Big Bad Big Box

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Members of the city council in Oakland, CA know what people want—and it is not convenient, one-stop, discount shopping.

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  1. I’d be interested in knowing the popular viewpoint on this. Capitalism is great fun, but if the majority of the people in a community don’t want a huge conglomerate store screwing with their local markets, and lowering the quality of employee benefits and salaries in the area, then Walmart should get gone or get burned to the ground. Boycotting is certainly and option, but Walmart (like Walgreens) is the kind of company that buys out and closes existing stores so that the consumer’s choice is removed from the equation, making it especially burdensome to boycott.

    But if that doesn’t work, good people of Oakland, burn it down.

  2. Walmart doesn’t kill off the competition – the local consumers do when they stop patronizing them.

  3. You know, I’d rather that Wal-Mart were equipped with smart tags that would simply bill me for anyting I walked out of the store with.

    I honestly can’t remember the last time an employee of a giant general store (like Meijer, Wal-Mart, etc.) was able to help me find something.

    I think I’d do better with a fleet of robots tending to the shelves, cleaning up smashed jars of strained peas, and generally keeping things tidy.

    Kind of eliminates employee healthcare argument.

    True, robots aren’t capable of making intelligent decisions to please the consumer, but neither are the employees of your average retail establishment.

  4. rst: I would hope that the “good people” of any municipality would not be out burning down a store due to the fear that people in the community might want to shop there.

  5. Jeff,
    I think you nailed it on the head.
    This reminds me of the backlash against the Barnes & Noble/Borders superstores when they first started to open in the early 90’s.
    I clearly remember a NYT Magazine article on how these superstores were forcing the smaller local bookstores out of business and bemoaning this fact.
    As a voracious reader I was delighted when a big B&N finally opened by me as the local stores rarely carried anything that wasn’t on the best seller list or on a local high school english class reading list. Finally having a big selection of reading material, at lower prices, was great.

    rst,
    If the local populace really doesn’t want them in their town I have no problem with that. But considering that the article says that only very specific “big box” stores are being banned it seems more like the local supermarkets trying to errect protectionist trade barriers.

  6. rst:

    You’re viewpoint is exactly what’s wrong with this country. People not thinking things through.

    If the local shops can’t compete, they should be out of business. If the local patrons are so pissed about the new store, don’t shop there.

    It’s so simple it truly baffles me how people can’t see how capitalism works.

  7. We’ll see how much the local populace is behind this ordinance when the city council positions come up for election.

  8. I’m surprised none of these progressive minds (they sit on the zoning board of just about every community in N.A.) bothered to spare a thought for The Children. Last time I was in Wal Mart, it was chock full of young families buying groceries, diapers, clothes, etc.
    Oh, I forgot they’re all being ruthlessly exploited…..

  9. Some people prefer little shops, with thier over priced goods but often friendly and knowledgable staff, while others (like me), prefer big huge stores that are part of chains with their cheap prices and useless staff who leave you alone.

  10. I know a very “progressive” guy who’s against those big box retailers. He’s a nice guy to hang out with and talk to, and we have some of the same hobbies. But he seems to think that we should go back to an economy of small local retailers close enough to home that you can walk there instead of getting in the big bad automobile. Talking to him I realize that the far left would like the economy of the 1800’s and the far right would like the society of the 1800’s.

  11. I work at Walmart, and, even though I’m the lowest possible scum of the store (cart pusher), I know where damn near everything that isn’t cosmetics is.

  12. “The far left would like the economy of the 1800’s and the far right would like the society of the 1800’s.”

    thoreau – that may be the best, most insightful quote I’ve read in quite some time. Now all we have to do is find some smart guy to invent a time machine so we can send all of these far left and far right whacko’s back to their respective Luddite Utopias.

  13. People not thinking things through.

    My ass, there is nothing about capitalism that establishes it as greatest among policy concerns, merely one of many. The belief that it is greatest, that’s a sign of not thinking things through.

    It’s so simple it truly baffles me how people can’t see how capitalism works.

    Apparently you have never read Wealth of Nations. It’s not simple, and we’re not even a real capitalism, just mostly capitalist.

