I am writing to express my support for the size cap on big-box stores.Ahhh, the truth comes out. It’s not big-box stores; it’s the wider war against the internal combustion engine.
My family moved to Moscow after a three-year search of small towns in the United States. There is something unique and wonderful here that will be destroyed if huge stores come in. Most importantly, all those stores rely on car traffic. It is no longer correct for a city or region to make the automobile the dominant design element in planning. At present, Moscow is one of the best cities for bike and foot transportation I’ve ever seen. Cities that focus on nonmotorized transit have healthier communities, healthier economies and healthier people.
Regarding economic development, expanding big-box retail is a dead end — not a sustainable approach to the economy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. And of course, all the direct environmental degradation, and the indirect degradation due to car traffic are well understood by most people who live here.
Moscow is situated ideally for a different form of sustainable, long-term economic growth. For example, the University of Idaho has taken steps to become a leader in the exploding field of helping make the economy more reflective of ecological values — the “sustainability” movement. There are huge economic opportunities available in commercializing strategies and technologies that are being developed now by the university. Focusing on this rapidly growing sector instead of on the rapidly self-destructing big retail field will create far more jobs and far better-paying jobs in Moscow over both the short and long haul while allowing us to maintain what is already great about living in a small college town.
Let’s throw the tree hugger/global warming part of the anti-car argument out for a moment and concentrate on the social engineering aspects. Winstein, the founder of Ecostructure Financial, whose purpose is to “develop and provide ecological financing for businesses and projects that are working to benefit forests, rivers, coral reefs, open space and people,”(notice people come last) claims nonmotorized transit gives us “healthier communities healthier economies and healthier people.”
See, the left-wingers have always hated cars, because cars make us independent. Cars mean freedom. And of course, independence and freedom are anathema to the statists. They want you to be dependent on big government for your housing, your job, and your transportation. For once they control the infrastructure, then they control you. The former Soviet Union didn’t have many cars. You had to either walk or take public transportation everywhere you went. But I don’t remember any studies pointing out how much healthier people were back in the USSR, or more prosperous.
There are probably few people in Pullman that walk more than me. I walk at least 20 miles every week. But I do it because I WANT TO, not because the government MAKES ME. The government has NO BUSINESS meddling in personal choices.
Similarly, people drive cars and go to big-box stores because they WANT TO, not because some evil cabal in Bentonville forces them to do it. Can you imagine going to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping for a family of five ON A BIKE? How about the farmers? Should they walk 20 miles to town? If you want to live crammed in like a sardine and taking the bus or subway everywhere you go, then there are plenty of places like that to live. Please move there, by all means.
Places like Pullman were founded because people wanted to escape such statism. Our forefathers left Europe and headed for the New World because it was too crowded and had too little freedom. After they could see another person’s house in Virginia and Pennsylvania, they headed to Kentucky. When Kentucky got “too crowded,” they headed to Missouri. Finally, they headed to the Palouse Country. Now, we have nowhere left to run away from the meddling “smart growthers” that want to turn Pullman and Moscow into midtown Manhattan. I'm not against, for example, someone living in a loft apartment in downtown Pullman and walking or biking everywhere they go. Heck, I'd probably do it myself if I were younger and single. But that should be a PERSONAL DECISION made in a free market, not a government MANDATE. It's all about having choices.
For more on collectivism and social engineering, read Friedrich August von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. My favorite quote from Hayek is:
It is the price of democracy that the possibilities of conscious control are restricted to the fields where true agreement exists and that in some fields things must be left to chance. But in a society which for its functioning depends on central planning this control cannot be made dependent on a majority's being able to agree; it will often be necessary that the will of a small minority be imposed upon the people, because the minority will be the largest group able to agree among themselves on the question at issue. Democratic government has worked successfully where, and so long as, the functions of government were, by a widely accepted creed, restricted to fields where agreement among a majority could be achieved by free discussion; and it is the great merit of the liberal creed that it reduced the range of subjects on which agreement was necessary to one on which it was likely to exist in a society of free men. It is now often said that democracy will not tolerate "capitalism." If "capitalism" means here a competitive system based on free disposal over private property, it is far more important to realize that only within this system is democracy possible. When it becomes dominated by a collectivist creed, democracy will inevitably destroy itself.Sound familiar?