There's some serious idiots out there


So, another one of these attempts to make clothes only from local ingredients. Rather ignoring much of the human history of trade which has seen extensive trade in textiles and clothing pretty much ever since human beings started wearing them. But sure, why not experiment?

In December, just under 2,000 limited-edition oatmeal-colored cotton hoodies cropped up at The North Face’s online and brick-and-mortar stores, commanding a premium price of $125 each. By January, the hoodies were sold out.

These shirts spun an interesting tale. They were an experiment by the sports clothing company to see if everything it needed to produce the hoodie — from the cotton to the finished garment — could be found within 150 miles of its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Well, they couldn't do it but so what. A market economy is that continual succession of experiments, we cast off the ones that fail. However, here's where the ignorance of what is staring one in the face comes in:

The North Face hoodie was part of its Backyard Project, which is part of the company’s effort to work closely with the US textile industry, from farmers to factories, to use sustainably grown materials and reduce waste.

Reduce waste is a synonym for using fewer resources to create a particular output. And we've already got a system to do this: it's called that market and those prices. At which point it's terribly simple to work out whether such localism reduces resource consumption.

These "local" hoodies cost that $125. The standard, non-local hoodies by the same company cost $45 to $55. Making the entirely reasonable assumption that they're applying the same standard mark up to both products this means that the local version consumes more than twice as many resources as the non-local one.

We can work out resource use just by looking at prices.