Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pushing back against the big box

I have to say, this sounds like a healthy trend.

Prisk is at the center of a new political movement in Britain launching an assault on the conformity of branded big-box stores in favor of small, locally owned businesses. In America, attacks on Wal-Mart and Home Depot are familiar, the province of community activists and an antiglobalist left. But Prisk is a leader of Britain's Conservative Party, its shadow minister for business and enterprise. His campaign is part of a new Conservative strategy here: to push back against the homogeneity of global culture and fight instead for what he has called the "great British institutions" of mom-and-pop stores and small-town post offices.

Would I agree with the bulk of the Tories' agenda. Probably not, and since I'm not British it really doesn't matter anyway. But what's good is that when the more right-leaning political party starts questioning corporate hegemony, that shifts the center of gravity. The gladhanders at New Labour will need to weigh in, or admit that they're willing to continue selling the country's soul. And maybe people will listen to what the LibDem's have to say about local institutions as well.

Here in the states, some on the left are concerned with preserving town centers and encouraging mom and pop stores. In truth, we tend to buy from the big stores out of inertia if nothing else. And the prevailing attitude tends to be "If Walmart sells X, I'm buying X at Walmart." The result has been the profusion of anonymous pre-highway strip malls.

So if America produces a few Mark Prisks who can make business diversity sound downright conservative, so much so the better.


susan said...

Unless there's a way of saving what's left in place there's not much hope of re-energizing small businesses and you're right about the way Americans think. You mean bigger really isn't always better?

Ben said...

Bigger is easier, and I know what it's like to fall into that temptation. And cities and towns that want to revive business always try to encourage established chains to move in. I have my doubts about whether that's really the way.