  14. Oddly enough, I’m sympathetic to the libertoids on this one. Not entirely convinced, but enough to make look real hard banning types of stores like this.

    100,000 feet is freaking huge, though. That amount of high intensity retail (we’re not talking furniture warehouse here) can murder your transportation and environmental infrastructure, and screw up the quality of life of any nearby neighborhood. If it can’t be sited well, it shouldn’t be done at all.

    Typically, the paper doesn’t provide enough information to come to a reasoned conclusion.

  15. I would hope that the “good people” of any municipality would not be out burning down a store due to the fear that people in the community might want to shop there.

    That wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. I don’t think anybody is going to burn down a Walmart.

    But if they do, they should at least make sure it’s empty.

  16. God forbid the good people of Oakland have a place to buy less expensive groceries. We can’t allow a situation where Safeway might have to fire its overpaid union labor to compete. The people of Oakland must be forced to pay more for its groceries so that a few checkers at Albertsons can make $18 an hour.

  17. Joe, they murder infrastructure indeed, but then again, infrastructure (and roads in particular) are generally all-you-can-eat tax funded buffets.
    I often wondered why the no-growth / slow-growth types don’t just refocus their energies on carving back the massive incentives people have to oversubscribe to public utilities.

    Its the same thing with the health tyrants up here in Canada. Every possible lifestyle choice is a candidate for regulation based on its impacts on an overstretched, universally accessible system.

  18. Stephen Crane: Do you push by hand or use a machine like the folks at my local Wal-Mart?

    If you know where everything is, you haven’t encountered me!

    How about Norelco razor refills and Purell hand sanitizer? Nobody has been able to find those for me recently.

    Last time I found the refills, they were hanging on an impulse buy strip (who impulse buys a specific type of razor refills?).

  19. Mouse traps aren’t just cheese.
    If the world is really an economic rollercoaster of inevitiability, we will get whatever we deserve, whatever the hell that turns out to be.

  20. RST,

    “But if that doesn’t work, good people of Oakland, burn it down.”

    I’m surprised to find someone who reads Reason calling for the destruction of private property.

    If the people where you live don’t like the look of your house, or how your business is run, should they burn either of those down as well?

    Ed

  21. That bit about lowering wages and benefits in the area is bullshit. If people take a job at this Walmart, it means that it was the best option for them. There’s no way it can lower wages and benefits…

    This combination of incredible presumption and complete ignorance of economics is all too typical, sadly.

  22. “If people take a job at this Walmart, it means that it was the best option for them.”

    Of course, every other business closed up and left town.

  23. I have a machine, but it’s not as fast as me.

    And I can’t explain why they don’t keep razor refills with either the razors or shaving cream. Wal-mart can be surprisingly nonsensical. No wonder I do all my grocery shopping at Schnuck’s 😉

  24. True, robots aren’t capable of making intelligent decisions to please the consumer, but neither are the employees of your average retail establishment.

    That’s right, they’re not geniuses like you obviously are, Mr. High and Mighty. Here’s a salute from the working stiff of America: piss off!

  25. I bet the politicians in the area surounding but not including Oakland are licking their chops over this story. They are about to get all of that tax revenue that would have gone to their “progressive” neighbor. Think they are worried about “transportation and environmental infrastructure”? I think the new super Wally World tax revenue will more than pay for the needed sewer projects. Consider also that Walmart is not very likely to be paying its employees under the table like some of the mom n pops might. Another plus for the community. Also, also, also, they are less likely to discriminate based on sex, race, age, politics, handicap, and what you do with your sausage. About health bennies – Joe’s Corner Grocery probably wasn’t providing them anyway.

    I have never asked for help finding stuff at Walmart (or almost anywhere). I’m one of those goofy people who thinks if you need shampoo, you’ll probably find it in the shampoo isle… (OK, I read the bit about the razors – kinda odd, maybe unique to a particular store?)

  26. Read my later post Ed…like this forum, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s all in good fun.

  27. Low prices, buying power, and convenience are nice, but absolutely the best attribute of Walmart is that they give lefties fits.

