The Sad Death of American Towns through Globalisation – Or – Never Trust Walmart

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by Mark Angelides

When major employers come to a town, replace the local businesses, suck up the people they have made unemployed and then leave a few years later, there is very little hope of recovery. It is destroying towns and families. And what’s worse, it makes the victims complicit in their own demise.
Ten years ago in McDowell County, West Virginia, a new Walmart came to town. It was warmly embraced as an employer because the coal industry was in decline; but an unexpected side effect (to the local population, not Walmart) was to shut down many of the smaller businesses that employed many of the other townsfolk. And now Walmart have closed down and moved on, leaving the people without work, without the local business infrastructure that existed before, and sadly, without hope of rebuilding.
On 15 January 2016, Walmart announced that it was closing down 154 superstores in the US alone. Many of these are in town like McDowell, that have become reliant on the stores for employment and goods. It is easy to sneer and say that they should have thought about supporting local businesses while they had the chance, but the real villain in the whole episode is the Corporate/Globalist outlook that does not regard people as people, but as a block consumer base to which they have no responsibility.
Proper Capitalism has been one of the prime movers in taking people out of poverty that the world has ever known; but these Global companies work on a system of corporatism, not capitalism. They create Monopolies (often with the use of lobbied government regulation) that destroys fair competition, and give them such advantages that small to medium size businesses have no chance to survive.
The mass protests against Capitalism in favour of Socialism are missing the point. It is not capitalism that is destroying lives, it is Cronyism and Corporatism (I am aware that this is the same argument used by supporters of Socialism when they say “That was not real Socialism!”. But we all have our biases).
We can stop this detriment to towns and communities, but only if we stop it at the beginning. We need to support local businesses; don’t buy from mega-retailers; spend a little more of our money in local (and likely slightly more expensive) businesses to ensure that our communities survive; and DO NOT BUY from companies that have no interest in the life and future of your community.
Until we are willing to make personal sacrifices (money, time, convenience) to ensure the future of our communities, then the mega corporations will continue to treat us as minor disposable assets. They will sweep into town, dazzle us with quick growth and cheap consumables, and then leave overnight leaving families devastated and poor.
It’s really a simple choice: cheaper products, or the future of your community.

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14 thoughts on “The Sad Death of American Towns through Globalisation – Or – Never Trust Walmart

  1. While this might seem the problem of Walmart, it is actually the problem of many other factors. Cheaper and more efficient is the goal and a Walmart type store does this. When I was young, it was Sears. Then it went to Whitefront. Then K-mart and then Walmart and now it is Amazon. Next, most of the industrial complex will be robotic. This is not the problem. The problem is how to get money into the hands of the consumer and also how to give them something constructive to do. Change always moves things from one paradigm to the next. These days, however, things are moving much faster than most folks can adapt to. When I was growing up I worked in a mom and pop electronics store. Radio Shack came in after that and moved the mom and pop out. Now Radio Shack is gone because of Walmart and Amazon. Ebay also plays a part. The big shocking realization is the question over power. If only the power went out, then NOTHING would work. There would be no mom and pop to catch us. In the 20s and 30s the family farm saved the nation. Even in depression the chickens still laid eggs. But now if the corporate farm goes down, and the transportation links are broken, it is all gone. There is no savior left for the unexpected consequences.

    • Respectfully, although your thesis makes sense on the surface, there are a few problems you don’t address. The problem is that your stated goal of “Cheaper and more efficient” only applies to a profit making enterprise and is not a universal barometer of goodness. The thing Walmart and many other chain stores ignore is that there is a customer satisfaction metric called “VALUE”. If you buy cheap Chinese crap odds are you will be buying it again unless it is single-use disposable. The thing that Sears and Penny’s et al used to provide was value. A dress shirt from Dillard’s or Penny’s used to be a well crafted garment that you cannot find today in Walmart at any price. The extra you spent to buy a quality product ensured long years of fine performance whether dress shirts or lawn mowers. A good truism that related the same was “the bitter taste of poor quality will linger long after the sweetness of low price has gone.”
      Value had more to contribute to the success of our previous economy that just the quality of goods. It used to be the money we earned for our labor had value. You didn’t walk to the mailbox (sorry check your balance on your phone app) to receive your monthly payment for breathing or having children, you received a paycheck for having performed a service or having manufactured a quality product that someone wanted to buy more than once. There was no slick advertisement or gimmick that brought in the cash. It was called work. For your work you received a fair value in an exchangeable commodity. It used to be dollars, but they have lost their “value”.
      In the 20s and 30s people worked for a living and were remunerated in proportion to the value of their service. An education improved the value of your skills and improved the position of your employer in his provision of good or service, so it was worth the investment. Today an education buys you debt or at best a piece of paper that establishes a modicum of qualifications.
      Radio Shack is gone because people have gotten lazy. Nobody knows or values the skills needed to build or repair electronic equipment. When I was young I built a Heath kit radio and listened to ham stations on the other side of the planet. 5 years later I let Walter Cronkite tell me about the world instead of finding out about it for myself. When I was young I picked peas and corn with my grandmother who fed 6 working people three squares a day from scratch, People who drove tractors and hoed cotton for a living. 40 years later I buy genetically modified or chemically poisoned food that I microwave and sprinkle on some sugar so it tastes like something.
      Family farms are gone because corporate farms figured out how to make money off our penchant to be lazy. If the grid goes down many will starve because they lost their skills and bought their food because they were lazy. You don’t have to eat their poisoned swill, but you do because you are lazy. Anyone can redevelop skills that sustain them and and add value to their family and their community. It isn’t the paradigm that changed, we did. We got suckered into allowing others to let us be lazy and we are about to pay the price. Those opportunities we ignored are still there, we’ve just decided not to take advantage of them. It’s called opportunity cost and we are about to pay the price. Some of us anyway. Good luck.

