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Pigs is Pigs or How to Buy American

 As a fiery youth I, like many others, spent a lot of time yelling this or that wasn’t fair and wanting to change the world. My grandfather, who by the way is still alive at the age of 88, would listen to my hormone inspired rants and knowingly grin his understanding. When I was old enough to understand he quietly handed me a very old book written for children but containing enormous wisdom. The book was called “Pigs is Pigs” and I wish someone would e-mail me if they have or know where I can get a copy of it. I think the world and maybe even some of the bartcop readers could benefit from the wisdom of that book.

The story is about a young boy that ordered a pair of Guinea Pigs through the mail and the postmaster in the town where he lived. To make a short story shorter, when the guinea pigs arrived the postmaster decided there was postage due at the rate for shipping live pigs rather than the cheaper rate for shipping live pets. Apparently they got better mail service back then than we do now because in the book the post office handled such things.  But the postal service rant will be saved for another time. The young boy couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the more expensive rate so the postmaster decided to hang on to the Guinea Pigs until the boy could return with the extra money required for real pigs. Each time the boy came to the post office to inquire as to the well being of his future pets he would ask about the cheaper postage rate and the postmaster would tell him “Pigs is pigs” and demand the higher rate for shipping farm pigs instead of the cheaper rate for shipping pet Guinea Pigs.

Then the inevitable happened, the Guinea Pigs began to do what Guinea Pigs apparently do best, they multiplied. Now each time the young boy came to the post office there would be more and more Guinea Pigs until the Postmaster was over whelmed with Guinea Pigs. Each time the boy returned the postmaster wanted more and more money for “postage” for all the Guinea Pigs that were accumulating at the post office. In the end the evil postmaster relented but the boy told the postmaster he couldn’t afford to feed the 100 or more guinea pigs that were residing at the post office. He just wanted the two guinea pigs he had originally ordered. The postmaster was out the cost of food for over 100 guinea pigs plus the cost of storing them and a lot of other problems that would arise from having over 100 guinea pigs. All because he chose to believe that “pigs is pigs”.

In today’s world the modern consumer is overwhelmed by advertising which tells us that “pigs is pigs” so you should just pick the retailer where you can buy products for the least amount and buy everything there. Of course this approach tends to favor the large retailer that pays less for his stock because he can buy items in larger quantities. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When you spend your hard earned dollars and buy those much-needed items for your home, office, family etc. by just buying where they are the cheapest then you are ignoring one of the most powerful forces on the planet, something called “Micro-economics”.  Micro-economics is a reference to what goes on in towns with locally owned and operated business’s. Whereas Macro-economics for our purposes would be a reference to what goes on with large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sears or any of a host of large retailers doing business on a national level.

In a microeconomics scenario a dollar spent with a locally owned and operated “mom and pop” business is filtered or re-spent many times over before it leaves the local economy. By filtering through the local economy in this manner our dollar provides jobs and much needed income to the local area. In a macro-economics scenario a larger portion of that dollar leaves the area almost immediately when it is sent to the corporate headquarters instead of being re-spent several times over in the local economy before it leaves the area. For those that are having trouble following this let’s put it another way. The longer a dollar remains in circulation and is re-spent within an economic area the more jobs and income it provides for the population of the economic area. When a dollar leaves an area to go to “corporate headquarters” it provides less than desirable income and fewer jobs for local residents.

In many towns along the east coast of the U.S. they understand the importance of micro-economics. I have been in towns along the east coast where they consider it almost un-American to spend money with retailers owned by people that aren’t residents of the community. This is why large retailers like Wal-Mart are becoming less and less desirable as new additions to many communities. The facts are that many a local main street has become a row of deserted buildings because they couldn’t compete when large retailers moved just outside the city limits and set up shop. The undesirable consequence of this is that local dollars, except for those few that were spent paying employees of the large retailer, immediately left the community and thus damaged or destroyed the local economy. This includes the taxes that are collected for things like water treatment and sewer treatment facilities not to mention what happens to property values and in turn ad valorem taxes which generally fund things like our children’s education.

I remember an economics professor in college telling us that in a microeconomics situation a dollar would be re-spent as many as 11 or 12 times before it filtered out of the local economy. In other words each dollar spent with a mom and pop type store turned into 12 dollars for the local economy. Each dollar spent with a large retailer owned by someone outside the local economy was only worth about $1.20 to the local economy. So those consumers that are guilty of saying that “Pigs is Pigs” and spending money with a large retailer that has convinced us that we are getting a good deal are in reality spending themselves out of a job as well as being responsible for their neighbor loosing their job. We won’t even get into what happens to local services such as education, streets, police and a host of other services that we demand from our local governments when the local tax base falls into ruin.

For some reason this is a hard thing for most people to believe. If it wasn’t true then why did the USSR before the fall of communism turn to something as capitalistic as micro-economics in an attempt to rebuild the failing economy? The trouble that they encountered was they just started to late encouraging small business’s for it to have an affect. The Chinese government has reportedly done the same thing by encouraging the growth of small business’s throughout mainland China in order to prop up their economy.

In the end, our obsessive search for the ever-elusive good deal may in fact be our economic downfall. I know people that will drive 2 hours to save a few dollars. With the price of gas these days they fail to take into account that their good deal just got burned up in the gas tank not to mention the damage they cause to their local economy.  With the growth of the world economy and the purchasing of items over the internet and the macro-economic conditions it creates, it’s easy to take the “Pigs is Pigs” approach when it comes to spending your paycheck. You could order everything you can off the internet, however, how you spend your money becomes a responsibility when you take into account the effect on your local economic area. The responsible individual will first spend their money locally before heading to cyber-space or that chain store retailer down the road for harder to find items. A healthy local economy leads to more jobs and larger paychecks for its citizens. Sure, you can argue that a penny saved, regardless of where you spend it, is a penny earned to which I’m going to reply “Pigs is Pigs”. Why? Because you have to take into consideration what will happen to the individual that chooses not to do business with the local merchants. First, they are putting their job at risk. Secondly they put the task of providing a good education for their children at risk. The there’s the problem of police protection for their community, providing drinking water for their home and a host of other things which might also includes roads and education. I’m a little uncomfortable with the turn to a global economy that we are experiencing. We are already beginning to see that what happens in another part of our country can have a huge affect on your pocket book. Ie: The World Trade Center attacks have caused homeowners insurance rates to jump as much as 40 or 50% in many areas and the rate increases in those markets are barely just beginning. According to some insurance analyst you can expect your homeowners insurance to at least double over the next few years due to this terrorist attack. If the growth of a global economy continues to develop as expected then you can rest assured than an earthquake or volcano on the other side of the world will have a direct affect on your pocket book. I don’t know about you but I’m a little uncomfortable when the actions of an extremist government on the other side of the planet have an effect on what I pay for necessary goods and services at home. Much the same as what is already going on in the oil and gas industry where what we pay for gas is directly controlled by OPEC. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching isolationism. I am preaching awareness of the detrimental effects of allowing ourselves to be suckered into believing “Pigs is Pigs”!

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