One day I was at the newspaper distribution center assembling our local Leftist rag of a daily newspaper (example: a three-page hagiography of Ted Kennedy with nary a peep about his work to elevate legal abortion to a sacrament) when I overheard one of my co-workers complaining, “Ohh I hate going into Target. It’s so snobby there!” In other words, she preferred Wal Mart for (what can be guessed reasonably) its non-snobbiness.
Now in the back of my mind, I kinda knew that there was a hierarchy of chain shopping stores, but this was the first time I found myself surprised that it was a real thing that real people make real decisions over. I suppose this is one of the disadvantages of being one who would score high on the list of Stuff that White People Like—namely, being shocked when we discover (yet again) that people are not abstract, but flesh and blood.
So over at W4 we have a conservative-on-conservative steel-cage deathmatch over the building of Wal Mart near a Civil War battlefield in my home state here and here. My favorite quotes go to (surprise!) Lydia:
You can cast it in terms of “the mandate for people to get richer and richer” as much as you like. You can despise it as much as you like. But the market value that a piece of property has is relevant to the investment that _real people_ have made in that property. You may despise those real people, especially if they have _anything_ to do with the businesses you despise, or if they _intend_ to have anything to do with such businesses (by selling their property to them). But they are real people nonetheless. They may be townspeople, who own the property through their representative. They may, horror of horrors, be the multiple owners of a corporation. Or they may be individuals. But they are real, nonetheless. Market value is, indeed, set on the basis of what one, hypothetically, could get if one sold the property. This is as true for my private home, which I have no intention of selling, as it is for a piece of land that someone has bought for the (apparently to Maximos and others) _ignoble_ purpose of re-selling it later at a profit. (Though why this should be ignoble is a mystery to me.) Things can thus affect the market value of my home from year to year even though I don’t intend to sell. And new decisions and new prohibitions about land use can affect the market value of the properties y’all wish to preserve untouched by businesses you dislike–without, however, taking the trouble to buy them. The term “speculative” implies that we have no idea and no way of figuring out what such a market value might be, that it is a mere exaggeration or made-up thing and therefore can be ignored. Actually, land assessors exist for the purpose of making such estimations all the time. They are not so abstract and unimportant as all that, and, I emphasize again, a draconian decision radically to change and limit land-use possibilities affects them and thereby affects the investments and lives of _real people_. I realize that y’all believe that these other values–the ugliness of Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble, for example–outweigh all such considerations. On that we will apparently never agree. But I think it is reckless and unconservative in an important sense and in a high degree simply to dismiss such concerns as mere matters of greed or of helping people to “get as rich as possible.”
Notice, again, that I have not yet even brought up the possibility that development might, contrary to what y’all think, really be valuable to the community. I realize you have arguments to the contrary. Make them to the community. I remain unconvinced of their more radical versions, certainly–for example, that it is in the best interests of the town to keep things beautiful and pristine looking by avoiding altogether the horror of strip malls. But there, too, there are real people who have real needs, and I get the strong impression that what is driving this is not merely or chiefly the rather interesting argument Mike T made in the other thread to the effect that Wal-Mart represents in the long run either neutrality or a net financial loss to the community. No, the idea is supposed to be that _even if_ this were not true, the community should not be “greedy” and should accept fewer jobs, longer drives to buy what is needed–yes, clothes and other things that are _needed_ and not to be sneered at–in the name of not having something so _ugly_ around. That, I certainly do not accept.
And one more pithy one for good measure:
The truth is that the _whole_ economy has been rendered unstable by debt, overexpansion, etc. “Don’t start that! It’s unsustainable!” could be just as much said of a new Catholic school or a new soup kitchen as about a new strip mall. And might well be true in both cases. But it isn’t the reason that anybody objects to strip malls. They would do so if strip malls were being built on the gold standard. And we all know it.
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