Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

We want to reward companies that are ‘going green’, right? At the same time, are we really so gullible as to believe we can simply shop our way out of environmental collapse by buying slightly less damaging products? So what are we to do? Well, a good place to start of course is to try to provide for as much of our own needs as possible, right in our own yard. Failing that, from people in our own neighbourhood, and then town, locality, etc. For items we must buy, we’d do well to educate ourselves on the consequences of different business models, and take a principled, philosophical approach to our spending. For example, we’re concerned that China is now building two new coal-fired power plants a week, and are thought to have now topped the U.S. in emissions – but, who is financing it?

For Australians, check out the following short clip before finding the answer to my question via the full length documentary on Wal-Mart below that. (To let the cat out of the bag, more than 70% of goods on Wal-Mart’s shelves are either made in China, or contain parts that were.)

YouTube Preview Image

The Beast File: Woolies and Coles
Duration: 3 minutes

YouTube Preview Image

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices
Duration: 98 minutes
Part I

YouTube Preview Image

Part II

YouTube Preview Image

Part III

YouTube Preview Image

Part IV

YouTube Preview Image

Part V

YouTube Preview Image

Part VI

YouTube Preview Image

Part VII

YouTube Preview Image

Part VIII

YouTube Preview Image

Part IX

YouTube Preview Image

Part X

 

Further Reading:

18 Responses to “Wal-Mart (and Woolworths, Coles, etc…): The High Cost of Low Prices”

  1. JBob

    You know why I shop at Wal-Mart all the time? I save money. You know what I spend that money on? Probably trees and garden tools and permaculture books. This is a bad thing?

    The only practice of Wal-Mart I despise is their use of eminent domain land taking.

    That said, don’t worry too much, retailers are in for a world of hurt soon enough: http://www.lewrockwell.com/quinn/quinn39.1.html

    Reply
  2. JBob

    I tried to watch the video, but all the parts I saw were melodramatic emotional pleas and pro-union propaganda. I don’t know and don’t care if working at Wal-Mart sucks or not. I know the difference in the price of garden hose at Wal-Mart vs the sanctified “local” stores on mainstreet; it is big.

    Reply
  3. Øyvind Holmstad

    JBob, these kind of people destroyed my town!

    “As if they had not done enough damage, they chose to put an enormous shopping mall, CC Martn from Cash & Carry, just down at Lake Mjøsa in central town, with a huge parking area down to Lake Mjøsa. This made me think about pattern 22, Nine Percent Parking:

    Conflict
    Very simply – when the area devoted to parking is too great, it destroys the land.

    Resolution
    Do not allow more that 9% of the land in any given area to be used for parking. In order to prevent the bunching of parking in huge neglected areas, it is necessary for a town or a community to subdivide its land into parking zones no larger than 10 acres each and to apply the same rule in each zone.

    And now my soul is suffering, because my town is destroyed, and I’m not proud!”

    See: http://eartheasy.com/blog/2010/04/our-psychic-connections-to-nature/

    Reply
  4. Sims

    I read many of these comments, and many havent understand a clue about permaculture and that kind of philosophy, ok its “cheap” to buy at wal mart. But you dont build a good communty in that way,(unions have made a good deal to that in the last 100 years) maybe you can buy more garden tools. But wake up and realise what all this is about, its not that difficult! if you are hinest. Or is it just “branding” of your self living “ECO”? Pretending you love GAIA?

    Reply
  5. Craig Mackintosh

    Agreed Sims. The issues are much more than just conditions for Wal-Mart workers. It’s about externalising costs – environmental, social, etc – transferring production to other countries, like China, at high energy expense to continue the ‘race to the bottom‘ where there are weaker environmental protections in place.

    It’s about financing An Industrial Revolution Like No Other and squeezing farmers, producers and customers who are increasingly without choice in where to purchase as monopolisation takes hold.

    Just like with food (‘cheap’ food is simply stealing from our children to save a few dollars today – stealing soil, water, and contaminating both), ‘cheap’ products are not cheap at all. Collectively supporting such companies is essentially financing our own destruction – destroying place, and people and the social fabric we need to build.

    Reply
  6. Jacob Luetkemeyer

    We vote with our dollars. The only way we can turn this around is to quit shopping at big fascist corporate chains and start shopping locally. Jobs will be created, productivity will increase, and our economy will turn around. Walmart costs American taxpayers over $2.5 billion a year in taxpayer dollars. This subsidation has to stop, especially when a corporation makes so much they do not need the subsidation.

    Reply
  7. Craig Mackintosh

    JBob – I hope you don’t take offense, but I must say I do see the ‘self interest’ aspect of the libertarianism you subscribe to coming through your comments here, yet again. This self interest ignores environmental and social realities – focussing on immediate benefits to yourself right here in the present, with disregard to the consequences for others nationally and internationally and the associated environmental costs. This is yet another good example of how, as I’ve repeated a million times, freedom without morality is a dangerous thing.

