I recently linked an article about What Buy Local Gets Wrong. I quote Jason Sorens observation:
"If you buy everything within that circumscribed area and exclude everything outside it, your community will be worse off than it would be if it bought from any willing seller."
I came across this quote in a recent article on the surprising rise of independent bookstores.
When you buy a book at one [independent store], you keep your money in the local economy, something that appeals to many shoppers. You're also more likely to find a unique selection of curated books and personalized recommendations from the store's employees, who are usually enthusiastic evangelists of the written word.
The second sentence points to a key issue. The only way you compete in business is either to be the low cost provider or to offer a premium with your product for which people are willing to pay more. The second sentence is good example of stores finding a premium.
While the first sentence may be accurate in describing motivations for some people to shop at Indy stores, it is an irrational and destructive mindset. People are saying it is ALWAYS better to buy things in the local economy - in this case books. Let's follow that logic for a moment.
First, lets say local is anything within ten miles of my house. I'm going to buy local so I go to the indy bookstore and buy my book. Where did the bookseller get the book? Does the author live within ten miles? Was the paper in the book from trees grown and harvested in the community? Was the pulp producer located in the community? How about the chemical producers and processors who made the ink and glue? How about the printing company? If so, was the digital printing and binding equipment - and all the component parts - made and bought locally? How about the currency used to buy the book? I can go on but you get my point.
If we were to apply "buy local" reasoning consistently we would all be much worse off. All things being equal, buying a product simply because it is local is illogical unless you wish to diminish everyone's standard of living. This is true no matter how big you define local as anything short of global.
God made us for community. Face-to-face community has irreplaceable benefits in some aspects of life but we were also made for the community of commercial society. By specializing in our labor according to gifts and looking to the needs of others as reflected through price in a market exchange, we all benefit.