    Community planning indeed. Why is it that when some regulatory body tells us that Walmart should not be allowed to exist locally, the benefits to individuals who choose to shop there and the individuals who benefit from local competition are completely ignored?

    All you planners out there, listen up! You have the cart leading the horse. Your job is to allow people’s preferences to be expressed, not to dictate to them where they should be allowed to shop. If Walmart places a strain on your infrastructure because a bagillion people start shopping there, you can’t take it for granted that a bagillion people are misguided about their self interest. They are getting a real benefit from their perspective, and it is your job to get out of the friggin way!

  28. My gut tells me this situation is less about the old left vs. right fight, and more about local politicians handing out goodies to the local grocers, who are afraid of competition. If the people did not want a Wal-Mart, it would just go out of business, or more likely Wal-Mart wouldn’t even consider building there. Either way the politicos would not have to act. But, they saw it as a threat, and killed it right away. This is yet another example of why I am so cynical with regards to politics and politicians.

  29. By the way, amen to Jason L.

  30. Thoreau,

    Loved that quote, I will be using that if you don’t mind it being subject to “fair use?”

    rst,

    The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire! Burn motherf…. you get the rest… I took it as jest judging by what you have written before, but many won’t because sometimes sarcasm doesn’t come through the written word.

    Regarding Super Wally Worlds… I rarely go there even though I’d usually save 5 or 10 bucks simply because of the hassle. We have 5 of those monstrosities in our little town of 400,000 and all five always look like people are preparing for Armageddon, what with overstuffed carts of mostly useless junk and groceries zipping to and fro among a thousand cars swarming the parking lot for that “perfect spot.”

    And is it just me, but do you feel a bit of sadness for the old guy/woman who “greets,” the Wal-Mart guest? I know many of them choose that job not out of necessity, but loneliness.

  31. Emeryville has made a fortune out of the dumbness of Oakland/Berkeley. Same goes for Colma and San Francisco. A big box store can’t go up in San Francisco without generating huge opposition (often funded by competitors). This allows the small towns on the edge to reap the benefits.

  32. ‘Think they are worried about “transportation and environmental infrastructure”? I think the new super Wally World tax revenue will more than pay for the needed sewer projects.’

    The problem isn’t economic. Yes, the additional tax revenue would probably pay for a lot of road widening. But then you’ve got what used to be country roads and neighborhood streets turned into multilane arterials. Or, you spend the tax revenue on schools and parks and such, don’t do the road widening (what Jason calls “getting out of the way), and it ends up taking an hour and a half to drive across town.

    You don’t actually beleive that the decision to buy the less expensive groceries demonstrates a revealed preference for either of the above scenarios, do you?

    When Wal-Mart builds a store, the customers have no way to express their preferences on siting and design issues through their purchases after construction. When Wal-Mart takes losses for a couple years in order to shut everyone else down, the argument that workers “freely chose” minimum wage looks a little shaky.

    By the way, Jason, being aware of the planning implications of a big box doesn’t imply ignorance of the benefits of cheaper purchases.

  33. Burn it down ceased to be a joke when the PETA idiots started doing just that.

  34. Wal-Mart does not have lower prices. Let’s just clear that up right now.

    I was recently in a giant Wal-Mart. Giant. “This Wal-Mart is HUGE” giant. They had three dishracks. All Rubbermaid brand. Not exactly a terrific selection, but typical for Sam’s store.

  35. Wal-Mart buried a lot of the mom’n’pops in our community a few years before we moved here. At first all I heard was how awful it was that the locals were driven under by the Mongols from Arkansas. But now, you hear more about what rapacious assholes those local shopkeepers used to be, and how they gleefully gouged their neighbors when they were the only game in town.

    Lowe’s is about to open its doors here, and there is general joy that the local hardware store, which will gladly charge you four or five times cost for that hard-to-find refrigerator lightbulb, will soon be soaping its windows.

    Daily rental of a shitty carpet steamer from this hardware store: $40.

    Equally shitty carpet steamer from Wal-Mart: $15.

