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 tee 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 Coop 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 5:00 AM on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get the best deal. The elitists are proud of their earthtone hand stitched organic cotton shirts and look down their noses at polyester versions sewed together in China.
Outside of these pecksniffian elitists 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 six 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 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% of those applicants listed addresses in Chicago, where the city’s maters and paters decreed that such a store was beneath them. That strikes me as an awfully large number of applicants from a union dominated worker’s paradise like Chicago.
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. Earlier, Moscow asked Whitman County to reconsider its approval of the development. The county did and considered it was Whitman County’s gain if Moscow wishes to hemorrhage more jobs and revenue across the border.
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.
Update: Moscow's retail hostility
has caught the attention of others too.