational to purchase a product, say, on Amazon.com, for $10 less than Mom and Pop sells it, often with free shipping and always with no sales tax? Yes, I’d say so. It’s also the right thing to do in my opinion.

Competition is brutal. It always has been and it’s supposed to be; such is the nature of business and it brings out the best in and for all of us. The end result of the brutality is not carnage and neighborhood destruction as the “Buy Local” preachers  tell us–actually it’s substantial savings to the average, non-wealthy consumer. Here again, that’s good economics and smart for an individual’s or family’s budget.

If you have the cash and want to buy local, do it. I often try to myself. In fact, a few years ago, I helped promote–against my better  economic judgement–a “Buy American” website. I did so to help the  fledgling site and to try and offer good arguments for any advantages of  buying American.

Sadly, there really are none.

There’s a reason why Kroger is usually full of people and Mac’s or McDade’s always isn’t. It’s not that Kroger is any better as a store, necessarily, but the selection there is bigger and prices are normally substantially cheaper. And there’s nothing wrong with shopping at Kroger for those reasons–you’re not a bad neighbor or lack civic responsibility if you go Krogering.

I love to shop local–when I can do so. If not, I go–without apology–to Amazon or wherever I can find the best price. It makes sense and it’s practical. Not many of us can afford to break the bank in order to make a social statement.

The best case for shopping local is actually when it comes to eating: I strongly and objectively believe that locally-owned restaurants are superior in quality to chains. And usually the prices are not that different in range, either.

However, from a utilitarian viewpoint, Mom and Pop stores–and “American Made” products and goods–vary in quality, consistency and price as much as anything else produced around the globe. It is up to the individual consumer to decide how best to spend his or her hard earned, after-taxes income. He or she should not be made to feel guilty for going on Amazon instead of going downtown.

Plus, taxes in Jackson apparently don’t end up where they’re supposed to, so to hell with THAT rationale. Besides, taxation should never, ever be used in an argument to support business.  The fact that is being done so, often by so-called conservatives, is a travesty and just shows their economic (and moral) confusion and ineptitude.

And how are those pothole and water repairs coming  along, local tax increase supporters? You got what you deserved on that deal.

I’m no fan of the Walton’s stores, believe me. BUT–if  they have something I want and it’s substantially cheaper I’m hunkering  down and going in to buy it there. Moreover, just because a business has a  Fondren address, for instance, does not instantaneously make it some  angelic, wonderful, heavenly shopping experience. I’ve encountered more than my fair share of  rude idiots pushing high-priced products at  locally-owned businesses.

There is no moral superiority in having a local business address. What IS moral is for a consumer to  decide what is best for his or her finances.

So no, Amazon won’t pave our streets. But that’s not their job or problem–that’s the City  of Jackson’s responsibility. What Amazon does do is provide an  incredible shopping experience that is one of the greatest  accomplishments of retail–and capitalism–in our time. Jeff Bezos is a  genius, we are all better off for his vision and he owes no apology to  anyone. We should be grateful and thankful to him.

And good for Amazon that they pay no taxes. Were it only so for all businesses, big or small. Then,  growth would be witnessed on an unprecedented scale.

Shop  local if you want, if you get a self esteem boost in doing so and can afford it. Me and most others? We’ll look for the best price, best service and quickest delivery. That’s what smart shoppers do. My wealthy armchair “capitalist” friends, high upon their perch looking down upon the WalMart masses, apparently don’t understand that, though.

Objectivst philosopher Harry Binswanger got it right in an article written years ago about international trade and the “Buy American”  movement–substitute “American” for “local” here: “…collectivism is  the premise of ‘Buy American.’ In purchasing goods, we are expected to  view ourselves and the sellers not as individuals, but as units of a  nation. We are expected to accept lower quality or more expensive goods  in the name of alleged benefits to the national collective. Most ‘Buy American’ advocates are motivated by misplaced patriotism.

But for some  the motive is a collectivist hostility towards foreigners. This  xenophobic attitude is thoroughly un-American; it is plain bigotry.

Giving  preference to American-made products over German or Japanese products  is the same injustice as giving preference to products made by whites  over those made by blacks. Economic nationalism, like racism, means  judging men and their products by the group from which they come, not by  merit.

Collectivism reflects the notion that life is ‘a zero sum  game,’ that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, where one man’s gain is  another man’s loss. On this premise, everyone has to cling to his own  herd and fight all the other herds for a share of a fixed, static,  supply of goods. And that is exactly the premise of the “Buy American”  campaign. “It’s Japan or us,” is the implication. If Japan is getting  richer, then we must be getting poorer.

But individualism  recognizes that wealth is produced, not merely appropriated, and that  man’s rise from the cave to the skyscraper demonstrates that life is not  a zero-sum game — not where men are free to seek progress.

More and better production is good for all men, everywhere. What’s good for  Toyota is good for America. That’s individualism, and that’s Americanism.

Government interference (or “Buy Local”  fanatics–JC) with free trade is un-American. Sacrificing one’s standard of living in order to subsidize inefficient domestic (or local–JC) producers is  un-American. The tribal fear of foreigners (or Amazon–JC) is un-American. Resentment at others’ success is un-American.
A patriotic American acts as a capitalist and an individualist: he buys the best, wherever it may be found.”

Exactly. Shop and buy where you want. Without guilt.

It is, truly, the proper–and American–thing to do.

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Jack Criss

Jack Criss

Publisher and Executive Editor at BAMSouth.com
Jack Criss is the Publisher and Executive Editor of BAMSouth.com and owner of Criss Public Relations. He is a 30 year veteran of the business publishing industry as well as a former talk radio host, lecturer and author of "Ready, Aim, Right!" (Quail Ridge Press, 2004) and the forthcoming "The Great Greek Philosopher: Aristotle For Young People" (DagKat Press, 2017) as well as a work of teen fiction, "Book Island" and the non-fiction title "SuperfloUS: When Mediocrity Is Enshrined And Civility Fades." He was born, raised and currently lives in Ridgeland, MS and is the proud father of Katie and Dagny.
Jack Criss
Jack Criss
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