Sunday, June 30, 2013

Be Patriotic. Shop Local!

We've all heard the story of how a new British tax on tea incited the famous Boston Tea Party, where colonists dumped more than 90,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. But what you probably haven't heard is that the Tea Party—we're talking here about the one on Boston in the 1700's, not the current group of misguided pretenders—was really all about shopping local.

You see the tax on tea wasn't a tax on all tea—only on the tea sold by local merchants. Tea sold by the East India Company, a 1700's version of a powerful multinational corporation, wasn't subject to the tax. The idea was to enable the East India Company to undercut its small local competitors and drive them out of business. (Gee, this sounds a lot like today—where you have to pay sales tax if you buy a book from us, but you don't pay sales tax if you buy the book from amazon..).

The British government and the East India Company were counting on the lure of cheap tea to overpower the colonist's sense of community and principle, but they misjudged. The colonists continued to support their local, independent merchants and boycott East India tea. Their actions in the Boston harbor and the British retaliation that followed ultimately led to an organized boycott of all British goods. Homegrown and local became the fashion of the day. The Declaration of Independence soon followed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, we know that cities with more locally owned, independent businesses have higher rates of community involvement at all levels (including voter turnout) and lower rates of crime and poverty than cities that have few locally owned businesses. Which just makes sense. Its easier to feel part of a community where you know the folks that own and run the businesses. That sense of belonging is hard to come by in a place where all the stores are owned by multinational corporations. And it is even harder to come by where everyone sits at home with their computers and orders everything from a distant warehouse with terrible working conditions.

So...Be patriotic! Make your community a better place! Keep your money here where you live! Shop Local!

And a Happy Fourth of July to all.

(Thanks to the pamphlet "A Declaration of Independents" by Stacy Mitchell for the information about the Boston Tea Party)

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