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April 7, 2008

Buy Local First!™ Unless It’s Crap!™


I shouldn’t answer my phone. But I’m an idiot. So sometimes I do.


“Mr. Krause, we would like to invite you and your company to join Local First!”


Now the first thing you need to know is that whenever you write Local First!, you have to add in the exclamation point. It’s part of their name. They’ve got it trademarked and everything. So I guess I should write it as Local First!™


Seriously, the exclamation point is bad enough.


So what is Local First? Sorry. What is Local First!?


“Well, Mr. Krause, we believe that communities do best when communities buy local! So the members of Local First!™ make a commitment to do business with other local companies whenever possible!”


“Excuse me. Did you just speak a trademark symbol?”


“Yes I did! Anyway, Mr. Krause, I’m sure you’d like to have business from other local companies, just as they would appreciate business from you. It’s a way we can all work together and do our part to support the local economy!”


“But what if I don’t want to buy things from local businesses? What if I think they’re all crap?”


“Oh, that is hilarious!”


“No, I really mean it. What if I think all the local companies who would like me to buy things from them are complete garbage, and I’d rather buy from someone else? What do you do when that happens?”


“Well, Mr. Krause . . . we believe in Local First!™”


“Would you stop speaking the trademark symbol already?”


“I’m sorry, Mr. Krause. I’m just protecting our intellectual property.”


So they want me to join Local First!™ Damn! Now I’m doing it.


All right, I can appreciate the idea here. A bunch of well-meaning, wide-eyed, do-gooders get together, hold hands and say to themselves, “Why, if we all just did business with each other, everything would be wonderful!”


Yay! The town is saved!


But such efforts never, ever work. I will tell you why.


Economic systems are built on the freedom of people to act in their own self-interest. If a local company offers a good quality product at a good price, I will probably buy it. But if an out-of-town company offers a better product at a better price, and they can do whatever is necessary to eliminate the hassle of buying from outside the area, I will buy from them.


Now, I could choose to buy from a local company because I want to support my local community, and wouldn’t that be a good and virtuous thing to do?


No. It wouldn’t. Because if they’re not the best choice on their own merits, I am merely propping them up by virtue of their geography. If they want to earn my business, let them earn it and they’ll have it.


If I reward their crappiness with more business, I’m just subsidizing crap. That’s not making the town better. Plus, I end up with all this crap.


“But Mr. Krause, wouldn’t you prefer to buy local, all things being equal?”


“No, I wouldn’t. I’d prefer to buy from the supplier who best meets my needs and serves my interests, regardless of where they come from.”


“Well, that’s not exactly consistent with the ideals of Local First!™”


“I Don’t Care!™”


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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