June 28, 2003
Ruth Rosen, The Consumer's Enemy

Ruth Rosen may be best described as the antithesis of a consumer rights advocate. In Thursday's column she wants the state to prevent consumers from shopping at stores that offer selection, convenience and low prices.

WOULD YOU LIKE a Wal-Mart "supercenter" store to move into your community? Think of the low prices and the convenience of one-stop shopping! You just park once and get whatever you need -- groceries, drugs, plants, toys, dog food, even eyeglasses.
Most people think that's a great idea, which is why America's consumers have voted with their wallets and made Wal-Mart America's largest retailer. But the anti-consumer Ruth Rosen is siding with Wal-Mart's superannuated competitors who obtain government protection for their inefficient franchises
Contra Costa County has fought back. A year ago, Martinez prevented a traditional Wal-Mart store from expanding into a supercenter that could sell groceries. On June 3, the county Board of Supervisors voted to ban such supercenter stores from unincorporated areas of the county.
In future columns, Ruth Rosen will call for the elimination of supermarkets so that we can all go back to shopping at village general stores like the one that Sam Drucker runs in Hooterville. Ruth Rosen will also call for the government to outlaw personal computers, in order to save the high-paying jobs in the typewriter brush industry.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at June 28, 2003 09:25 AM

Stefan-- Just across the water from your new digs, my own little community is currently fighting the WalMart Wars. Our weekly newspaper is filled with articles about protests past and announcing protests yet to come by the anti-Walmartians. The Letters to the Editor is burgeoning with missives about the horrors of bringing in a "big box" store. (This "big box" is due to be built with a Nordic style of architecture to reflect the local heritage).
Some local citizens are concerned about losing the small town/rural quality of our area, some local merchants are afraid of being put out of business in a local economy that is already brutal, some writers are just glaringly anti-corporation. A few letters have begun showing up lately supporting WalMart, citing additional jobs, selection, lower prices, and the many thousands of additional tax dollars to be added to the coffers per annum. It's a hot topic hereabouts.

Posted by: KL duPre' on June 28, 2003 03:09 PM

This is consistent with her party`s stance on international trade; protectionism is all about screwing consumers, too. It`s also fitting for them to behave this way on domestic matters since there is no reason to make a distinction between trade and other economic activities.

Posted by: Ralf Goergens on June 29, 2003 02:33 AM

Remember those village general stores, small-town hardware stores, barbers, restaurants, whatever? They were America, and a reflection of the ethos of not just hard-work and responsibility but independence and ownership: the old "bourgois values." They reflected their community by their natural conservatism, they had no need of large-scale bureaucracies, administrators, unions or lawyers, indeed they were self-sufficient/managed, and politics was local and had a face attached to it. Obviously it is inefficient and you pay 20-50 cents more for a commodity at the village general store than at the multi-national, managerial conglomerate. Yet when independent, small businesspeople are steamrolled by progress to the ash heap of history and join the ranks of wage-earners or maybe franchisees, you trade political, social and economic independence for that 50 cents.

But what is most appalling is that American political discourse has degenerated into such banality; where a "conservative" is the one advocating managerial rationalization, de facto wage slavery and "progress", and the socialist or maybe communist Ruth Rosen arguing for the independent bourgeois shop-owner simply because she loathes corporations.

Posted by: inakappeh on June 29, 2003 11:02 AM

"Remember those village general stores..."

In fact, I do. I remember limited selection, high prices and iffy sanitation. Employees earned little and had no benefits, while the boss drove around in his new Buick or Caddy and practiced the one-in-four rule to avoid paying taxes.

If "conservative" means government regulation of the markets to limit consumer choice and prevent that creation of stable jobs with employee benefits, then count me out. I'll leave that to the Luddite anti-Globos, than you.

Sheesh. Gimme a Wal-Mart any-ole-day.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein on June 30, 2003 11:19 AM

WTF is "de facto wage slavery"?

I'm asking because from my experience, when someone modifies something with "de facto" it generally means the conidition they're decrying doesn't exist, they just wish it would.

Posted by: Robert Crawford on June 30, 2003 02:39 PM

Cheap prices + Walmart = sweat shops
Yeppers they are cheap, because the labour and the materials used to manufacture are done in complexes where the employees are lucky if they get a dollar a day. That says alot about our consumers..hey?
Crow Walmart. Save money Walmart. Would YOU work for a dollar a day?
Walmart is investing billions into the Chinese workforce, to save YOU money. You're really doing a great job in saving jobs in this country as a consumer.

Posted by: quark2 on June 30, 2003 05:10 PM

The little corner stores were and are pretty horrible. With Wal-Mart the consumer has enough space to shop in relative peace, a relatively quick way out with properly engineered facilities, and good quality merchandise for the price you're willing to pay.

Now, would a little corner store do better say, with regard to the Chinese connection. Hell no, they'd sell the same crap at a cheap as possible price that they could. And all sales are final. I am the manager, and the owner, now get out of here you rotton kids!

What products Americans purchase that happen to be made in China or other parts happen to satisfy American consumers. If Americans REALLY cared they wouldn't buy Chinese stuff (like what?).

I think the only American entity that buys mostly American-made products is the Federal Government. All their office supplies are made either by blind Americans or Native Americans.

Posted by: Dave Violence on June 30, 2003 06:04 PM

quark2 asks indignantly:

Would YOU work for a dollar a day?

