"Small Business Saturday", Please Don't Become "Buy Local"!
Yesterday was “Small Business Saturday”, an event intended to encourage all of us to inject cash into small businesses. I like this idea, and I like small business. I like the idea of a person taking a risk, striking out on their own, and striving toward independent succcess (and hopefully, independent wealth).
Alas, I can’t help but draw comparisons to another small-business-oriented movement: The “Buy Local” movement.
Embedded within “Buy Local” drives and other attempts to balkanize the economy, is the very core concept of Marxism: The theory of the zero-sum economy, wherein a person who accumulates wealth can only do so through depriving another person of it- so, “buy local” to deprive “big business” of their “ill-gotten” profits.
Those who seek to continually reduce the size of your “economic zone” never stop with “local”, either. Once such people have convinced you to cut back from “Buying American” to “Buying (your state)” to “Buying (your city)”, their momentum carries them into absurd- but damaging- gossip territory: “Buy from Local Business A instead of Local Business B, because (insert reason)”. The reason could be any petty issue: Business A is owned by a “good family”, where Business B has a family member with legal troubles; Business A’s owner lives in this town, where Business B’s owner lives in the next town over; Business A is “struggling” and “needs” the money, where Business B’s owner just bought a new boat. The exact reason is irrelevant. When dealing with people who seek to dictate how others spend their money, any convenient justification will suffice.
It also promotes inefficiency in business: It promotes the idea that a small, local business- regardless of how irrelevant or inefficient it is- is more “deserving” of my money than a large business which must constantly work to make itself more competitive and more efficient.
This mentality also puts franchises in an awkward position: I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen restaurants open in my city, only to go out of business within a few months. Of course, the public blames “the big guys” for “taking money from them”- “the big guys” being fast-food eateries. Nevermind that “the big guys” are franchises- in other words, locally-owned just like the “little guy”- and never mind that they were here first, or that they’re efficiently-run and offer products people want. They’re “evil” and they “steal from the little guys”- proved by the fact that they have TV commercials.
And then there are Farmer’s Markets, and the ridiculous assertion that they “save the environment”, and that somehow “locally-grown” produce is superior, or not “full of pesticides”- as if New York lettuce is safe, but Pennsylvania lettuce will kill me- and to “save myself” (and the children, naturally), I’m expected to substitute my 20-minute trip to the grocery store for a three-hour ordeal involving overpriced lemonade, a horrible band (a local band, of course, rather than one I’d actually want to hear), no parking, and like any other local event, dog poop on the sidewalks.
Oh, and let’s not forget the common conceit that events such as this “bring money into the city”- forgetting that the miniscule amount of tax revenue the city will recieve, is completely dwarfed by the cost of overtime for the several police officers present (because it’s not safe to sell cucumbers in a city of 17,000 people these days).
So, “Small Business Saturday”: Please, Please, Please don’t degenerate into the socialist failure that is “Buy Local”. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to do to you what I do to “Farmer’s Market Thursday”, and avoid you like the plague.