Buy Local To Save The World?

One of the most pervasive, misguided, economic beliefs I encounter is the religion of “buy local.” And it is nearly always profoundly wrong. More annoyingly, those who scream the credo the loudest appear to be the most confident.

The article below is excellent. There is nothing wrong with buying local if that’s really what you want. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s better for the economy or the environment. Driving a single pick-up truck load of vegetables to a farm market, to be picked up small bits at a time by you in your car or SUV, is not efficient at all (from here). If you really want some fresh in-season produce locally because it tastes better at that time go for it. But be aware that you’re not saving the world.

The Locavore’s Dilemma: Why Pineapples Shouldn’t Be Grown in North Dakota – Library of Economics and Liberty: Local food is generally more expensive than non-local food of the same quality. If that were not so, there would be no need to exhort people to “buy local.” However, we are told that spending a dollar for a locally produced tomato keeps the dollar circulating locally, stimulating the local economy. But, if local and non-local foods are of the same quality, but local goods are more expensive, then buying local food is like burning dollar bills—dollar bills that could have been put to more productive use. The community does not benefit when we pay more for a local tomato instead of an identical non-local tomato because the savings realized from buying non-local tomatoes could have been used to purchase other things. Asking us to purchase local food is asking us to give up things we otherwise could have enjoyed—the very definition of wealth destruction.

And if you’ve never listened to it, enjoy this classic EconTalk episode on the the buy-local phenomenon. One of the best ever. It’s an eye-opener.

Related links:
Boudreaux on the Economics of “Buy Local”
Yup, They Actually Said It: Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack on Food Stamps

  • Seth

    Have you listened to this week’s EconTalk?  It also has a good discussion about Buy Local.  They also have a good discussion on Jevons Paradox, though I’m not sure they ever called it that.

    • speedmaster

       I did catch that, great stuff!  ;-)