THE BIGGER PICTURE…

Readers sometimes ask why we pick on Walmart. My standard response is because Walmart is the biggest gorilla on the planet. But that may not be satisfying to some and I do have an agenda that is larger than simply exposing Walmart's crimes. Walmart just happens to be an example that everyone on the planet gets. Robert and Jonathan frequently write about Walmart as seen through a wider lens, one that intertwines the actions of the World's largest retailer with the global economy and social justice. In 2009, I've decided that I want to do more of that as well. Last evening, enjoying a pint of Harp at my favorite pub I read Ginger Strand's The Crying Indian in the November/December issue of Orion, possibly the best environmental magazine ever created. Here's a bit that convinced me that I had to share this article with our readers.
In 1945, the Council issued a pamphlet outlining its new purpose. The war was over, but a new battle was on: the “battle for markets.” Europe, they declared, was in ruins. State socialism was creeping through the Old World. America, too, would move left, unless advertising could “resume its star role as a profitable seller of goods.” This meant recasting the American Dream as the endless pursuit of plenty. “Only if we have large demands can we expect large production,” wrote economist Robert Nathan in 1944. “Therefore, it is important that in planning for the postwar period, we give adequate consideration to the need for ever-increasing consumption on the part of our people as one of the prime requisites for prosperity.” This was more than economics: it was politics. An ongoing cycle of “mass employment, mass production, mass advertising, mass distribution and mass ownership of the products of industry,” wrote the Saturday Evening Post, would make the U.S. “the last bulwark” of democracy. Consuming became national policy: the 1946 Employment Act named “purchasing power” as one of the things government was meant to promote.
Consuming became national policy and Sam Walton emerged at the person who understood best how to profit from that policy. Please read the whole tale of Iron Eyes Cody, an Italian-American whose real name was Espera Oscar DeCorti, and how Keep America Beautiful was instrumental in making it possible for Walmart to profit by selling cheap plastic crap from China. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

3 Responses to “THE BIGGER PICTURE…”

  1. ryan says:

    Rising productivity initially made it necessary to increase advertising. To sell all the stuff people made. It kept unemployment lower. There was a symmetry in that. A kind of balance.

    Eventually the advertisers and marketers got priority. Stocks and assorted financial instruments became a sort of higher-tiered currency: a virtual mint for the chosen scions of the right patriots or capitalists. it became an accepted norm to outsource manufacturing to prop up stock prices, market share, and maybe even profits.

    In the short term we end up with slightly less pollution from industry, but much greater resource depletion. Among other drawbacks. America is one of the few nations where people in the lower 30 percent of income brackets can routinely afford to feed themselves into 300 pound goofballs.

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Ryan,

    Rising productivity can go in at least two ways:

    1. You can make more and figure out how to sell the extra, or

    2. You can make the same and take more time off.

    The latter is a sane response to productivity, the latter is not.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  3. […] THE BIGGER PICTURE… Readers sometimes ask why we pick on Walmart. My standard response is because Walmart is the biggest gorilla on the planet. But that may not be satisfying to some and I do have an agenda that is larger than simply exposing Walmart’s crimes. Keep reading… […]

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