Who to Blame for the Social Fabric
Because he italicized it on a list of one-liners, I couldn’t help but catch the following from Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr:
The damage Wal-Mart has done to the social fabric, to the downtown connections and sense of community, is incalculable.
Blaming WalMart for the deterioration of downtowns is merely an indication of the human urge to find some group to hate. Given advances in technology, the ubiquity of automobiles, and other cultural factors, an opportunity existed for a large chain of one-stop shops, and the specific company WalMart happened to catch the wave. Had there been no WalMart, there would have been Target, a reinvigorated K-Mart, or the elevation of some other regional chain that most of us have never heard of.
More importantly, to my mind, in providing necessities cheaply and reducing the cost of luxuries, WalMart has made it possible for less well-off Americans to save money on their weekly expenses and to enjoy items that they couldn’t possibly afford were the prices not driven down by the same dynamics that have priced downtown shops out of their storefronts.
I do not like the effects on communities — or, to be sure, on the culture at large — but I wouldn’t presume to tell my countrymen that they must do without items that WalMart makes affordable so that the likes of Bob Kerr can buy them in small local shops. If there’s blame to be laid — and that’s a sincere “if” — it must ultimately fall on the people of the United States for the culture in which WalMart, like shopping malls and all of the other consumerist villains, thrives.