Is it better to buy locally or globally?
If I were to have you take a survey that asked you where you buy your products, what would your answers be? Do you buy primarily from local vendors––small boutiques, farms, family-owned businesses––or do you buy products made abroad? Do you find yourself shopping on Amazon for the cutest (and cheapest) styles, or would you rather go to a store around the block from your home? Do you include a mix of both? The deeper question is, which is better?
It is almost impossible not to buy products made abroad; even American Eagle Outfitters manufactures clothes in China, India, Guatemala, Vietnam, etc., with America being far down on the list. For a moment, let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which Americans adopt a completely local approach to consumerism.
If every person living within the United States committed to buying strictly American-made products, the supply and demand cycle of goods would thrive strictly within our borders. When American money buys American products, more jobs are created, and money cycles back into the American economy. Everyone is involved.
Such attention to America may even be the specificity we need in order to reduce involvement in human trafficking. If the supply and demand cycle existed here and only here, the crime pool would become more limited and centralized, and our government and law enforcement would be able to aim its attention on American business practices. Focusing inward on the American economy reduce foreign importation and with it much of the labor and sex trafficking industries. As a result, American businesses and companies would have more authoritative pressure on them, and it would be easier to have a stronger grip on business policies. Perhaps human trafficking would be harder to conceal under such close supervision.
To limit oneself to buying only American-made products is to contribute to a better America. But does this make us better people?
Ironically, so much of the benefits of buying only American-made products comes down to bettering our economics, and yet such restraints also contribute to a worse economic state: the contraction of foreign trade. If Americans were to look inward and put every consumerist dollar toward American-made products, so much of U.S. trade would be cut off. And not all products that we currently use can be provided by American soil. Coffee beans, for instance, are grown predominantly in Latin and South America, as well as parts of East Africa and Asia.
So, foreign trade would be negatively impacted, but what does this really mean? Well, countries tend not to get along too well when they’ve been cut off from certain goods and supplies, (August 1941 proves this well when the U.S. put an embargo on oil and gasoline exports to Japan, and only four months later we found ourselves right in the middle of WWII). Are we willing to cut ourselves off from world-wide friendships, or to make enemies of each other?
Obviously, I have exaggerated the point a bit, as it is highly unlikely that every American would suddenly switch to buying only American-made goods. But should we make the claim that American-made is “better” for America or American citizens? If we do, then we would be acting insensibly toward our neighbors overseas.
So, what are we to do? There are certainly benefits to both sides, but which contributes to the betterment of ourselves? Instead of concentrating on buying from one nation or another, we need to shift our thinking to recognize that we are buying from each other, from other individuals with personal lives. And so many of these personal lives, in America and elsewhere, are forced into the confines of human trafficking. We should be using our power as people who clearly want to better the world (you’re reading this article, yeah?!) to buy from ethically sourced companies and thus stand for unprejudiced treatment of people, whether abroad or not.
We should be able to exist together in this world without nationalistic divides, without close-minded thinking that, “We do it better.” Better is not me-focused, it is we-focused. It is fighting for each other’s dignity. It is empowering each other to stand up and be a consumer of a quality company or movement, rather than a consumer of a nation.
About the Author
Emily James is currently a junior at Azusa Pacific University, pursuing an English degree with a concentration in Writing. She has big plans to travel and see the vibrant colors of the world, and to write of the marginalized and unheard people she meets along her nomad journey (Dressember is fitting!). When she is not in class or working as an elementary reading and writing tutor, she loves to rock climb, hike, read, and watch romance movies with the girls.