‘Buy Local’ needs fresh recruits
By ROBERT MEADOWS
Port Orchard Independent columnist
November 11, 2011 · Updated 12:08 PM
If we are to help our economy by following the urging of those who say “buy local,” how much help can result when so much that we need and want is produced elsewhere?
Aside from some products at local farmers’ markets and crafts bazaars, there are either few locally produced goods or I’ve looked at them without seeing them.
If the “buy local” idea also includes buying from locally owned stores rather than large chain stores, there is a little greater opportunity to direct more of our dollars toward someone else in the community.
Even though the goods sold in locally owned stores usually come from elsewhere, at least the owners who enjoy the profits live nearby.
If those owners also make an effort to “buy local,” then more of the money circulates a little longer before eventually heading off to wherever the things we need and want are produced.
I don’t know what the owners do with their profits, but I prefer to shop in locally owned stores when possible. It comes with age, I suppose.
But is this really a big help when the way our economy works is to produce more than a local community can use and sell the surplus to other communities?
It’s the selling to others that brings in the money our own community needs to pay for what we buy from others.
Even though a very large part of the money coming into Kitsap County is the result of government spending on national defense, the principle holds true for us. Many local residents sell their time and skills to the rest of the nation.
The whole “buy local” idea seems so impractical that it is easy to see why there would be people who urge others to buy from local producers or locally owned businesses.
If it weren’t for the belief that we ought to pay some attention to keeping our money in the community, we would have to depend entirely on our ability to produce and sell to achieve a favorable balance between what we send elsewhere and what comes in.
Of course, when other communities also follow the urging to “buy local,” the effect is probably pretty small in the whole scheme of things.
If everyone tries to attract money from elsewhere while trying not to send more money than absolutely necessary to other places, the net effect seems likely to be negligible in any particular community.
Only those communities which have the ability to produce most of what they need and want would win this competition between “buy local” and “buy what is available,” and in today’s economy there aren’t many such communities.
Anyone who has tried to buy things that are made in the USA rather than imported from other countries knows how often the effort fails.
Trying to buy things that are locally produced is even less likely to result in finding what you want.
Speaking as one who remembers when people often preferred to buy things made in the USA rather than imports — and who still tries — the chance of finding much that is locally produced seems to be somewhere between slim and none.
It’s still pleasing to find something made in America, which is probably inexplicable to young folks who didn’t experience the time when it wasn’t so hard to do so.
Of course, none of the recent items came from around here. The shoes were made in Texas, the belt in Pennsylvania, and the blue jeans in Tennessee. Only the shoes were available at a locally owned store.
This “buy local” movement had better get moving. Nostalgia as a motivating force only lasts as long as the people who are motivated by it — and we aren’t getting any younger.
If it really helps the local economy or provides any other benefit that motivates people to “buy local,” generations who never met anyone who worked to produce the things they buy have to be persuaded.
People buy what they want, so getting them to “buy local” requires persuading them to want to.
Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.