James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, April 14, 2008

From Maine to California

Last week I wondered if trade is overrated. My real question, however, was if the mass market is overrated, and one thing I had in mind was food - transporting chemically-enhanced food over hundreds or thousands of miles instead of eating fresh food that is produced naturally in your area. One problem with mass-market distribution is that a flaw in the product will have widespread, not localized, implications. This is true of salmonella found in cereal produced in Minnesota that was consumed in Maine, California, and eleven states in between.

Two years ago on Easter Sunday afternoon I was headed eastbound on I-80 in Utah and Wyoming. At one point I counted semi trucks going westbound at a rate of ten per minute, and once twent-five trucks passed in a row, with no cars (Mercy sakes alive looks like we got us a convoy!) The Interstate Highway System was ostensibly created for civil defense, but obviously it was to facilitate commerce. But that also means facilitating nationwide disease outbreaks. And the reaction to that prompts the federal government to impose onerous regulations imposed on everyone - local producers and national distributors alike. This hurts local, small businesses, who can least afford the regulations and who were not distributing nationally anyway.

If the federal government did not build the highways and the railroads, and did not protect shipping, potentially dangerous products would have only local effects and could be regulated locally. A giant, mass market encourages one-size-fits-all regulations and programs, and this always gives the larger, corporate producers the advantage over local, small producers.

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