  36. Steve-

    If you try to make “fair use” of my statement I’ll have Orin Hatch engineer a computer virus that destroys your computer in retaliation!

    Just kidding. Glad you like it. Quote all you want. My full name, for attribution, is Henry David Thoreau of Massachusettes 😉

  37. “If Walmart places a strain on your infrastructure because a bagillion people start shopping there” maybe that’s a sign that you need to upgrade your infrastructure.

    I love the the way communitarians say that infrastructure is a common good that we can’t possibly impose use fees for, right up until someone they don’t like wants to make use of the infrastructure.

    If its a common good, how about providing it when and how the commons want it? If they want it at a Walmart, well then, you should spend the tax money you have collected from them to provide it at a Walmart.

  38. Certainly those of us who believe in free markets would oppose a municipal ban on big box stores.
    But another aspect of the free market is opposition to subsidies. It is well known that one reason Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble etc are able to build superstores that seem to offer more than local independent merchants is that city redevelopment agencies offer subsidies and tax abatements to national chains.
    Often the tax abatements far exceed projected sales tax revenue for years into the future. The big chain stores often do not bear the costs that they impose on the community in terms of traffic, sewage, etc. Yet the subsidies continue because chain stores are seen as more prestigious than local independent stores.
    So there is more than one side to this issue.
    But please, don’t burn down Wal-Mart – local merchants will just have to pay higher taxes to fund the fire department.

  39. Wal-Mart has actually emerged as a 21st century town square, at least here in rural east Texas. You can’t go to the place without seeing half a dozen folks you know, and since the nearest mall is an hour’s drive away, Wal-Mart is where the teens prominade to show off their (alleged) fashion sense. The church crowd shows up in their Sunday finery after services (I love waching Baptists and Pentacostals in coats and ties pullng 40lb. dog food sacks off the shelves.)

    We have friends that regularly spend four or five hours every Saturday just wandering the aisles, browsing the crap on the shelves until they run into someone they know. Wal-Mart also hosts biweekly Yu-gi-oh card game duels attended by 40+ plus kids (mine included).

    Everything you used to do in those old Norman Rockwell town squares – get a haircut, see the eye doctor, pick up a can of paint, argue over a cup of coffee – is now done in Wal-Mart.

    We are a county seat with a traditional town square that dates back a century. The county courthouse is now surrounded by eight lawyers’ offices, three title/abstract offices, four insurance offices, half of a bank, a cafe that’s only open until 2 p.m. and an antique mall. Whoooeeee! Hot time in the old town tonight!

  40. Isn’t Oakland the headquarters of Safeway?

  41. Safeway’s headquarters is in Pleasanton, about 20 miles east of Oakland.

    The thing a lot of people are missing is that plenty of small businesses (restaurants, liquor stores, hot dog carts) *shop* at Wal-Mart. Not as many as shop as Costco, but a fair amount. You can almost always get a big jug of mayonnaise or whatever cheaper than a restaurant supplier would sell it.

  42. I don’t know how often Wal-Mart’s success is due to tax breaks as Gene Berkman suggests it is, but that’s exactly what’s happening here in Denver. A whole damn block of Mexican and Asian small businesses is going to get razed to make way for a Wal-Mart that won’t have to pay taxes for ten years or some such, all supposedly because people in the area want the Wal-Mart! One Wal-Mart supporter was quoted in the paper as complaining that he can’t get a diet coke in his neighborhood. Really pisses me off! But I guess once you establish the principle that such decisions can be determined by local governments, the resulting decisions can go either way….

  43. God forbid the good people of Oakland get to choose which stores they want in their city! Good god, if people don’t like this ban they can always vote the officials out of office. At least on the local level people still have some say with their votes. It’s up to them for crying out loud, not the market. If they care enough about having Big Box stores in their community, they eventually will. “OH NO! The citizens of Oakland are being oppressed by their city council!” Please, give me a break.

  44. Hey ed,

    You say, “At least on the local level people still have some say with their votes. It’s up to them for crying out loud, not the market.”

    I must know — in your world, whose preferences does “the market” reflect?

