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

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.