Thursday, May 27, 2010

Freedom Guerrilla

I love Tommy's new blog:

It makes me think.

It strikes me that Walmart could prove elements of Marx true that I would've thought dead. Marx thought the factories would overproduce ever more efficiently, and more people would become unemployed with every business cycle, until you had the final downturn. At which point you would have piles of product that no one could afford because no one had a job. Those without money would go without resources (ie homeless and hungry) while product wasted. Recall the scene in the Grapes of Wrath where the piles of peaches are burned while the starving family watches on the other side of the fence.

Now, after Mao, Stalin, Che, and Castro, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the embrace of wild-assed capitalism by Mao's progeny, I would've thought Marx's ghost to be a little tired.

And yet. I've heard Walmart called the "Main Street Killer," and we know that to be some extent true. Without getting into whether Walmart is good or bad, friend of the working poor or exploiter of labor, let's explore this a bit. If I know how to build something, why would my neighbor pay me to do it, when it is cheaper to buy said thing at Walmart? When my wife wants to sew something, she cannot do it anywhere near the cost of buying it at Walmart. In fact, she sources most of her material from sheets that are on sale at Walmart. Buying cloth isn't nearly as cost-effective as re-purposing different products for your own uses. So, all these local skills get back-burnered in the local economy when a Walmart comes to town, for all the reasons that hippies hate Walmart.

But where does that leave a rural community of people after Walmart? After those skills are economically unnecessary, and people are hooked on Walmart's economic umbilicus feeding whatever meager consumer crap the mother ship decides? It sounds strange, but it finishes that loop that Marx was talking about. Truly useless economic crap saturating a community of people without enough money to hope for better. And all the resources that could grow a dynamic, robust, and economically diverse withering on the vine.

Weird. I would not expect myself to be posting on Marx in 2010.

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