  45. Right on Steve. Hey Ed, what can be more at the local level than you or me?? (Assuming you and I lived in that hellhole called Oakland, which I sure don’t).

    If you want to support Mom and Pop, go buy stuff at their store. Obviously the concerned citizens don’t represent the majority of consumers, or else they’d have no reason to worry, as Mom and Pop’s store would have all those (majority of Oakland) customers, right? Sounds like the minority want to dictate where the majority should shop to me.

    I myself like to shop at small downtown stores, if it’s for items that are close in price to Target, etc. However, any store that spells their name with an extra “p” and “e”, as in “Ye Old Automotive Shoppe” does not get my business, as those extra two letter cost out the wazooo! See what I mean next time you go into a yuppie joint like that.

    As an aside, I haven’t shopped a lot at a Wal-Mart since they (at an out-of-town location) made sales announcements in Spanish. That was about it for me, and Target prices are close, though their automotive dept. isn’t much.

  46. I wonder if Ed still thinks it’s up to the government rather than the market when it works in reverse like what’s happening here in Denver. (See my previous post.) Only once those Mom & Pops get bulldozed for Wal-Mart, they’ll be gone forever, no matter who does or doesn’t get re-elected. As a matter of fact, this decision was made by an outgoing city council, so there’s really no one to hold accountable any more…

  47. Another reason to leave property taxes to local governments and sales taxes to the State…avoid stupid land-use ordinances like this!

  48. I guess Jimmy can be offended by hearing Spanish on the loudspeaker at Wal-Mart, but I gotta ask … dear god, why?

  49. Um, I guess cause it was in America.

  50. Last post was mine.

  51. So if a business makes announcements in Spanish because it believes it can get more customers and turn a larger profit, what exactly is the problem?

  52. Locals and Wal-Mart still have a choice. The way things work in Cali, just start a petition drive to repeal the new ordinance.

    Where was all the hoopla when San Luis Obispo city council banned drive thru’s? It sucked having to get out of the car and walk into Burger King and Taco Bell and everyone around town bitched about it.

  53. Gene is totally right that subsidies for these huge megachains (or anyone, for that matter) are bad.

    But that’s not what’s happening here… they are banning the stores outright! And no, ed, “the people” did not vote to ban the stores. The self-serving, paternalistic, economically ignorant politicians did.

  54. OK, Jimmy, just wondering. That wasn’t a real good explanation of why it offended you, but my question was off-topic, so I’ll let it be. You don’t have to shop there if you don’t like hearing Spanish … but again, I can’t resist asking, why why why why are you bothered to hear Spanish over the loudspeaker at a store in the U.S.? I’m just curious.

  55. Max-

    Sounds like the problem is that government can’t just leave big boxes and their competitors alone. They either give the big boxes a better deal than any of the local firms get, or else they subject the big box firms to extra regulations. I think a neutral stance toward all firms would probably help small local firms survive in some places while forcing less efficient local firms in other places to yield to their competitors.

    In other words, a market equilibrium.

    (Note to those who think I’m too liberal sometimes: I just advocated a hands-off approach to business.)

  56. Thats ok thoreau, libertarians are a little of the left and a little of the right and a whole shitload of common sense!

  57. “So if a business makes announcements in Spanish because it believes it can get more customers and turn a larger profit, what exactly is the problem?”

    There IS no problem, Thoreau! I just mentioned that I don’t go there anymore (hardly) because they made sales anouncements in Spanish. I don’t have to shop there Thoreau. You can shop wherever you want Get it? Free Market.

  58. Sorry, for the nasty comment, but this guy can be really obtuse.

    Steve, it’s just a thing that I believe: America will have a better chance to stay together as a country with a common language (see Canada vs. Quebec). I don’t want to start another immigration thing, so maybe I should not have written that comment – just wanted to point out that I don’t shop at Wal-Mart much, but I don’t try to shut them down either.

    If it makes em more money to make announcements in Spanish, that is completely their business.
    I’ll see you at Target, dudes, or maybe Mom and Pop’s shop, but definitely not Momme and Poppe’s Shoppe 😉

  59. Jimmy, when I learned spanish and spoke it quite often, it became english to me. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, or even dreaming, in spanish.

