Monday, February 28, 2011

Two new Buy Local pieces

The Library of Economics and Liberty has a new scholarly article critical of localist economic and environmental claims. Just like a math problem can be approached from different angles and reach the same successful conclusion, a fallacy like local purchasing can be broken down from different approaches and still never add up.

Authors Jayson L. Lusk and F. Bailey Norwood are both agricultural economists at Oklahoma State University and

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.

The article is yet another example of how one-sided this scientific "debate" is. I was surprised to read an agricultural economics publication published some of the localist claims - not just without criticism, but even allowed them to be published.

Also recently Russ Roberts posted another blog entry critical of localism, suggesting people look past the money and instead concentrate on the resources. It's always fun to see the comment section light up with hubris on display. Check out this excerpt:

Your comparison here is the most ignorant excuse for an argument that I've ever heard since my 8 year old nephew tried to outwit me on how much to pay for a trip on the space shuttle. Buying local does not include cars made in China, Flat screen TVs made in Japan or anything else that in this large scale production category. Don't try to focus your energy on what does not work in the equation, focus on what does.

They just don't get it. The production of complex objects simply makes the fallacy easier to spot. Does Leonard Read need to come back from the dead to explain how the production of even the simplicist object is incredibly complicated?

What I've never understood is that besides being so sure of themselves, my intellectual opponents get so emotional about their financing schemes. Criticing localist economic schemes shouldn't be received like dumping bleach on someones rug. I suppose that's why we call them sacred cows.


  1. that is not why many buy local produce. Some people care about taste and quality. There is a HUGE difference in a cardboard tomatoe ripened in a box on the way from chile. Just keep it mind that some people care about the taste and quality thats the reason for my trip tp a framers market or farm.

  2. Kkat, yes it is.

    Localists give many different reasons why they support these notions. I can't write about all of them in a single post.