      • Well, I respectfully disagree with some of your response. It is not lazy, it is money and large corporations that now own the farms and the commerce. If you will look closely and understand what is going on, our products are very often produced by slave labor. Having an American make things is too costly for greater profits. We can hire Chinese for a pittance. Indian labor is also cheap. Slavery never went away, it just changed forms. So, lazy is not the answer to our corrupted system. If our people could work, and get something, they would.

        • I now own a farm for subsistence and give away organic food to my neighbors. I build my own buildings, trade food for repairs on equipment, feed my own critters and repair the things that break around the house. Any enterprising, energetic person can turn their back on the commercial system that has been established to rob them. Any excuse is hollow. If you go to a small town, you can make a life, feed your family and improve your QUALITY OF LIFE whatever socioeconomic background you come from. It just takes dedication and determination. A thing lazy people lost a long time ago. Respectfully.

          • Yes, you are fortunate to own a farm. Most folks these days are not so fortunate. They cannot just go out and buy a farm. This was very possible 150 years ago, but has become less possible as the years passed by. Count your blessings, for they will soon pass away.

          • I grow my vegetables in 55 gallon plastic drums cut in half. The amount of room required is less than most peoples backyards. My son grows his vegetables on his apartment balcony and puts them up in a water bath canner on his stove. He buys meat from local farmers who slaughter their own grass fed animals. YOU are what’s wrong with America. You can find any excuse to do nothing but complain, Buy that GMO crap get your vaccinations and get sick, so you can use your Obamacare and go to the hospital to die. You are determined to give up, so just do it! My forefathers fought at the Alamo and in every war America has fought since. Grow pair and don’t give in. Your family deserves better!

          • Your expressed pride and self-righteousness will not solve the problem. Attacking me will not justify you.

          • I am justified, but not through my own efforts. I thank the Lord for every good thing I have ever received. I feel compelled to not waste them and to pass them along as a legacy to my children (biological and spiritual). I pray you are blessed and find peace in your world. You don’t have to remain there. There are other choices available. My point is that victims will be victims until they make the decision not to be.
            Carpe diem.

        • I agree. Military operations do make money “disappearance”. Too bad the elected representatives of the people cannot make it reappear. …and it’s gone…

  2. I have had personal experience with this phenomenon. Walmart moved into my small town and Sears, Penny’s, the hardware store, the bakery, the vegetable vendor, in short every retailer save the auto parts store and the antique store closed down. Main street died overnight. The 100 or so families affected either moved on or got jobs working for Walmart at greatly diminished salary. In most cases both spouses got jobs with Walmart to make up for the one job the original breadwinner had lost. I was unwise enough to believe that a niche not filled by Walmart could succeed. I purchased a historic home and turned it into a bookstore two houses away from the town Post Office. You had to drive by it on the way to Walmart from the Post Office.
    I spent three years and a good part of my savings advertising, passing out fliers, meeting people, going to churches, holding book readings and studies before figuring out I hadn’t the means to continue. The local traffic just wasn’t sufficient and I hadn’t the time to become an internet retailer. Finally, I put up a 60% off – going out of business sale sign and sold everything in my inventory in two weeks.
    The lessons I learned were many, but chiefly that although my prices were slightly higher than Walmart’s, my selection and quality was much better. People wouldn’t take the time to park at a one offering retailer despite better value both in product and personal service. They just wouldn’t take the time until the low price offered a monetary incentive. Just like Sears and Penny’s I had suffered the fate of those who offered a quality product at a similar price. Better value, not cheaper price.
    This is capitalism’s downside. Consumers get respected only for their money and when the profit motive is not satisfied they have no skin in the game. There are no relationships between the consumer and the corporation. Only the revenue they bring makes a difference. When the revenue is gone the snake oil salesman is on to another bunch of suckers.
    Please do us all a favor. Buy from owners. Tip the waiters. Eat real food. Stand up for your rights! The Constitution was written to protect us all from corporations (banks) that now run the government. They can’t change it unless we let them. They will not protect We The People. That’s our job!
    Real money. Ban the Fed. Paper ballots. Term limits!

  3. Has the author ever been to McDowell County, WV? There is no town called “McDowell” as far as I know, and I used to live in a nearby county. The biggest town around is Welch, and after that, I guess the biggest town is Coalwood, where the “Rocket Boys” of the movie “October Sky” was from.

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