    So, learn some spanish man, its only going to get much worse!

  60. Yo Quero taco bell!

  61. Jimmy-

    I wasn’t suggesting that you “should” shop there. I was just trying to understand what you objected to. If you don’t like their practice then in a free market you don’t have to, and won’t, shop there. I wasn’t questioning that. I was just wondering what your objection was as a matter of curiosity.

    Now that you’ve explained it I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand.

  62. Check out the eminent domain goings-on in Alabaster, AL. The Jolly Grey Giant isn’t just going after Mom & Pop stores any more… now they’re going after the Mom & Pop houses too!

    Spanish advertising I can live with. THIS is why I’m no longer a Wal-Mart customer.

    http://www.ajc.com/business/content/business/1003/21alabaster.html

  63. John Q.: Nice to finally meet *the* working stiff of America. Now if only you knew where the Bananas were.

    Note: At my local grocery store, bananas can be found on a special shelf IN THE CANDY AISLE!!!

    To be fair, they can also be found in the produce section.

  64. Henry David Thoreau of Massachusettes: Nice house, I’ve been to the replica.

  65. “But I notice that you didn’t question my main point about wages: that the replacement of higher paying retail jobs with lower ones is a net drain on the local economy, to be weighed against any reduction in the cost of consumer goods.”

    The replacement of higher paying retail jobs with lower paying ones is a cost to those people who leave higher paying retail jobs and can’t find any other jobs that pay as well. It is not necessarily true that this is a drain on the community at large, as someone who is hiring may have now have enough savings to hire additional employees.

    The kicker is that higher paying jobs for the same work are a drain on every consumer of retail products. If you let people simply decide if they would rather have cheap prices for goods or pay more for the same work in the name of a ‘fair wage’, you can figure out what their preferences are. If higher wages are so great, why not $100/hour for a retail worker, then there would be lots of good ole’ Keynesian stimulation, right?

  66. Ed, you don’t have to do anything, that’s part of the beauty of the free market, it’s all voluntary. But other people will and do do their “voting” with their pocketbooks and wallets. And that’s simply the most efficient means of determining the so-called public good, individuals expressing their preferences in the market place. BTW, withholding your money is potentially as much of a “vote” as where you do spend money.

  67. Hey Go Mustangs, JSM.

    You’re right JDM. Although, I have a cut-out from a Mustang Daily (school paper) article that I’ve kept for a couple years now on this very topic. In the article the TB general manager was quoted as having said, “It’s not so bad, you get used to it. It’s like growing up without a big toe.” No information as to whether or not this man did in fact grow up without a big toe. But it always struck me as one of the funniest/stupidest things I’ve seen in print.

    More to the point, though, is that it’s not merely a matter of “If you like drive-thrus, then use them; if not, don’t use them.” Because there are other issues at stake that relate to non-users as well. These include community aesthetics and environmental concerns; at least that’s the way that the arguement was framed. Similar to our ban on buildings more than 4 stories tall. Most cities do have ordinances pertaining to the size, appearence, etc. of structures and it’s a hard arguement to make that they shouldn’t be allowed to.

  68. “I have a cut-out from a Mustang Daily (school paper) article that I’ve kept for a couple years now on this very topic.”

    The Internet sure makes the world a smaller place.

    More to the point, I’m just saying that there are always negative consequences to telling a business owner (or toeless store manager) how to best run a business. Whether or not the particular Taco Bell is appreciably worse off from this one regulation would require more information, but these things add up. Infinitessimal environmental effects and snobby anti-drive-thru aesthetics are a thin thread to hang this sort of thing on. I’m not trying to argue the question of whether zoning of any kind should be permitted, but I know in this case which side rationality and respect for individual freedom come down on. (The Taco Bell case, that is.)

    A wiser man than I once said that there is no meaningful freedom without economic freedom.

  69. ok fyodor, but what if I can’t afford the toaster? does that mean that the folks who can afford a shit load of toasters have that much more say over what’s good for the public. That’s crazy. maybe i want the toaster but realize that that’s money better put towards my retirement or something. how does the public good have anything to do with my finances?

