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Scale Implosion
Published : February 18th, 2013
883 words - Reading time : 2 - 3 minutes
( 23 votes, 3.7/5 ) , 3 commentaries Print article
 
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Keywords :   Federal Reserve | Global | Main Street | Reality | Total | Wind |

 

 

    Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle. The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won -- for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).

 

     The chain stores won not only because they flung money around -- sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials -- but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. "We Want Bargain Shopping" was their rallying cry. The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn't that a bargain, though?

 

     Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: people get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.

 

    The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn't groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them. Diesel fuel prices are heading well north of $4 again. If they push toward $5 this year you can say goodbye to the "warehouse on wheels" distribution method. (The truckers, who are mostly independent contractors, can say hello to the re-po men come to take possession of their mortgaged rigs.) Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving.

 

     Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy. Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can't print their own money, and they can't bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits. They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience.

 

     The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies. At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless. In a town like the old factory village I live in (population 2500) few of the few remaining young adults might venture to open a retail operation in one of the dozen-odd vacant storefronts on Main Street. The presence of K-Mart, Tractor Supply, and Radio Shack a quarter mile west in the strip mall would seem to mock their dim inklings that something is in the wind. But K-Mart will close over 200 boxes this year, and Radio Shack is committed to shutter around 500 stores. They could be gone in this town well before Santa Claus starts checking his lists. If they go down, opportunities will blossom. There will be no new chain store brands to replace the dying ones. That phase of our history is over.

 

    What we're on the brink of is scale implosion. Everything gigantic in American life is about to get smaller or die. Everything that we do to support economic activities at gigantic scale is going to hamper our journey into the new reality. The campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is the official policy of US leadership, will only produce deeper whirls of entropy. I hope young people recognize this and can marshal their enthusiasm to get to work. It's already happening in the local farming scene; now it needs to happen in a commercial economy that will support local agriculture.

 

    The additional tragedy of the big box saga is that it scuttled social roles and social relations in every American community. On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people's place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other. We can get that all back, but it won't be a bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

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James, when you stated "another axiom of human affairs at work: people get what they deserve, not what they expect" it reminded me of a moment of consideration while I was at church. Several parishioners were asking, more like longing, and even praying  Read more
Gypsy - 2/18/2013 at 8:00 PM GMT
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James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler has worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. His nonfiction book, "The Long Emergency," describes the changes that American society faces in the 21st century. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food.
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James, when you stated "another axiom of human affairs at work: people get what they deserve, not what they expect" it reminded me of a moment of consideration while I was at church. Several parishioners were asking, more like longing, and even praying for the Second Coming of Jesus. Later on, I mentioned to a few, that BEFORE the Second Coming, there's a SEVEN YEAR Tribulation that has to be fulfilled in there ~ a LOT of suffering and anguish. I told them: be careful what you pray for.

Thanks for the Great Article.
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It is my opinion that Kunstler, under the guise of environmentalism, may have a totalitarian agenda. His constant refrain, in article after article, is the need to 'manage' human affairs -- from forcing human beigns into mass transit to mandating alternative forms of energy. His initial support for the Socialist Obama is additional evidence for that agenda; his recent attacks on Obama reflects a view that the President hasn't gone far enough.

Take this snipet from the above article for instance: "...WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms ..." That people patronize WalMart to make the most out of limited budgets is of no concern to Kunstler. To allow an economy to go its own way (Capitalism) resulting in malls, parking lots, highways (all which 'mar' the landscape) is something which the Kunstlers of the world cannot stomach.

That the economies of the world are faltering is a fact. But the reason is just that which Kunstler would promote -- management by threat of force from governments. The only difference is that Kunstler would enthrone himself and his ilk as the new managers.
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What A says about B tells more about A than about B.
For me it is clear that Jim C. and JHK are the same identity, just writing under another guise. Alt1 ☺

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