I’m beginning to be swayed by the locavore movement! I’m sure you’ve encountered the calls for people to “Think Globally, Act Locally” and to “Support Your Local Business” and all that jazz. As we’ve explored here many times before, there is nothing inherently wrong with people freely choosing to live their lives any way they wish. Indeed, that is one of the most important virtues of living in a free society. And of course that is one of the ironies of living in a “progressive” (i.e. less property) society. Under freedom, heterogeneous wishes are completely compatible with one another insofar as people are not causing harm to each other. The opposite is most certainly not the case. Hence the guns and thugs once we want to start walking down that path.
And while “Buying Local” as a national economic program would surely lead to disaster – both economically AND environmentally, I cannot quite say the same about the political application of the idea. Which brings me to my idea(s) for today.
How would you respond to a sign in someone’s lawn in your neighborhood that read, “No Vegetable Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska!” You’d think it silly to be posting that in western NY, wouldn’t you? Even IF there were major environmental problems with the production of residential vegetable gardens, the issues that arise from it are entirely localized. When vegetable gardens attract too many deer in Omaha, how does that impose costs on someone in Pittsford? If an Omaha vegetable garden is ugly or smelly, how does that impose costs on someone in Pittsford? I suppose we can argue that small applications of pesticides in Omaha will make their way into the Missouri River, which make their way into the Mississippi River which causes dead-zones in the Gulf, which damages fisheries there and in fact can damage fisheries in … Ireland based on ocean currents. I suppose.
The same is true for fracking, at least on the grounds that most people are complaining about it. I’ve not heard solid arguments from fracktivists about their concern about Global Warming. Indeed, the substitution of gas for coal has done more to combat global warming than ANYthing in the last decade. Virtually all of the fracktivist problems with fracking have to do with issues that are almost entirely local (exceptions would be water that crosses state boundaries such as the Allegheny River). All of this makes it extremely odd to see No Fracking signs up here in the town of Pittsford – what actual stake do they have in whether wells are drilled in Binghamton? And are there other things that happen in Binghamton, for example, that have a greater impact on the people of Pittsford? I’d argue yes. But nonetheless, the fracktivist movement, at least here in Pittsford, cannot possibly be expressing any concern about what is going to happen to them. Sure, it is plausible that they care so much about the people of Omaha and Binghamton that they put up yard signs to advocate for them. Sure, it’s plausible. But not likely.
I’ll take a locavore seriously if in addition to wanting me to shop only from local businesses they agree that they have no business in the political affairs outside of their little communes. And while I am sure you are going to contort yourself into all kinds of pretzels trying to tell me “it’s different” because some political issues do impact all of us, the majority do not. For example, how could a locavore living in Pittsford, NY, living LOCALLY in Pittsford, NY justify support for a steeper progressive federal income tax on rich dudes living in Willimantic, CT?
When the locavore movement comes around to supporting political locavorism, they can then count me as a committed member of their congregation. I think I’d deal with being considerably poorer in exchange for removing the ability of 300 million people’s whims and biases from controlling my life. I think.