The genius of competing jurisdictions worked its magic again this week. After the city of Moscow marched in lockstep to the doctrine of elitism and banned Wal-Mart, Latah County exercised good sense and rejected a similar ordinance, thereby leaving the way open for economic growth and a more vital retail environment at the expense of its snobbish neighbor.
And as a result, shoppers from Moscow and the surrounding environs will spend their dollars outside the city limits and fatten the county's tax coffers instead of the city's. An island of cultural protectionism, Moscow will find itself eroded by the waves of economic freedom lapping at its shores.
When Wal-Mart indicated its intention to build one of its big-box, supercenter stores in Moscow, the graying hippies who steer Moscow's culture and politics grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and adorned in their finest Birkenstocks and tie-dyed T-shirts, marched to the castle in protest. That stupid smiley face of their youth was no longer welcome, as it had now been enlisted as a soldier of the forces of darkness.
And let's not delude ourselves. This is about culture. These label-conscious herbal tea sippers who lift their cup with an extended pinky and fill their refrigerator with organic tofu purchased at the Co-op sniff indignantly at the coffee-guzzling chili-cheese dog aficionados who comparison shop and are not ashamed to stand in line outside Wal-Mart's doors before 5 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get the best deal. The elitists are proud of their earth-tone hand-stitched organic cotton shirts and look down their noses at polyester versions sewn together in China.
Outside of these pecksniffian elitist cliques, parents would be mortified if their child teased a playmate because his parents purchased clothes that did not have the right designer labels. However, former Democratic vice presidential candidate and aspiring president John Edwards boasted recently that his 6-year-old son had ridiculed a classmate for coming to school wearing shoes purchased at Wal-Mart. The more common among us would scold our children for exhibiting such snobbery.
I come from rather humble roots and even so, there were families with even less. I shudder to think of what the consequences would have been had my parents learned that I had ridiculed a schoolmate for wearing cheaper clothes than I. Among the anti-Wal-Mart elite however, it is a matter of pride and a sign of good upbringing and probably superior genetics when their children behave so abominably.
In Pullman, the local anti-Wal-Mart snobs call themselves the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD). PARD fears that the new Wal-Mart Supercenter planned for Pullman will attract "undesirable social elements" to Pullman.
Undoubtedly, I am a part of that undesirable social element as I have been known to order merlot with dinner as well as shop for low prices at Wal-Mart.
Fortunately, jurisdictional borders exact consequences for this sort of silliness. If a city,such as Moscow embarks on this sort of exhibitionist snobbery by banning big box discount retailers, that store will probably erect its building just across the line where the snobs' authority ends.
Chicago learned this recently. Chicago's aldermen forbade Wal-Mart from doing business there, only to see a Wal-Mart go up literally within spitting distance of the city limits, in Evergreen Park. When the store was ready to open and advertised for 325 jobs, it received over 25,000 applications. And 90 percent of those applicants listed addresses in Chicago, where the city's maters and paters decreed that such a store was beneath them.
Moscow will also see retailers on its western border too. Right on the Washington state line a new mall, seven times the size of the Palouse Mall, will be built and will draw customers and their money out of Moscow.
And so Moscow will realize that snobbery has a price. And in the not-too-distant future, Moscow's electorate will grow weary of paying that price and will replace the current leadership with new blood who learned lessons from the fall of the Berlin Wall.Technorati Tags: wal-mart walmart