The holiday shopping season isn’t over just yet, and there are a number of people still sneering in condemnation at those who 1) purchase items online rather than buy from local businesses, and 2) buy items that are manufactured in other countries.
They share something akin with many vegans, though certainly not all vegans. There are those few vegans that look on in sneering condemnation as I eat my venison. In the same way, there are certain people who condemn others for shopping in a manner they do not politically support.
Firstly, the world is a tremendously well-connected place. Not only are products manufactured and shipped to consumers everywhere in the world, but also the idea of all components of products needing to come from the same place is long gone. Markets have evolved into highly efficient machines, whereby resources are efficiently directed to those places it will cost the least to manufacture the respective components. Different parts of the world have different and more efficient access to different things, and therefore, because of huge advancements in the transport of goods and resources, the world functions more closely to a unified marketplace than it used to. No, it is not a free and open marketplace, but it is definitely closer than it used to be.
It is becoming more and more difficult to be selective about a product’s origin. And it isn’t even a good idea. Everyone benefits from efficiency, and the world is an more peaceful and prosperous place when we all depend upon one another for trade. Trade wars punish everyone, and personal trade vendettas, where a person decides to only buy from their own country, are not going to do anything, and even if everyone were to adopt such ideas, would result in reverse of progression for the betterment of market efficiencies that make life better and more affordable.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a preference for goods manufactured in a particular area. I, myself, have a preference for dealing with local businesses whenever possible. It’s a part of a consumer supporting their own preferences in the marketplace, and it’s one component of something an individual consumer supports. However, it becomes counter-productive when having a haughty, sneering attitude toward others as they select their own marketplace preferences. It does not aid anything in the marketplace to be condescending toward the preferences of others.
In the same manner, it does not behoove the markets to condemn other people for having a preference toward shopping online with businesses like Amazon. While it is true that Amazon has taken a huge slice of the retail marketplace, small business are not going to die. Even if they did, this is part of the natural progression of things. Things evolve in free markets, and we are all the better for it. As businesses are forced to adapt and change, they operate more efficiently and more toward the demands of the consumer. We end up with more affordable goods and services that come in the manner we most prefer, with the level of service we most prefer.
In the early 1980s, there was the same attitude toward Walmart as it began its massive expansion into America’s smaller towns, where small local businesses had thrived, away from the retail giants in the larger cities. People were crying foul as Walmart began taking enormous parts of small town retail business and local businesses closing shop when they believed they could no longer compete.
But a couple of things happened that didn’t go along with the negative narrative. Firstly, many of those small businesses adapted to offer things that Walmart simply couldn’t, because of its size. They upped their game in service and quality. Walmart also now finds itself in the fight of its life with the likes of the world’s largest retailer that has no expensive brick and mortar retail space. Things have changed again, and it is now Walmart that must adapt and change or risk losing its business. Small businesses will now also adapt and find ways to do things that neither Walmart nor Amazon can do.
This is the nature of things and the way things evolve such that everyone benefits. So, if you want to have your own personal preferences toward local small businesses (as I do), then by all means shop at those places. But, don’t be a shopping vegan. It benefits no one to demand that others have your same preferences. We want the markets to operate efficiently. It’s a great and beautiful thing when the actions of people across the world move to the benefit of all. It’s a wondrous thing to see free actions make positive changes for good. It might mean a few bad outcomes along the way, but ultimately, we are far better off than if we were to all cave to the demands of the shopping vegans.