Which Is Better for the Economy: Spreading Money Around or Spending It in One Place?

BY busadmin  October 22, 2009 at 11:49 AM EDT

vendors; via Flickr

Question: I have a “nanoeconomy” question.

Most of us go to the grocery store once a week. Which would be better for the economy overall if everyone did it: to go to the same store every time, or to try to go to a different store each time? Spread our money around, or concentrate it in one place?

Paul Solman: What an intriguing question, Curt. (One of my favorite authors, BTW, George Ainslie, has written a book called Picoeconomics. I’d recommend starting with his Breakdown of Will, however. I found the book mind-altering.)

But back to your question. I don’t think there’s any generalizable answer. My only response is to tell you what I’ve done that sort of relates. During the crisis, I’ve been trying to patronize stores I like — and worry about — even if there’s nothing I remotely need. My older daughter occasionally twits me about bringing home “fanciful cr*p” for the grandkids and it’s true, I guess. But the motivation is long-term and self-interested: to keep the marginal merchants on whom I rely in business, as best I can.