  70. Citizen,
    Concerning that cell phone ban added to H&R today, I was thinking how many of those phones are making there way to Pirates Cove!

    Something related to this topic, didn’t the SLO city council ban new bars/nightclubs from opening up? I remember Brubakers (Sp?) there on Higuera. When they closed instead of selling the business, I remember there was talk of one less bar that couldn’t be replaced. Subsequently, it stayed empty until Kona’s opened up. I remember the council, at the time, was more conservative leaning, do you agree with this? It came nearly the same time as the drive thru ban. I remember some discussion of this in ECON 221 but can’t remember details, damn 8 AM courses!

  71. This entire thread smacks a lot of something I read about a software giant about 2 or 3 years ago. Doesn’t this remind you of the Microsoft thing?

  72. R.C. Dean:

    I sure as hell ain’t one of those “communitarians” you refer to. Infrastructure should be funded on a user-fee basis, across the board. And if a Wal-Mart stresses existing infrastructure, it should either put up with it or pay the full cost of expanding it.

    On the whole “burning down Wal-Mart” thing, does anybody remember the “Mega-lo-Mart” episode of King of the Hill?
    9-11 Operator: Sir, you’ll have to slow down so I can understand you.
    Boomhauer: Dang… ol’… Mega-lo… Mart…”

  73. Joe:

    “But then you’ve got what used to be country roads and neighborhood streets turned into multilane arterials. Or, you spend the tax revenue on schools and parks and such, don’t do the road widening (what Jason calls “getting out of the way), and it ends up taking an hour and a half to drive across town.”

    At which time the planners of the city propose wider roads and let people decide if they would rather pay for new roads or take longer to get across town or not go to Wal Mart. You provide OPTIONS to people rather than telling them that they don’t need a Wal Mart.

    “You don’t actually beleive that the decision to buy the less expensive groceries demonstrates a revealed preference for either of the above scenarios, do you?”

    If people are driving those roads to go to Wal Mart, yes. Several people on this thread mentioned that they would not go to a local Wal Mart due to traffic, so an increase in traffic affects the value proposition of the store.

    “When Wal-Mart builds a store, the customers have no way to express their preferences on siting and design issues through their purchases after construction.”

    So what? Siting and design issues aren’t their concern except as they choose to go to the store or not.

    “When Wal-Mart takes losses for a couple years in order to shut everyone else down, the argument that workers “freely chose” minimum wage looks a little shaky.”

    A bit overstated. Walmart has no interest in locating in a community that will become impoverished by its presence. Some local competitors will suffer from competition, but consumers will benefit. The market is the only place to decide where the net value lies.

    “By the way, Jason, being aware of the planning implications of a big box doesn’t imply ignorance of the benefits of cheaper purchases.”

    If one uses the planning argument as a reason to prevent the construction of a store, one can’t at that time know what the value of the store will be. The value to consumers is assumed to be some fabricated amount up front. The only way to know the value to the consumer is to allow preferences to be expressed in the marketplace. Further, it seems lost on planners that the greater the impact to infrastructure, the greater the benefit to the consumer, as you are simply saying that more people would choose to go there. How can you use this as a reason to prohibit construction?

  74. Geek, the big difference between Wal-Mart and Microsoft, by what I am reading in these threads, is at least MS offers competitive, living wages, good benefits, and significantly higher prices on their “junk.” However, Redmond traffic is a nightmare and the proposed Issaquah campus will severly clog the backroads surrounding the Issaquah Alps. But then again, Washington State traffic woes are nothing new.

  75. “At which time the planners of the city propose wider roads and let people decide if they would rather pay for new roads or take longer to get across town or not go to Wal Mart. You provide OPTIONS to people rather than telling them that they don’t need a Wal Mart.”

    Good to see a libertarian recognizing a genuine public interest in seeing the government spend tax dollars to provide people with transportatin options. Perhaps the money should be spent to give them the option to take a trolley downtown?

    “If people are driving those roads to go to Wal Mart, yes. Several people on this thread mentioned that they would not go to a local Wal Mart due to traffic, so an increase in traffic affects the value proposition of the store.”

