Anti-Wal-Mart Wisdom

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Gresham is the latest Oregon community to do battle with retail giant Wal-Mart. The city rejected Wal-Mart’s first proposal for a supercenter at 182nd and Powell. Now the company is back with a scaled-down plan, but many neighbors still object. They say they’re primarily concerned with traffic congestion.

Portland city commissioner Sam Adams expressed a more troubling concern when he opposed a Wal-Mart in Milwaukie last year. He was quoted then saying:

“It’s just too easy for people to go to these big-box retailers. They are a new kind of animal. We didn’t have them around here when we first started our land-use planning efforts.”

Let’s get this straight. We should stop Wal-Mart from locating stores around Portland because they’re too easy for people to shop at? We need to stop ourselves from succumbing to such temptation?

And, because they weren’t around when we started dictating what every acre of Oregon should be used for, they certainly shouldn’t have a place in our grand schemes now.

What such statements boil down to are arguments against economic change. Life shouldn’t get easier. New ways of delivering goods and services shouldn’t be allowed because they point out the limits of government planners’ intelligence and foresight. If only change would stop, Portland could get on with planning the perfect communal utopia.

There may be legitimate concerns about the specific plan in Gresham, but they shouldn’t be used to keep Oregonians from taking advantage of the choices companies like Wal-Mart offer.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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