Have you ever wondered what life was like or would be like with no large chains or corporations? What would your town look like if Sonic, McDonald’s, and Walmart didn’t exist? Those are just the obvious retail chains, could we function without larger companies like the internet or agricultural companies? This article will serve as an open ended thought experiment to build upon in series format. Let’s first dive into the advantages of large companies and how they occurred somewhat naturally, then we will look at the advantages of moving to localism.
First, let’s think about how businesses have gotten so large and how they became non-local. Walmart is a great example here, they started with one location in Arkansas and expanded all over the world. Was this a Dr. Evil style plan to ruin rural economies? Very doubtful. See they had legitimate value to offer their customers, they had the lowest prices. Then as they grew they were able to keep lowering prices due to volume discounts. See businesses naturally get better prices as they get larger and larger. No matter where you live Walmart can give you the cheapest Boar’s Head Deli Meat because they are Boar’s Head’s largest customer. It’s called a unit discount, you buy X amount of units the price per unit drops. To this point they defeated competition honestly by having lower prices and more options. From there you can see how someone would open new locations in towns that didn’t have grocery stores(of course we also know they went to plenty of towns and put the locals out of business). Thus the value of having low prices spread to consumers across America.
Let’s just compare the composition of American small towns before and after Walmart. While the prices benefit the community and leave more money in their pocket upon purchase of groceries, they are permanently taking money out of their community. See before Walmart they might have paid higher prices, but they were paying a member of the community who was going to spend that money in the community. Just imagine how many local business owners have gone under because of Walmart, potentially 3-15 business owners per town. This is how corporations start the slide toward inequality, first, they take out the local grocery store owner in a small town, she then quits visiting the local salon to get a discount at Heads Up, slowly putting the local salon out of business. This is the snake that eats itself, we selfishly or for survival need the discounts, and we perpetuate the cycle leading to fewer and fewer people owning businesses and making a profit. It is like a corporate vampire that has sucked the money of every rural town in America.
Why is it so tough for us to try and support our neighbors? First, these large companies spend fortunes to win over trust so let’s not pretend the average person is just stupid. Secondly, many of these chains like Walmart and Dollar General prey on the impoverished, they know if you barely have enough money for food, you will buy from the cheapest store where you can get the most food per dollar. So many people are barely surviving today that we can’t just ask them to start paying more at a local level until wages start to rise to support the community.
From a cultural standpoint, we are the most individualistic society on earth, this is another barrier to corporations’ advantage, for now. Think about Native American cultures where you were valued based on how much you gave to others. If you caught the largest fish the “prideful” thing to do is to give it to the whole tribe. Contrast that with our views of the community, the small town where people watch out for each other is dead and gone. This is the same reason we struggled more than any other country with COVID, we have a hard time thinking collectively. However, this same individualistic drive could save us. We need to flip the script and use that drive to open your own local business. We already adore the big entrepreneur culturally, now we need to adore the local entrepreneurs! This isn’t too big of a shift for Americans, the shift will be supporting local members of the community consciously.
One of Karl Marx’s most accurate and relevant critiques of capitalism is that eventually, our work would alienate us to the world and importantly alienate us from the products we produce. What did he mean by alienate? Well, Marx saw the system with two halves, the owners and the workers. He believed that the longer a worker was asked to produce a product with no ownership, the more hostility would grow toward the product. Likewise they would grow alienated from the outside world where the product is being sent. Let’s think back to the America of Eugene Debbs childhood in the early 1800s when the majority of Americans worked for themselves as farmers or small business owners. Say you lived in a thriving small town like Debs, and you were the town watchmaker. You had control over the process and got to see the clock come together from beginning to end, feeling prideful of your daily work. Then you also felt connected to your community being the clockmaker, you walk around town seeing your clocks and your happy customers and you feel a sense of belonging in the community. Let’s compare that picture of the local clockmaker with the factory worker in the clock factory. In the factory, he works placing the same cog in the same clock all day long. He never completes a clock himself or sees a finished product because the rest of the process is finished in another building. The clocks are then distributed to customers that he doesn’t know and never sees. Eventually this employee starts to completely despise clocks and the factory.
So how can we take back the profits of ownership and our life satisfaction? Is it through Government oversight? Is it through a lobbying effort or private group? Hard to say but this is a cause dear to our heart here at True American Radar. We often hear the phrase “vote with your dollar”, in America that is the true ballot. We are starting on that level, personally opting for local at every chance. However, let’s not kid ourselves, this will take a mass coordinated movement to turn the tide against the Walmarts of the world. Stay tuned for more discussion on this topic.