    “Siting and design issues aren’t their concern except as they choose to go to the store or not.”

    But the the point is, the additional traffic and wider roads don’t just influence their decision to go to Wal Mart. They also (in some cases, depending on siting and design) influence the quality of life in their neighborhoods, their ability to get to work in the morning, etc etc.

    “A bit overstated.” Agreed. How’s this: To the extend that Wal Mart’s lower prices are the result of eliminating higher paying local jobs with lower paying ones, the region sees no econimic benefit. The money saved by consumers (that portion that can be attributed to lower wages) is money that is not going into the pockets of other local consumers (the employees of the store).

    “How can you use this as a reason to prohibit construction?” I’m not. I’m using it as a reason to regulate siting, design, and layout. Please see my first post on the topic.

    Any by the way, this ban was enacted by Oakland’s City Council, not its planners.

  76. “Good to see a libertarian recognizing a genuine public interest in seeing the government spend tax dollars to provide people with transportatin options. Perhaps the money should be spent to give them the option to take a trolley downtown?”

    One problem at a time, my man. One problem at a time. It is not useful to pretend that as part of a debate about whether government should be involved in prohibiting retail, I should argue that the public funding of roads is inefficient. It IS inefficient, but no sense in opening a whole new discussion when we know how the other feels anyway.

    “But the the point is, the additional traffic and wider roads don’t just influence their decision to go to Wal Mart. They also (in some cases, depending on siting and design) influence the quality of life in their neighborhoods, their ability to get to work in the morning, etc etc.”

    There may be something more frightening as a basis for regulation than “quality of life”, but I don’t know what it is. Too nebulous, and you don’t have a right to an unaltered quality of life. Plus, even non customers benefit from price competition.

    “How’s this: To the extend that Wal Mart’s lower prices are the result of eliminating higher paying local jobs with lower paying ones, the region sees no econimic benefit. The money saved by consumers (that portion that can be attributed to lower wages) is money that is not going into the pockets of other local consumers (the employees of the store).”

    The money saved comes mostly from distribution efficiencies and leveraged buying power. I agree with the statement overall because you said, “to the extent”. The extent is not very great.

  77. Wal Mart spends a whole lotta money and effort to keep employees from organizing to achieve better wages. I doubt they would do this if their strategy of paying their employees peanuts were not an important factor in their business plan.

    But I notice that you didn’t question my main point about wages: that the replacement of higher paying retail jobs with lower ones is a net drain on the local economy, to be weighed against any reduction in the cost of consumer goods.

  78. Lower wages for jobs like placing cans on a shelf will also encourage more people to move into jobs in which they are more productive than say, a monkey – which is also a benefit. Productivity is not a zero sum game.

  79. I agree with a lot of what you all say but Jimmy I still don’t understand whay I have to “vote” with my money. What if I choose to save my cash instead of buying a new toaster? is that a wasted vote?

  80. I live in San Luis Obispo, home of no drive thrus. There was a stink when it first passed and every year the new freshman drive around going “What the hell?” I don’t know if it does any good, but no one misses them. Except for mothers with children who don’t want to get out of the car, get the child(ren) out of their seats, haul them inside, herd them through the line, haul them back out, buckle them into their car seats and go … for a chocolate shake.

  81. “I don’t know if it does any good, but no one misses them.”

    Citizen,
    I was one of those freshman (er, transfer students) that wondered what the hell? But I agree, I personally didn’t miss them. If I couldn’t drive thru at Taco Bell, I skipped them entirely and went to Chili Peppers or TA. Coming from Seattle, I looked into setting up an Espresso stand at one of the various gas stations. When I was queried if one would be able to order from their car, my partner made the mistake of saying, “Sure, I guess so.” You could imagine my disbelief when that one stand took over the old photomat hut at the mall.

  82. “But I agree, I personally didn’t miss them. If I couldn’t drive thru at Taco Bell, I skipped them entirely and went to Chili Peppers or TA.”

    I’m pretty sure this means that the owner of the Taco Bell misses the drive-thru. Which is important.

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