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To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, December 11, 1999


Closed markets
for closed minds

THE debate about global trade isn't new. U.S. history is rife with trade and tariff squabbles. We fought wars to keep the seas free for Yankee traders. While Spain opened Mexico and South America for religion, Commodore Perry opened Japan for commerce. Yet, just as the rest of the world is embracing free trade and open-market capitalism, we Americans seem to be losing our nerve.

This week, as the World Trade Organization moved out of Seattle following violent, obstructive and destructive protests against further globalization of trade, news came from Maui that thousands of Valley Islanders reportedly have signed up for a "buy local" program. This offers incentives to consumers who spend money with local merchants, avoiding mainland-based chain stores.

It's a small idea. Spend your dollars only with local merchants, they'll stay here in Hawaii and we'll all prosper. If we buy things from mainland companies, they'll take our dollars away and we'll be poor.

Never mind that the mainland-owned business buys or rents local real estate, pays local taxes, employs local people, buys locally produced electricity, contracts with local vendors, contributes to local charities, banks at the local bank and offers local people goods and services often of better variety and quality and frequently at lower prices than local merchants.

Never mind that Hawaii's economy enjoys an infusion of dollars from six million visitors a year. Never mind that the government spends billions of tax dollars in Hawaii each year that were collected in the other 49 states. Never mind that Hawaii agriculture and vigorous local businesses -- architects, consultants, engineers, etc. -- also add to local coffers.

It doesn't take a Costco or a Home Depot to go into competition and take customers away. Your neighbor can do it, if she's smart and works hard.

People choose to buy at Sam's, for example, instead of the local mom and pop to get more and better stuff for less of their hard-earned cash. I believe that makes them better off.



John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to publisher@starbulletin.com or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.




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