Friday, September 04, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Nine

29. What's so great about mom-and-pop stores and farms?

I've never understood what people have against big-box stores, and why it's supposed to be desirable that little hardware stores on Main Street stay in business.

I get the argument that some giant retailers don't provide health insurance or benefits, but I question whether the Mom-and-Pop stores do much better, or could do much better, in that department. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it's easier for Giant Store Co. to buy group health insurance for 30,000 employees at once, using its billions of profits, than it is for Tiny Candy Company to buy health insurance for the owner and that girl that works Sundays.

I also think that having big-box stores where I can make one trip to get everything I need -- and where suppliers can make one trip to drop off everything -- likely cuts down on pollution and fossil fuel costs, because I'm not driving all over town to get a toilet seat cover, pants for the Babies! and school supplied, and there's not 53 different stores getting shipments daily.

Then there's the small farm idea. Isn't small less efficient? Isn't less efficient equivalent to more expensive? Isn't more expensive bad when it comes to food?

But we fetishize small farms and mom-and-pop stores, believing it's better to pay more for equivalent goods because Mom and Pop, or Old Man Jenkins, are their own bosses and are somehow holding the line against... what? Is running their own store or farm even all it's cracked up to be? What about time off? What if someone gets sick?

People need to think about why they are in favor of something. If you like Mom-and-Pop stores and farms because you're okay with the owners and operators having less freedom of schedule, less income, fewer choices, higher operational costs and all that, then, swell. But I suspect that people like them mostly because they seem quaint and old-timey, the way we like Victorian-era Christmas things, which is not so fine, because what looks good on the front of a greeting card doesn't always work so well in a real economy.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

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