Monday, April 20, 2009

Op-ed Opposing Buy Local

The Bollard (a member of the Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance) published an op-ed on Top 10 Reasons NOT to Buy Local. Certainly it is good to have a critical take on the idea, but I'm not buying the arguments. Yes, Buy Local is about capitalism, but it is about growing businesses and keeping our tax dollars here. So here is my response to the top ten:

1. "Double Standard" - Because CBD sells its coffee to other people, they are hypocrites? No, we want CBD to grow and expand, that brings more money here. We want to foster good companies to start here, and to be supported so they can succeed.

2. "Globalization is Good" - Of course, nearly every merchant who sells something gets materials from other places. Like #1 - the point is we want the money here, either by reselling it or creating added value.

3. "Tourists and the Regional Economy" - Tourist are hypocrites for buying local? One of the reasons people come here is because of the unique stores restaurants, not all the chains they have at home. Buy Local lets them know what stores are helping Portland stay Portland.

4. "Price" - Yes, plastic crap from China is cheaper. Enjoy it.

5. "It is Smug and Elitist" - Sure, that is really why I do it, to look down on all the people who don't buy locally.

6. "Product Quality, Service Quality, and Personal Preference" - This is just repeating his first three reasons, and adding something stupid to it.

7. "Buy Local is a Cynical Marketing Campaign" - Same claim as reason 5, but adding the term "liberal."

8. "Buy Local’s Top 10 Reasons are Asinine" - Here he gets to some meat. There are studies that look at the benefits of buying local, but it is hard to quantify. And while the studies might be more optimistic than they should be, they do show benefits to the local tax base. And as to the environmental benefits, this gets complicated too, but if creating a strong downtown helps limit sprawl, then that is a good thing.

9. "Labor Practices" - Yeah, Wal-Mart and China's labor practices are stellar.

10. "What Do 'Local' and 'Independent' Mean?" - Those are defined. The reason Maine Hardware is eligible is because they are a licensee, not a franchisee. Franchises controls everything in the store - think of Subways, which are the same everywhere, but the various Ace hardware stores offer all different products. So actually it does not come down to "perception, self-styled identity, and relative meaning" - they are distinct legal differences.