more modest number, but still deceiving. This organization
took the $0.78 number from studies published in the scien-
tific literature—one study was even by our colleagues. Yet if
you ask our colleagues, they will explain that the number is
deceiving. It does not account for the fact that money spent
on nonlocal food also generates additional income. Moreover,
these studies do not account for how changes in spending pat-
terns alter the imports and exports associated with the region.
Put simply, the studies referenced cannot actually measure the
net effect of buying more local foods. Let us explain.
This “economic stimulus” argument is an economic argu-
ment, one that does not depend on local foods being of superior
quality to nonlocal foods, and so we assume throughout this
section that the quality of both foods is identical. The local eco-
nomic stimulus argument is indeed an economic proposition,
but one with little economic theory or evidence to support it.
A core tenet of economics is that voluntary trade increases
the wealth of all trading parties, regardless of whether it is
two countries trading, two states, two counties, or even two
people. Economists discuss wealth gains from trade like biolo-
gists discuss evolution: as a fact. Any time citizens would like
to import and export to other regions but cannot, their aggre-
gate wealth falls.
The local stimulus argument claims that, instead of freely
trading with others, we should only exchange goods and ser-
vices with those who live a few miles from us. Regardless of
whether we are talking about restricting all trade, all trade
in food, or even some trade in food, the locavore wants us to
restrict trade, and both economic theory and empirical evi-
dence say that this lowers the total wealth in all regions.
This is counterintuitive, as the idea of “keeping dollars
local” just seems like it would be better for the local econ-
omy. Consider two arguments to the contrary. First, if the
economic stimulus argument were true, then taking it to its
logical extreme (which is one of the best ways to test logical
propositions), it is better for Americans to only trade with