In a place where most people subsist on less than half that? Abso-freaking-lutely. I'd wait in line on hiring day, and be grateful for the opportunity to get out of the field and the hot sun and away from the mosquitoes for a little while. Never mind the chance to support my family and put some money away for the future.

Funny, that's exactly how it happens in those third-world sweatshops that the would-be do-gooders so constantly decry. Not that some places aren't abusive, but they are hardly all hellholes, and the self-righteous blather about "a dollar a day" gets tiresome real quick.

Posted by: E. Nough on June 30, 2003 08:36 PM

inakappeh writes:

Yet when independent, small businesspeople are steamrolled by progress to the ash heap of history and join the ranks of wage-earners or maybe franchisees, you trade political, social and economic independence for that 50 cents.

Yes, the small-town grocer, guardian of economic independence! (Except when he is, like, you know, dependent upon protectionist fiat to keep him in business.) Blessed be the valiant boursar of the boutique, charging a premium for low-turnover cheese!

(Look, I respect and admire a competent businessman as much as anyone. But the very definition of a competent businessman is one who knows when he is outmatched, and doesn't throw good money after bad.)

But what is most appalling is that American political discourse has degenerated into such banality; where a "conservative" is the one advocating managerial rationalization, de facto wage slavery and "progress", and the socialist or maybe communist Ruth Rosen arguing for the independent bourgeois shop-owner simply because she loathes corporations.

Yes, gone are the halcyon days of American political discourse, where socialism was promoted openly as the way out of "de facto wage slavery" (whatever that is), waving the flag of the Proletariat and standing on principle, in opposition to the nativist Conservative, with his cigars and talk of the "lesser breeds." It's all so banal now, with people actually trying to work out how to tackle everyday problems, instead of working on Great Schemes for Glorious Leaps Forward. Depressing, no? -- how is one to be properly radical, when all that's at stake is tube-sock prices? Where's the glory, man? Where's the revolutionary spirit?

(Incidentally, does the gratuitous use of bourgeois strike no one else as a bit retro-pretentious? Who uses such a word, other than disaffected college students trying to reconcile their parents' deplorable middle-class-ness with the ideals expressed in Das Kapital? Is use of the word not in itself ...well, bourgeois?)

Posted by: E. Nough on June 30, 2003 08:57 PM

Hard to know where to start...its as if we are talking past one another.
Simply put, from just a nitwit like me, it is better to buy things from a private, individual businessperson/shop than a large-scale corporation simply because these shop owners represent to me the exact opposite of what socialism represents: independence. I always believed that economically, independence is an essence of American conservatism. Growing up as a kid in LA I remember the two supermarkets in my neighborhood run by families, small drugstores and bowling alleys et al that were never dirty or ill-stocked or so reprehensible as others suggested, and the owners were all approachable, decent people taking care of their families. How these people represent something as decrepit as socialism is really confusing, as I am also perplexed as to how protectionism is going to influence what they sold.

Those "bourgeois" values and traits of character are/were a GOOD thing...I use the word "bourgeois" as an affront to those intellectualoids desparaging of their families and selves from such a background.

I'm sorry if this rankles feathers but I find the large-scale corporation not as some evil entity but a kind of mirror-image of governmental bureaucracy, and its core of managerialism another offshoot from the Enlightenment rationalism of Locke/Marx and the rest, i.e. capitalism and socialism have the same origin and they appear to produce similar results of character. And this leads to the point that I was trying to make, unfortunately too caustically: how is it that support for things such as "progress" or free-trade (in whatever guise it may take) a conservative position? Of course computers are better than typewriters, but such things have always been associated with classical *liberalism.* One may handily say "well idiot times change wher've you been?" but that is exactly the point. What is being conserved? As a conservative to me the primary idea is character and to take care of my family and be there for them, thank the Lord for life and health and to strive for as much economic independence as I can to effect it. No grand designs, just live within the traditions and that's it. This will obviously be mirth provoking to many, but supporting like-minded families or businesses for me is an extension of that and I pay the extra "50 cents" to do it. If you prefer Wal-Mart, okay, maybe you'll have the bad luck to run into me some time.

Going into the "wage-slavery" thing wouldn't be worth it...sorry to take away your chance at burying the ax.

Posted by: inakappeh on July 1, 2003 12:33 AM

People point to Walmart and cry "anti-union".
Unions enable disfavored people to live satisfactorly without addressing their disfavor. This way their family's problems are never resolved. Without the union they would have to accept the heirarchy, their own inferiority.
Unions serve to empower.
Walmart is anti-union because they are good. They try to help people address and resolve their problems by creating an enviornment where there are fewer hurdles.

Media ridicule and lawsuits are creations to reinforce people's belief that Walmart is evil in a subsegment of the industry dominated by the middle and lower classes.
Low-cost disfavored Chinese labor is utilized by corporate america to maximize margins. They all do it. Only WalMart gets fingered because they are the ones who help, and those who seek to create confusion in the marketplace want to eliminate the vast middle class who have a real chance and instead stick with lower classes who may not work otherwise. So they dirty him up while allowing the others to appear clean.

The coining of the term "Uncle Sam" was a clue alluding to this::Sam Walton's WalMart is one of few saviors of the peasant class.

Posted by: Uncle Sam on November 20, 2005 07:22 PM
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