    Reply
  8. Øyvind Holmstad

    And I should add: Design (community) without tribality ia a dangerous thing.

    See: http://www.thersa.org/mobile/fellowship/journal/archive/winter-2009/features/how-bad-biology-killed-the-economy + http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/empathy/

    But who is responsible for today’s situation? The answer is “the talking classes”, the leaders of the new meritocracy.

    “These professionals traffic in information and manipulate words and numbers for a living. They live in an abstract world in which information and expertise are the most valuable commodities. Since the market for these assets is international, the privileged class is more concerned with the global system than with regional, national, or local communities.”

    See: http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/lasch.html

    Reply
  9. JBob

    “This self interest ignores environmental and social realities…”

    I’m not ignoring environmental and social realities, I’m just recognizing the fact that those issues are far too complex for any one person to figure out. None of us can spend our lives trying to make sure every purchase we make has a “clean pedigree” through it’s entire production, manufacturing, distribution, retailing, disposal/recycling history. Impossible.

    We need fair rules (developed from the non-aggression principle) and then we let dollars and cents be our primary guide to how to trade economically. To the extent that Wal-Mart might be polluting someone else’s property(possible) or using slave labor(not likely), then they are indeed bad.

    Boycotts can be a good thing, but I just don’t see any beef to have with Wal-Mart.

    If you want a boycott target, then why don’t we start with General Electric or some other big boys of the military industrial complex who make their bucks by selling death and destruction to enslaved consumers (taxpayers). http://www.militaryindustrialcomplex.com/companies.asp There is a pile of evil 100x greater than Wal-Mart putting inefficient retailers out of business.

    Reply
  10. Craig Mackintosh

    …but I just don’t see any beef to have with Wal-Mart. – JBob

    It seems to me you just don’t want to see it. There are many reasons to have a beef with this community destroying behemoth industry.

    The ‘How Not to Like Wal-Mart’ reasons listed by Mr. Vance are all so fully self-centred and so fully detached from the consequences of our purchasing decisions that I would be embarrassed to paste such a link here. It makes me only increasingly more disgusted with the libertarian mentality I’m afraid.

    Reply
  11. Øyvind Holmstad

    Pattern 87, Individually Owned Shops

    WHEN SHOPS ARE TOO LARGE, OR CONTROLLED BY ABSENTEE OWNERS, THEY BECOME PLASTIC, BLAND, AND ABSTRACT.

    The profit motive creates a tendency for shops to become larger. But the larger they become, the less personal their service is, and the harder it is for other small shops to survive. Soon, the shops in the economy are almost entirely controlled by chain stores and franchises.

    The franchises are doubly vicious. They create the image of individual ownership; they give a man who doesn’t have enough capital to start his own store the chance to run a store that seems like his; and they spread like wildfire. But they create even more plastic, bland, and abstract services. The individual managers have almost no control over the goods they sell, the food they serve; policies are tightly controlled; the personal quality of individually owned shops is altogether broken down.

    COMMUNITIES CAN ONLY GET THIS PERSONAL QUALITY BACK IF THEY PROHIBIT ALL FORMS OF FRANCHISE AND CHAIN STORES, PLACE LIMITS ON THE ACTUAL SIZE OF STORES IN A COMMUNITY, AND PROHIBIT ABSENTEE OWNERS FROM OWNING SHOPS. IN SHORT, THEY MUST DO WHAT THEY CAN TO KEEP THE WEALTH GENERATED BY THE LOCAL COMMUNITY IN THE HANDS OF THE COMMUNITY.

    Even then, it will not be possible to maintain this pattern unless the size of the shop spaces available for rent is small. One of the biggest reasons for the rise of large, nationally owned franchises is that the financial risk of starting a business are so enormous for the average individual. The failure of a single owner’s business can be catastrophic for him personally; and it happens, in large part because he can’t afford the rent. Many hundreds of tiny shops, with low rents, will keep the initial risk for a shop keeper who is starting, to a minimum.

    Shops of Morocco, India, Peru, and the older parts of older towns, are often no more than 50 square feet in area. Just room for a person and some merchandise – but plenty big enough.

    Therefore:

    DO WHAT YOU CAN TO ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDIVIDUAL OWNED SHOPS. APPROVE APPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS LICENSES ONLY IF THE BUSINESS IS OWNED BY THOSE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORK AND MANAGE THE STORE. APPROVE NEW COMMERSIAL BUILDING PERMITS ONLY IF THE PROPOSED STRUCTURE INCLUDES MANY VERY SMALL RENTAL SPACES.

    From A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, page 432 – 434.

    Reply
  12. Bradley

    There is alot of talk about wal-mart coming to Australia if it isnt already, just what we need ANOTHER mega company conspiring with the other 2 already here to fix prices and screw farmers.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)