Monday, April 29, 2013

Local Fallacies

Over at Forbes, David Marotta makes the fairly baffling statement: "We Buy Local Because It Is Better, Not Because It Is Local."

That's like saying, "I buy Maker's Mark because it is better, not because it is Maker's Mark." Uh, doesn't the one inform the other?

Okay, okay, ha-ha, not all local products are great---some are better and some are worse, and I myself buy the former over the latter every time. But here's Marotta's logic laid bare:

[C]onfining your purchases to vendors within a geographic region does not strengthen the local economy. In fact it impoverishes your economy whenever you get less value or pay more money. The lost opportunity costs of what you could have done with that extra value or smaller expense is exactly how much you have impoverished the local economy.

This is a bit inelegant, but not everyone can be a great writer, so we'll let it pass. I believe what the man is saying is that if you buy a local food product, and it sucks, then, essentially, you've bought a crappy local product. That's it. Did this need to be stated?

But wait: apparently if you "pay more money" for a product, then evidently you've also lost out---that is to say, if you pay $7 for a pound of local grass-fed beef at the farmer's market, and you could have gotten a conventional pound at the supermarket for only $3, then local wasn't the best option.

But the grass-fed beef isn't the same product as the industrial beef; everyone knows this now, even if they try and gloss it over. When you pay $7 for a pound of local pasture-raised ground chuck, you're getting a superior product that is good for you and for the planet; in contrast, when you pay $3 for the mush in the supermarket, you're getting a product that is bad for you and for the planet. The values one places upon these facts are highly subjective, but the facts themselves are not: one of the products is a good thing, and the other is a terrible thing.

You get what you pay for. So, economic fallacies notwithstanding, it's clear that paying more for something isn't a bad thing, so long as you're getting more out of paying for it. Any self-respecting local foodie---or any drinker of Maker's Mark, for that matter---knows this to be true.

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