Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Patriotic Dilemma

I had to make a run to the Post Office and I needed groceries.  The Post Office is in one direction, the nearest Kroger in the other.  Wal-Mart is very close to the Post Office.  Normally, I would have driven the extra two or three miles past Wal-Mart (thumbing my nose as I went by). I hate Wal-Mart probably more than any company in the world.  But, with gasoline prices as high as they are, I had to weigh my patriotic duty to reduce demand for gasoline and keep gasoline prices down for those struggling with them already and shopping at Wal-Mart, propping up the Chinese economy and contributing to their (mis)treatment of their employees.  I was torn.  What a dilemma! I agonized over the decision as I drove to the Post Office and finally decided to go into Wal-Mart. 

What would you have done?

3 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

We shop at WalMart and our local Grocery store. Until I have some fact based hope that my shopping choices will make a difference, my allegiance to the economy of my family will trump the national economy.

Pam said...

I also try to avoid WalMart at all costs. I'd to to Kroger and try to drop my gas consumption over the next few days to make up for the inefficiency. Have you seen the Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard? Its worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch and has drastically impacted my consumer behavior. http://www.storyofstuff.com/
Peace!

brian said...

Pam,

Thanks for the comment and the link. Interesting little video. Frankly, at the beginning I thought she way overstated her case (which actually weakens it). The U.S. does consume a lot of the world's resources on a percentage basis. But, that's to be expected because so much of the world still lives in abject poverty (something we dearly need to address for sure). But, the fact that we use more resources shouldn't really be a shock to us. Also, the stuff about the percentage of U.S. Forest that has been destroyed didn't really impress me since at one time our entire country was either forest or desert. Unless we're going to give up on the idea of living in cities, that's a necessity. Also, she made it sound like all synthentic chemicals are "bad" or toxic and like all of our products are made solely of toxic chemicals.

When she ot in to the distribution and the consumption, my ears really perked up. Especially the externalized costs piece. I had kind of thought of that before but, hadn't really put it all together. I think she may have also overstated her case a little with the 99% of what we buy is no longer in use in 6 months. Does that include consumables? I sell consumables for a living. Including that in the number would artificially high. What percentage of durable goods is discarded after 6 months. Another problem I had was the example of "planned obsolence" when it comes to computers. Yes, it's just a small piece that makes the computer obsolete (kind of). But, that's the very heart of the computer. The reason they become obsolete is because of innovation. So, I don't think we should knock innovation.

Overall, I think the video is excellent and can really get people thinking. I only wanted to point out some of the problems I had because I think often people get so passionate about a cause they overstate their case which weakens their case by giving people excuses to dismiss the entire thing.

I think she made some excellent points all along the linear system she showed. And, I liked her comparing the linear system to a more desirable cycle. I particularly liked the pieces on the distribution, artificially low prices and consumerism and on our declining happiness (even with more stuff) and how we're programmed to consume. I catch myself buying new stuff I don't need and making excuses to replace things that are still perfectly useful. I have to force myself to "justify" new purchases. I want an iPhone so badly I can't stand it. But, I don't have one yet and don't plan to get one. If you see me with one, you'll know I lost the debate with myself.

One day I want to watch the DVD "Wal-Mart, The High Cost of Low Price". It's on my Netflix list.