Retail Discrimination

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Walgreens wants to open a drugstore in Sandy. Some local residents are opposed because Walgreens is a large, successful company with over 5,000 stores. Opponents feel that a chain drugstore would undermine the “small-town” feel of Sandy and threaten the economic viability of existing stores.

This is part of a growing trend of intolerance by local governments. Last month a town in Maine banned all chain restaurants. Several McDonald’s franchises have been turned away in Portland, and Wal-Mart proposals have been fought in Hood River, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Gresham.

Some issues in these disputes are legitimate, such as the amount of traffic that will be generated from the new stores. But elected officials who prohibit a business simply because it is a franchise are imposing their aesthetic preferences on everyone else. Those choices should be made by consumers through the market process.

Ironically, one of the arguments being made in Sandy is that a new Walgreen’s might harm the local Hi-School Pharmacy, which has been in business for 20 years. But Hi-School Pharmacy is itself part of a 23-store chain operated out of Vancouver. Why should one chain store be protected from the competition of another?

Citizens don’t need government to protect them from unwanted businesses. They can simply do all their shopping elsewhere. That’s the most effective form of business regulation there is.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO 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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