This is an off the cuff post that is basically about a book I'm reading now called Big Box Swindle (www.BigBoxSwindle.com) by Stacy Mitchell.
I remember my father telling me three decades ago after returning from a business trip that they were moving textile finishing operations out of the country. He was flabbergasted that they could ship cut cloth off-shore, have it assembled, ship it back and make it cost less than doing all that here. As a Personnel Manager in the textile industry the implications for the people in the mills that he knew personally and cared about worried him. He didn't say that ... but I could see that worry on his face.
A decade later I remember him explaining how Wal-Mart gets the lowest prices for the stuff it buys ... by ordering huge lots from a manufacturer, then going back the next year demanding a lower per-piece price... basically extortion of manufacturers.
A decade later I remember hearing a radio interview with an owner of a high end yard tool manufacturer who wouldn't sell to Wal-Mart. He knew how they worked. He wasn't about to let Wal-Mart tell him how to run his business or pay and work the people with whom he had community and personal relationships.
Today, I know how much I dislike big box stores because of how they treat their people, if nothing else. I know they have been the primary instigating factor in the movement of American factories (and middle-class jobs) that make all our "stuff" off shore. I know they hurt small business owners and destroy downtown businesses. And I know how much I love the downtown "village" where I live and how wonderful the businesses and business owners there are.
But this book I am reading (loaned to me by a downtown revitalization professional) moves all those things I knew (but for which I had no data) into concrete spreadsheet-based proof.
From the jacket cover...
Mitchell traces the dramatic growth of mega-retailers -- from big boxes like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, and Staples to chains like Starbucks, Olive Garden, Blockbuster, and Old Navy -- and the precipitous decline of independent businesses. Drawing on examples from virtually every state in the country, she unearths the extraordinary impact of these companies and the big-box mentality on everything from soaring gasoline comsumption to rising poverty rates, failing family farms, and declining voting levels. Along the way, Mitchell exposes the shocking role government policy has played in the expansion of mega-retailers and builds a compelling case that communities composed of many small, locally owned businesses are healthier and more prosperous than those dominated by a few large chains.
To boot ... the tax revenue local leaders think they're going to get from drawing in and approving big boxes is very short-lived, if it is ever real at all.
So, to end the first post I've put up in months and months ...
This is an appeal to friends and others, lurkers and admins, rich and poor ... please, go downtown and find locally owned businesses on your highways and by-ways to support.
Shop in independent stores.
Eat in independent restaurants.
Contract for services from independent owners and professionals.
Buy your food as locally as possible.
Make the effort.
I know it isn't easy.
... but the alternative is insidiously worse ...
If we (YOU and I) don't start doing all these simple things very soon we will find, to our dismay, that changing the course our Masters have set for us impossible. We will find that we have left nothing for our children but a new Feudal order, and very few of them will ever be able to say they are truly free people.
Ho. Ho. Ho.