An Interesting Variation on “Buy Local”
Locavores buy food that was grown within a predetermined distance from where they live. Protectionists buy products that were manufactured in their home country. Now, one couple has taken the idea a step further — they’re patronizing only those stores that are owned by people of their race:
“We kind of enjoy the sacrifice because we get to make the point … but I am going without stuff and I am frustrated on a daily basis,” Maggie Anderson said. “It’s like, my people have been here 400 years and we don’t even have a Walgreens to show for it.”
As a campaign, I’m not opposed to this strategy. It could be a good way to get the public focused on economic opportunities for people in minority groups. The Andersons are not telling everyone else to change their spending habits or trying to get any preferences written into law. They’re just using their own experiences to spread their message.
The Andersons’ experiment does, however, underscore some drawbacks of protectionist policies. The Andersons are patronizing minority-owned businesses at a significant cost to themselves. Whatever the businesses gain financially from the experiment is more than outweighed by the material losses to the Andersons when they have give to up items they couldn’t find. The Andersons think it’s worth it for the sake of making a statement they care about, but people who have comparable experiences forced on them by protectionist policies would be less happy to sacrifice.
In addition, as I think the Andersons would agree, their campaign doesn’t solve any of the problems that prevent minorities from successfully starting and maintaining businesses. They’re successfully publicizing the issue, but their purchases alone aren’t going to open the floodgates to a new generation of minority entrepreneurs. Similarly, protectionist policies may call attention to supply problems in local areas, but they don’t correct the root causes of those problems.